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United States of America v. Bruce Wayne Lamell

October 25, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William K. Sessions III U.S. District Court Judge


Defendant Bruce Lamell is charged with knowing possession of a firearm as a convicted felon under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and knowing possession of stolen firearms under 18 U.S.C. § 922(j). Lamell moved to suppress evidence and statements obtained by law enforcement officers on July 3, 2012. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES the motion to suppress.


On October 29, 2011, R&L Archery, a Barre, Vermont firearms dealer, was burglarized. Several pistols and a Taser were stolen. Later that day, a confidential informant ("informant")contacted Corporal Tucker, an officer with the Barre Police Department. The informant told him that a person in Barre identifying himself as "Chip" had contacted him about selling a handgun. In an attempt to determine "Chip's" true identity, Corporal Tucker contacted Al George, an officer with the Department of Correction's ("DOC")Field Supervision Unit.

George believed that "Chip" was Bruce Lamell, a furloughed inmate. George informed his superintendent of his suspicions. His supervisor instructed George to conduct a search of Lamell's residence, as well. While Corporal Tucker urged George to search Lamell's residence, this Court finds that George based his decision to search the residence on his superintendent's instructions.

Later that evening, George went to Lamell's residence to search for alcohol, illegal drugs, and weapons. He was accompanied by DOC Officers Dave Nesbitt and Stephanie Jane and Corporal Tucker and James Pontbriand of the Barre Police Department. Barre Police Officers accompanied the DOC Officers for safety reasons.

Once the officers arrived, George knocked on the door. Lamell's stepson Ryan opened the door, and Lamell soon approached. George explained to Lamell that they would be conducting a search of his home. George did not explain that he suspected that Lamell possessed stolen firearms. Lamell let the officers into his residence. Lamell never expressed an objection to the search.

Lamell's wife Amy was upstairs asleep when the officers entered. After the officers entered the residence, Lamell went upstairs to wake her; the officers waited in the kitchen area. When Mrs. Lamell came downstairs, George requested her consent to search the residence. She consented to a search.

George, Lamell, Mrs. Lamell, and Lamell's stepson remained in the kitchen while the Officers conducted the search. Corporal Tucker and officer Pontbriand went to the basement while Nesbitt and Jane searched upstairs. Officer Pontbriand found a sales tag of one of the stolen handguns in the basement. Upon discovery of the sales tag, Corporal Tucker went upstairs. He began to search the stepson's bedroom with Officer Nesbitt. There they found a manual for the Taser behind the bed's headboard; officers found one of the stolen pistols underneath the mattress. The markings on the pistol matched the markings on the sales tag found in the basement.

Corporal Tucker carried the handgun to the kitchen, where he showed the weapon to George. Corporal Tucker did not direct any questions to Lamell. Upon seeing the weapon, Lamell's stepson stated that he had found the gun a few days prior at his grandmother's house. Lamell responded that he did not know how the gun came to be in his residence.

Officers put Lamell in handcuffs and transported him to the Barre City Police Department. Officer Pontbriand remained at the residence. The officers did not ask Lamell any questions on the way to the Police Department, and George informed Lamell that he could not speak with him. At the station, Lamell was read his Miranda warnings, and he signed the Miranda Warning Form. Lamell asked to speak with an attorney; all questioning ceased. Sometime later Lamell was transported to the Northeast Regional Facility in St. Johnsbury. Lamell used the prison's telephones while he was incarcerated. When he arrived at the facility, a DOC officer informed him that his phone calls would be recorded. Additionally, before every phone call, a recorded warning reminded Lamell that his call would be recorded.

In the early hours of October 30, the officers returned to the residence. Mrs. Lamell and her son were still awake when the officers returned. In the kitchen, Corporal Tucker informed Mrs. Lamell of the situation and explained that there may be more guns in the residence. During that discussion, Ryan entered the room. Mrs. Lamell consented to a subsequent search of the residence, and Ryan admitted that he was involved in the burglary. He informed the officers that he believed the remainder of the guns were in the basement. Corporal Tucker found the guns on a shelf on the left-hand side of the basement. After Corporal Tucker discovered the remaining firearms, the officers left the Lamell residence.

At approximately 4:00 a.m. Corporal Tucker returned to the residence. Corporal Tucker read Ryan his Miranda rights, and both Mrs. Lamell and Ryan signed the Miranda form before Ryan confessed involvement in the robbery.

During that search, Officers found the other stolen handguns.

On February 16, 2012, a federal grand jury indicted Lamell with possession of firearms as a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and possession of stolen firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(j). On July 3, 2012, Defendant filed the motion to suppress now under consideration.

II. Discussion

Lamell makes several arguments why the physical and testimonial evidence must be suppressed: (1) his status as a furloughed inmate did not justify the warrantless arrest; (2) his wife's consent was ineffective; (3) his statements were taken in violation of Miranda; and (4) the recordings of his phone conversation must be suppressed as a ...

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