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United States v. Pappano

United States District Court, D. Vermont

May 4, 2015




Defendant Christopher Pappano has moved to suppress evidence gathered during the execution of a search warrant issued by a Vermont state court judge which led to his arrest for unlawful possession of a firearm. (Doc. 13.) Pappano contends that the warrant was not supported by probable cause. The court heard arguments from the parties on April 28, 2015.

I. Facts

On December 26, 2014, Vermont State Police Corporal George Rodriguez applied to the Franklin County Superior Court for a warrant to search defendant's residence, garage and vehicles. In his supporting affidavit, Rodriguez asserted the following facts:

On December 24, 2014, Rodriguez assisted with the investigation of an armed robbery at a country store in Montgomery, Vermont. Police arrested the suspected robber, Shawn Plante, and brought him to the state police barracks in St. Albans, where Plante waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with Rodriguez.

Police had found a gun in Plante's truck which had been reported as stolen. Plante told Rodriguez that he had purchased the gun from an associate and did not know it was stolen. Plante then told Rodriguez that he had information regarding other stolen firearms but could not tell Rodriguez because he feared retribution from the person involved. He told Rodriguez that he lived across the street from this person. He then silently mouthed the name "Pappano" to Corporal Rodriguez. Rodriguez was familiar with Christopher Pappano and his wife, Korena, who lived at 15 Lamoille Terrace in Milton, Vermont. Rodriguez told Plante that he knew who Pappano was.

Plante stated that Pappano had been attempting to sell firearms stolen from Charles Senesac. Plante said that he had discussed guns with Pappano during the weeks prior to Thanksgiving and had mentioned to Pappano that he should see the M4 carbine that Senesac had in the safe at his home in Isle La Motte. Plante was familiar with Senesac's home because Senesac was dating Plante's mother.

Plante told Rodriguez that on the Friday after Thanksgiving (November 28, 2014), Pappano had instructed Plante to drive him to Senesac's residence. Pappano and Plante drove around the building and pulled up to a sliding door. Pappano entered the residence through an unlocked window and Plante followed. They took several guns as well as some deer mounts, scuba diving gear, clothes, and fish finders.

Plante said that he and Pappano stored the stolen firearms in the garage attached to 10 Lamoille Terrace, a house occupied by an associate of Pappano's, Mark Granger. Plante said that Pappano managed the property and controlled access to the garage at 10 Lamoille Terrace. He did not allow Granger to use the garage. Plante said Pappano's motorcycle and toolbox were in the garage along with "a[n] M4, a shotgun, a couple of.22 caliber rifles." (Doc. 13-3 at 9.) Plante said that he hadn't seen the double-barrel 16-gauge shotgun and a 9mm pistol taken from Senesac's house since he stored the firearms in the garage at 10 Lamoille Terrace. Plante completed a sworn written statement describing the burglary, which Rodriguez included in the affidavit.

Plante also told Rodriguez that Pappano used and sold cocaine. He said that Pappano hid his cocaine and scales in a videocassette recorder in his basement. Plante stated that he owed money to Pappano for cocaine and had robbed the country store in Montgomery because Pappano had demanded repayment.

Plante told Rodriguez that Pappano carried a.45 caliber pistol on his person, usually in the front of his waistband or in his jacket. Pappano also owned a.22 caliber pistol, a.357 magnum pistol, and numerous swords and knives.

After speaking to Plante, Rodriguez performed a check of Pappano's Vermont criminal history. Rodriguez learned that Pappano had three prior felony convictions for forgery, aggravated assault, and a drug-related conspiracy.

Rodriguez also located a report filed by the Grand Isle County sheriff on December 2 in response to Charles Senesac's complaint that his home had been burglarized. Rodriguez included a copy of the sheriff's report in his affidavit. Senesac had told the sheriff that he had not been home since November 26. He reported that firearms were missing from his safe, to which only Plante and a few other family members knew the combination. He said that several shotguns and handguns and an M4 carbine were missing, as well as a small black safe containing the serial numbers to the stolen guns. Senesac reported that numerous pieces of hunting equipment including deer and duck mounts as well as clothing and scuba diving equipment had also been taken. Senesac suspected that Plante or one of his friends had committed the burglary because they had stolen things from him in the past. The sheriff reported that he observed vehicle marks on Senesac's lawn where the thieves had driven to the back of the residence and backed up to a sliding glass door.

Based on the above information, Rodriguez requested a no-knock warrant to search the residence at 15 Lamoille Terrace and the garage attached to 10 Lamoille Terrace, as well as any vehicles at the residence in Milton, which he believed would provide evidence of the burglary at Senesac's residence. Judge Alison Arms issued the search warrant. On December 29, police executed the warrant. Pappano was ...

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