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United States v. Peters

United States District Court, D. Vermont

August 10, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
MICKAYLA PETERS, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS COUNT I OF THE INDICTMENT FOR DOUBLE JEOPARDY AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE PURSUANT TO THE FOURTH AMENDMENT (DOCS. 66 & 67)

          CHRISTINA REISS, DISTRICT JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Defendant Mickayla Peters is charged in a three-count Indictment alleging (1) conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine base; (2) possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine; and (3) violation of the "crack house" statute, which criminalizes the use of a private residence for drug use or distribution. The conspiracy charge in Count I further alleges that the illegal conduct involved one hundred grams or more of a detectable amount of heroin.

         On May 21, 2018, Defendant filed two pre-trial motions which are presently pending before the court. In her first motion, she seeks dismissal of Count I pursuant to the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution on the grounds that Count I charges her with engaging in the same conspiracy for which she has already pled guilty in another pending case. In the second motion, Defendant contends that the government violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution by tracking a cell phone in the possession of her co-defendant while he was a passenger in her vehicle and by subsequently performing a warrantless search of her vehicle after it was impounded. She seeks suppression of all evidence seized as a result. The government opposes both motions.

         On July 30, 2018, the court held a non-evidentiary hearing and thereafter took the pending motions under advisement. Assistant United States Attorney Wendy L. Fuller represents the government. Defendant is represented by Michael J. Straub, Esq.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background.

         The government asserts that, beginning in 2015, Vermont Drug Task Force ("VDTF") officers and agents from Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI") began an investigation into the importation and sale of controlled substances in the Newport, Vermont area ("the Newport conspiracy"). In connection with this investigation, the government maintains, Defendant was arrested after selling two hundred bags of heroin to an undercover Drug Enforcement Agency agent, but was not prosecuted in light of her status as a juvenile.

         The government proffers that, by the fall of 2015, Defendant and others involved in the Newport conspiracy were regularly traveling to destinations outside of Vermont to purchase controlled substances for re-sale. In December 2015, eight individuals died by drug overdose in Newport, each having consumed drugs which the government alleges were linked to Defendant and her associates. In March 2016, HSI agents from the Derby Line, Vermont field office opened an investigation into a drug distribution ring headed by Defendant's brother, Justin Peters. HSI received information from the VDTF officers that Justin Peters and others were engaged in large scale sales of heroin, cocaine, and cocaine base in and around Orleans County, Vermont.

         In February 2017, a federal grand jury returned a series of indictments charging Defendant and others for their roles in the Newport conspiracy during the period from early 2015 to February 2017. The indictment charges Defendant as follows:

Count 1
The Grand Jury charges:
On or about July 11, 2016, in the District of Vermont, defendant MICKAYLA PETERS knowingly and intentionally distributed fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance.
(21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1))
Count 2
The Grand Jury further charges:
On or about September 1, 2016, in the District of Vermont, defendant MICKAYLA PETERS knowingly and intentionally distributed heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance and fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance.
(21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1))
Count 3
The Grand Jury further charges:
On or about September 7, 2016, in the District of Vermont, defendant MICKAYLA PETERS knowingly and intentionally distributed heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance.
(21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1))
Count 4
The Grand Jury further charges:
On or about October 4, 2016, in the District of Vermont, defendant MICKAYLA PETERS knowingly and intentionally distributed heroin, ...

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