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U.S. v. LAKE

October 24, 2002

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
V.
LONNIE LAKE, ALPHONSE LAKE, AND SYLVESTER LAKE, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur D. Spatt, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

This case involves charges of narcotics possession, narcotics distribution, and gun possession. Presently before the Court is a motion by Lonnie Lake ("Lake") to: (1) suppress the statements he made to the police on January 7, 1999; (2) suppress the evidence seized from Lake's residence pursuant to a search warrant on January 7, 1999; (3) suppress the evidence related to the 1990 Toyota Celica; (4) suppress the evidence seized from Lake's residence on June 6, 2001; (5) dismiss counts one, two, six and eight of the indictment; and (6) sever counts six, seven and eight from the indictment. The Government opposes Lake's motions.
I. BACKGROUND

The background of this case is incorporated in this Court's memorandum of decision and order dated October 5, 2002. Familiarity with the October 5, 2002 decision is assumed.

II. DISCUSSION
A. The Motion to Suppress the Physical Evidence Seized from Lake's Residence and the Statements Made by Lake on January 7, 1999
Lake alleges the following facts in support of his motion to suppress the physical evidence seized from his residence and the statements he made on January 7, 1999. Lake claims that on January 7, 1999, while driving a 1990 Toyota Celica, he was stopped by state officers and taken into custody. Lake claims that officers removed him from his vehicle, handcuffed him and placed him in the rear of a police car. Lake alleges that he was detained for several hours before the officers took him to his residence. When Lake and the officers arrived at his home, Lake maintains that one of the officers directly asked him if he had any guns, weapons or money in the house. Lake claims that the Government maintains that he responded by stating, "I have a gun in the bedroom." According to Lake, no Miranda warnings were given before he made this statement.
Lake further asserts that the officers asked him several questions about the vehicle he was driving. Lake claims that the Government alleges that officers had observed him using what they believed to be a hidden compartment under the driver's floorboard. According to Lake, upon the direction of the officers, he demonstrated how to open and close the compartment. Lake claims that the vehicle was seized and searched and that six months later an ionscan test was conducted on the compartment of the vehicle which revealed that it contained the presence of cocaine. Lake contends that no search warrant was issued for the vehicle.

Further, Lake alleges that when he was arrested on June 6, 2001, federal officers "forcibly made their way" into his residence, killed Lake's dogs and made a "complete search of the premises and seized documents" without a search warrant.

In its opposition papers, the Government claims that after Nassau County Judge Daniel R. Palmieri issued a search warrant for Lake's residence, state officers stopped Lake on January 7, 1999 as he was driving a 1990 Toyota Celica. At that time, the officers told Lake he was being arrested for narcotics offenses and transported him and the vehicle to the Narcotics Bureau of the Nassau County Police Department ("Narcotics Bureau"). According to the Government, when Lake arrived at the Narcotics Bureau, the detectives told him that they would not ask him any questions and that he would be permitted to call his attorney after the search warrants were executed. The Government contends that after the officers informed Lake that they had a search warrant for his residence, Lake asked to return to his residence to lock up his dogs before the search warrant was executed so they would not be harmed by the officers. Based upon his request, the Government claims that Lake was taken to his residence.
Upon returning to his residence, Lake was seated in the rear of a police vehicle. The Government claims that detective Michael Beckett, who was seated in the police vehicle, told Lake he would not ask him any questions. The Government further contends that when Lake observed the officers entering his residence to conduct a search, he stated to Beckett, "I have a gun in the bedroom under the mattress" or words to that effect. The Government claims that before Beckett could relay the information to the other officers, the officers searching Lake's bedroom discovered a loaded and defaced Davis .380 caliber under Lake's mattress.
The Government further claims that because a crowd began to gather outside his residence, Lake was taken to his livingroom. While Lake was seated in his livingroom, an officer told detective Vincent Buscemi that a firearm had been recovered from the bedroom. The Government claims that when Lake heard the comment, he stated, "Vinnie, you know me, I just got that for protection." From the search of Lake's residence, the officers recovered evidence including a police scanner, scale, marijuana, cocaine residue, plastic baggies and telephone numbers of defendants Alphonse Lake and Sylvester Lake.
After the officers concluded the search of Lake's residence, he was taken back to the Narcotics Bureau. The Government contends that at the Narcotics Bureau, Lake asked what would happen to his vehicle. According to the Government, after detective John Hanrahan told Lake that the vehicle would be retained for time being because it contained a "trap," Lake responded that the trap was empty and offered to open the trap for the officers. The Government claims that pursuant to Lake's offer, the officers brought him to the vehicle and observed Lake open a hidden compartment under the driver's floorboard. The Government explains that although the officers observed Lake open the compartment, they did not direct him to do so. After state authorities contacted the Drug Enforcement Administration, a DEA technician conducted an ionscan test on the hidden compartment in the vehicle which had remained in the custody of state authorities. Laboratory results revealed that the compartment contained trace amounts of cocaine.
On June 6, 2001, federal and state agents arrested Lake at his residence pursuant to an arrest warrant. The Government alleges that after two of Lake's dogs attempted to attack the officers, the dogs were shot and killed. Following the arrest, the Government contends that the officers asked Lake if he would consent to a search of his residence, but because he refused to consent, no search was conducted.
1. As to the statements
Lake moves to suppress the statements he made on January 7, 1999 regarding the firearm seized and the hidden compartment in his vehicle on the ground that the statements arose from custodial interrogation. "The coercion inherent in custodial interrogation blurs the line between voluntary and involuntary statements." Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428, 435, 120 S.Ct. 2326, 2331 (2000). To prevent such coercion and safeguard a suspect's privilege against self-incrimination, law enforcement officers must provide a suspect with Miranda warnings prior to conducting a custodial interrogation. See id.; United States v. Ramirez, 79 F.3d 298, 304 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 850,117 S.Ct. 140 (1996). Interrogation "refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those ...

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