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U.S. v. COATES

May 11, 1990

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LORNE COATES AND MICHELLE DILLARD, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kevin Thomas Duffy, District Judge:

  OPINION

Defendants Lorne Coates and Michelle A. Dillard are charged with (1) conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, and (2) possessing with intent to distribute 4,018 grams of cocaine, within 1,000 feet of a school, in violation of 21 U.S.C. ** 812, 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B), and 845a(a). The defendants were arrested in the Amtrak section of Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. Coates and Dillard both move to suppress all evidence and property, including the cocaine, obtained by the Government in this case, as fruits of an allegedly unlawful investigatory stop and subsequent search of their travelling bags and persons in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Both Dillard and Coates also seek to dismiss that part of count two of the indictment, the "schoolhouse" charge, that arises from the presence, within 1,000 feet of their arrest, of the Taylor Business School, a vocational school located at One Penn Plaza, New York, New York.

A one-day suppression hearing was held on May 8, 1990, and I reserved judgment at that time. Both suppression motions are now denied. Coates' and Dillard's motion to dismiss the schoolhouse charge in count two of the indictment, however, is granted.

FACTS

On January 25, 1990, Captain Steven Goldstein of the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Amtrak Police Department was working with Officer Louis Coiro on the upper-level concourse of Penn Station. Both were in plainclothes and carried guns in shoulder holsters concealed beneath their jackets. Goldstein testified that at approximately 11:50 a.m., he and Coiro observed Coates and Dillard standing "around one of the gates", about twenty to thirty feet away. They were engaged in conversation. Coates was carrying a tweed shoulder bag and Dillard was carrying a matching tweed garment bag. Goldstein further testified that he observed Coates looking around "furtively," appearing nervous, as if surveilling the station. Coates glanced at the officers, and then quickly away. Goldstein observed Coates and Dillard in this manner for approximately three to five minutes.

When the gate for a departing train was announced, Coates and Dillard walked together towards the down escalator for gate 13-14. The announced train, bound for Washington D.C., was scheduled for a stop in New Carrollton, Maryland. Just prior to reaching the gate, Coates looked back at the officers and then away. Goldstein then went to the railing by the gate and watched them descend the escalator toward the train. Again, Coates looked up in Goldstein's direction, and then quickly away. Coates then leaned over to say something to Dillard.

Goldstein summoned Coiro and decided to investigate further. The officers observed Coates and Dillard board the train, entering through the rear door of the railway car. The officers entered the front end of the car. It was a regular Metroliner car, with no reserved seating. Coates and Dillard were not seated together, although there were adjoining seats available. Dillard was seated across the aisle from Coates, approximately five rows in front of him. Both pieces of luggage, the tweed shoulder bag that had been carried by Coates and the tweed garment bag carried by Dillard, were stored in the luggage rack above Coates' head.

The officers walked down the aisle, passing both Coates and Dillard. Coiro told Goldstein that Dillard turned her head and watched Goldstein walk by. Based on these circumstances, Goldstein testified that he decided to approach Coates to see if he would consent to speak with him. Goldstein walked up to Coates, identified himself as a police officer, but not as someone involved with the drug interdiction program, and asked Coates if he would mind speaking to him. Coates consented to the interview.

Goldstein asked Coates where he was going, and Coates told him to New Carrollton. Goldstein asked to see his ticket, and Coates produced it. The ticket was issued in the name of Kim Jones, and indicated that it had been paid for in cash. Goldstein then asked Coates for the identity of "Kim Jones." Coates responded that it was his wife. Goldstein asked Coates for identification, and Coates said he had none. When Goldstein asked him if he was travelling with anyone, Coates said no. Goldstein then asked him if the luggage above his head, which at that point appeared only to be the garment bag, on top of and covering the shoulder bag, was his. Coates replied that it was. Goldstein then told Coates that he was with the drug enforcement agency working in Penn Station, and with that in mind, would he consent to a search of his bag. Coates refused, stating that Goldstein needed a warrant.

Goldstein then approached Dillard, identified himself, and requested permission to speak to her. Dillard also consented to the interview. Goldstein asked her if she was travelling with anyone, and she said no. He then asked to see her ticket, and she produced a ticket that was also in the name of Kim Jones and identical to the one produced by Coates. When Goldstein asked her if she was Kim Jones, she replied that she was not. Goldstein then asked for her identification, and she produced a driver's license in the name of Michelle A. Dillard. Goldstein asked her if she had any luggage, and she pointed to only her handbag and bookbag. He asked her again if she was travelling with anyone, and then pointed to Coates and stated that both of them had tickets issued under the same name. Dillard responded that she knew Coates but that they were not travelling together.

Goldstein then walked back to Coates and reached up to the garment bag. Upon moving it he noticed the shoulder bag, which Coates had been carrying when he entered the train. Goldstein asked Coates if the shoulder bag was his, and Coates responded that it was not. He then asked Dillard if it was hers, and she said it was not. Goldstein then held the shoulder bag aloft and asked aloud whether anyone in the car owned the bag. After receiving no response, Goldstein opened the shoulder bag and discovered a heavily wrapped brown package inside. Goldstein made a slit in the package and found white powder. Two more similar packages were in the bag. Goldstein closed the shoulder bag and told Coiro to place Coates under arrest.

Once Coates was secured by Coiro, Goldstein took the unopened garment bag over to Dillard. Dillard, although not under arrest, told Goldstein that she wanted to go with him to Amtrak Police headquarters to see if Coates was all right. At that point, Goldstein testified, Dillard was not under arrest and was free to go, but that he intended to hold on to the garment bag. At police headquarters, one level above the train platform, Goldstein conducted an inventory search of Coates' property, including the garment bag that Coates had identified as his while still on the train, but that had originally been carried by Dillard onto the train. Inside the garment bag, Goldstein discovered a similar brown package of cocaine. Dillard was then placed under arrest.

Both Coates and Dillard were read their Miranda rights and searched, and all their personal belongings were collected. Coates had on him approximately $122.60 and a beeper. Dillard had, among other things, a wallet, a checkbook, a 1988-89 monthly academic calendar, and a 1989-90 weekly minder.

Coates testified at the hearing that Goldstein stood in close proximity to him during the interview on the train. According to Coates, Goldstein leaned down within six inches of his face as he was questioned. Coiro stood directly behind Goldstein in the aisle. Coates also testified that Coiro had his hand in his jacket, and that he could see a gun handle sticking out. Coates further stated that Goldstein told him to show him his ticket or Goldstein would throw him off the train. He averred that when he tried to stand up, he was told to sit back down. Furthermore, Coates testified that he told Goldstein that he owned both bags, and that Goldstein never held the shoulder bag up to ask others in the car if it was theirs. Coates added that Goldstein never asked with whom Coates was travelling. Finally, he stated that Goldstein told him "I can do what I want" because he worked for the drug enforcement agency of Amtrak, and proceeded to open the shoulder bag. On ...


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