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U.S. v. LAKE
October 24, 2002
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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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