Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bruce v. United States

June 12, 2006

OSLYN BRUCE, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garaufis, United States District Judge.

Not For Publication

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Before the court is the pro se application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 of petitioner Oslyn Bruce ("Petitioner" or "Bruce"). Bruce seeks to vacate the sixty-three month sentence imposed by this court on November 27, 2002 in her underlying criminal matter, United States v. Oslyn Bruce, 01-CR-595 (NGG), following conviction by a jury of importing and possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. For the reasons set forth below, Bruce's 2255 petition is DENIED.

I. Trial

The evidence presented at trial before this court on August 19 -- 21, 2002 that is relevant to the Petitioner's motion can be briefly summarized as follows.*fn1 Bruce and her son were arrested on May 8, 2001 after arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York from Guyana. During a customs examination, Bruce explained that she had traveled to Guyana to pick up a real estate document for a friend; the document was shown to the customs inspector. Bruce's luggage was inspected and two suspicious bottles of rum were found within. A field-test performed on the bottles confirmed the presence of cocaine in the bottles, and a subsequent laboratory test confirmed that the bottles contained 685.8 grams of pure cocaine with an approximate retail value of $137,000.00. Bruce was arrested. (See Government Opposition Brief dated March 18, 2005 ("Govt. Opp."), at 1-2).

Following her arrest, Detective Robert Addona, of the New York City Police Department and United States Customs Service ("Customs"), and Special Agent Timothy Flood of Customs interviewed Bruce. During the interview, Bruce reiterated that she traveled to Guyana at the request of her friend, Jenny Graham, in order to retrieve a real estate document for Graham's boyfriend, whom Bruce identified as "Bertram." The envelope Bruce had in her possession that she claimed she picked up in Guyana had "Bertram Abrigo" printed across its front. Bruce, however, informed the Customs officials that she did not know Bertram's last name. In Bruce's phone book, the Customs agents also found a cell phone number listed for a "Bertram," which Bruce maintained was the number of a different person by the name of Bertram. (Id. at 2).

Much of the Petitioner's claims for post-conviction relief implicate the document that she went to Guyana to retrieve and that she turned over to Customs at the time of her arrest. The document was entitled "Certificate of Sale" and reflected the purchase of a condominium in Guyana by Bertram Abrigo for what amounted to $180 in U.S. currency. The document was examined by Agent Flood, who determined that it was a photocopied document, and not the original. Following Bruce's May 8, 2001 arrest, the evidence that had been seized from her was stored in a Customs evidence vault located at 6 World Trade Center, in lower Manhattan. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the evidence contained in that vault, including Bruce's documents, was destroyed. Detective Addona, however, had made photocopies of all of the documentary evidence seized from Bruce on May 8, 2001 for his case file. Thus, at trial, the Government had a photocopy of the photocopy of the Certificate of Sale seized that night. (Id. at 2-3).

During trial, the defense presented the testimony of three witnesses. The Petitioner's sister, Mauricia Bruce, testified that Bertram Abrigo, the boyfriend of her friend Jenny Graham, accompanied herself, the Petitioner, and two of their children, to the airport and purchased in cash tickets for the four of them to travel to Guyana. Mauricia Bruce corroborated the Petitioner's explanation for why they went to Guyana: to pick up a real estate document for Bertram. Mauricia Bruce attested that while there, Jenny Graham called the Bruce sisters to ask them to bring back to the United States some items that her brother would drop off. (Id. at 3). Mauricia Bruce's testimony revealed that among the items that Graham's brother delivered were four bottles of rum, two of which Mauricia and Oslyn Bruce brought back with them to the United States. According to Mauricia Bruce, she and her sister inspected the food items Graham's brother delivered to them for transport to the U.S., but that they did not inspect the rum bottles. She denied suspecting that the bottles contained drugs. (Id.).

The defense also called to the stand Corporal Simon Benjamin, a Guyanese law enforcement official, who testified that on May 9, 2001, he arrested Trevor Graham, the brother of Jenny Graham, for possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking after recovering two bottles of rum containing cocaine at the Bruce family home in Guyana. (Id. at 3).

The Petitioner took the stand at trial in her own defense. She corroborated her sister's account of events, explaining that while in Guyana, Jenny Graham called the Bruce family home to request that the Petitioner and her sister bring back some items that her brother would deliver. She further testified that Trevor Graham dropped off several food items and four bottles of rum, and that they took some of the food and two of the bottles with them on their trip back to JFK Airport. Bruce admitted that she lied on her Customs Declaration form when she declared she wasn't bringing food into the United States. She denied that she had ever claimed to Customs officials that she didn't know Bertram's last name, or that she had asserted that the phone number listed for "Bertram" in her phone book was a different Bertram. (Id. at 3-4).

Central to the Petitioner's arguments in support of her 2255 petition is the court's exclusion at trial of an alleged original copy of the "Certificate of Sale." During trial, Detective Addona took the stand and was cross-examined by defense counsel concerning the destruction of relevant evidence in the wake of 9/11. Defense counsel presented what he alleged was the original Certificate of Sale, and the accompanying envelope that the Petitioner purportedly retrieved in Guyana. Upon visible inspection comparing this "original" envelope and the photocopy of the envelope that had been placed in the vault, which Addona had kept in his case file, the court determined that the envelope offered by the Petitioner as the "original" was fabricated, as it clearly did not match the photocopied version. The court ultimately ruled that the Defendant/Petitioner Bruce was precluded from using the alleged "original" Certificate of Sale to cross-examine Detective Addona because Addona had not testified to seeing that "original" document. It therefore could not properly be used as impeachment evidence against Addona. (Id. at 4-5).

Petitioner's sister, Mauricia Bruce, testified that she had seen the document Petitioner picked up on behalf of Bertram in Guyana. On the Government's cross-examination of Mauricia Bruce, she declared that the document she'd seen was an original and not a photocopy. Following this testimony (before Bruce herself took the stand), the Government notified the court and opposing counsel that it if Bruce testified, it would cross-examine her as to whether or not the document she possessed when she was arrested was an original. (Id. at 5). The Government argued to the court that Bruce's credibility was a major issue in the case, and therefore that the Government should be permitted to question Bruce about what happened to the document, to the extent that she claimed she possessed the original on the night of her arrest. Bruce maintained that on the night of her arrest, she was carrying the original document, and that Detective Addona photocopied the document and returned the original to her.*fn2

On the issue of whether the Government would be permitted to question Bruce concerning the original document, the court ruled that defense counsel had "opened the door" to this line of questioning. The court informed the parties that it was troubled by the fact that the alleged "original" Certificate of Sale had never been turned over to the Government during Bruce's first trial, as would be required by Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. (Id.).

On cross-examination, Bruce testified that the original Certificate of Sale had been in her possession when she was arrested, that it was photocopied by Customs Agents, and that it was returned to her that night. She attested that the document was in her bag, which she gave to a friend who came to the airport to pick up her son, and that it was in her possession beginning the following day when she was released on bail. Following this testimony, the Government moved to admit into evidence on rebuttal for the purpose of impeaching Bruce's credibility, the fabricated envelope that she contended was the original envelope. The court ruled the envelope admissible as impeachment evidence. Defense counsel responded that the purported "original" certificate should also be admitted into evidence if the envelope was coming in, and requested that it be permitted to re-call Bruce to the stand to testify concerning that document. The court denied this request, finding the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.