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United States of America v. Shaun Taylor

November 14, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
SHAUN TAYLOR,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, U.S. District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Defendant Shaun Taylor ("Defendant") is charged with various narcotics trafficking, firearms, and murder offenses in a ten-count superseding indictment ("Indictment") filed on November 22, 2011. (See generally Indictment, Docket Entry No. 32.) On August 20, 2012, the government moved in limine to admit evidence of Defendant's prior bad acts and criminal convictions as direct evidence of the charged narcotics conspiracy and related firearms offenses, or, in the alternative, to admit such evidence pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) ("Rule 404(b)"). (Letter dated Aug. 20, 2012 ("Gov't Mem."), Docket Entry No. 65.) The government also moved for leave to cross-examine Defendant as to his prior convictions pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 609(a) ("Rule 609(a)"). Defendant opposes the motion. (Letter dated Sept. 17, 2012 ("Def. Mem."), Docket Entry No. 69.) For the reasons set forth below, the government's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

I.The Indictment

The charges in the Indictment stem from Defendant's alleged involvement in a decade-long narcotics conspiracy and the murder of an alleged drug trafficking rival, Joseph Vargas ("Vargas"). (Indictment ¶¶ 1, 4-7, 10; Gov't Mem. at 2.) Defendant is charged with: (1) one count of conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and cocaine base ("crack"), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(A)(i), (ii), and (iii); (2) two counts of cocaine distribution, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(ii); (3) one count each of murder-for-hire and murder-for-hire conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1958; (4) one count each of drug-related murder and drug-related murder conspiracy, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 848(e); (5) two counts of use, discharge, and brandishing of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and (6) one count of causing death with a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(j). (Indictment ¶¶ 1-10.)

The government alleges that Defendant was the "leader" of a narcotics conspiracy that operated primarily in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, and the Woodhaven neighborhood of Queens, New York, between January 2, 2000 and August 2, 2010. (Gov't Mem. at 2; Indictment ¶ 1.) Throughout the conspiracy, Defendant allegedly distributed heroin in retail and wholesale quantities, but, at times, also distributed cocaine and crack. (Id.) Between approximately January 2007 and June 2007, in connection the conspiracy, Defendant and Vargas allegedly were involved in a scheme to bring powder cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York City. (Gov't Mem. at 4-5.) The government alleges that, after a disagreement arose with Vargas concerning the cocaine importation scheme, Defendant and one of Defendant's coconspirators ("Co-Conspirator 1") decided to have Vargas murdered. (Id.) On June 20, 2007,

Defendant allegedly asked Jaquan Petty and D'Andre Yelverton to murder Vargas in exchange for additional narcotics. (Gov't Mem. at 5.) Petty and Yelverton purportedly agreed to Defendant's request. (Id.) Later that day, Defendant allegedly provided Yelverton with a firearm, which Yelverton, acting together with others, then used to shoot Vargas to death. (Id.)

II.Defendant's Prior Narcotics and Firearm Arrests

During the timeframe of the charged narcotics conspiracy, Defendant sustained a number of narcotics-related arrests in the area where the conspiracy operated. On December 21, 2001, Defendant was arrested with Co-Conspirator 1 and two other individuals in possession of 20 glassine envelopes of heroin and 7 small bags of crack in Queens, New York, near the Queens/Bushwick border. (Gov't Mem. at 2.) In connection with that arrest, in New York State Supreme Court, Queens County, Defendant was adjudicated as a youthful offender based upon his guilty plea to one count of felony Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (Possession with Intent to Sell). Id.

On April 10, 2003, Defendant was arrested in Bushwick in possession of two glassine envelopes of heroin. (Id.) On June 7, 2003, Defendant was arrested again in Bushwick, approximately eight blocks away from his April 10, 2003 arrest, for possessing one ziplock bag of crack and seven glassine envelopes of heroin. (Gov't Mem. at 2-3.) To resolve both of these incidents, on June 17, 2003, Defendant pled guilty in New York City Criminal Court, Kings County, to two counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, a Class A misdemeanor. (Id.)

On March 9, 2007, Defendant was arrested in Bushwick after being observed purchasing marijuana. (Gov't Mem. at 3.) At the time of his arrest, in addition to marijuana, Defendant possessed 61 grams of cocaine, 0.69 grams of heroin, and 2.43 grams of crack. (Id.) Defendant also possessed a loaded .40 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun and $9,901 in currency. (Id.) On May 18, 2007, Defendant was arrested in East New York, Brooklyn, after officers observed him inside of an automobile in possession of 400 glassine envelopes containing a total of 14 grams of heroin. (Gov't Mem. at 4, 7.) As a result of the March 9, 2007 and May 18, 2007 arrests, on May 8, 2008, Defendant was indicted in this district on charges of possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine, possession of a firearm in connection with a narcotics offense, and possession of a defaced firearm, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C) and 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A)(i) and 922(k) respectively. (Id.) On July 31, 2008, Defendant pled guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and crack, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C), and one count of possession of a firearm in connection with the narcotics offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). (Id.)

III.2006 Shootings

The government also alleges that Defendant participated in at least two non-fatal shootings in 2006 as an attempt to intimidate and discipline rivals in connection with the charged narcotics conspiracy. (Gov't Mem. at 3; Sept. 27, 2012 Letter ("Gov't Reply Mem.") at 3-4, Docket Entry No. 70.) The government alleges that, in mid to late 2005, prior to the shootings, several of Defendant's former narcotics associates shifted their allegiance to one of Defendant's rivals. (Gov't Mem. at 3.) Thereafter, on January 5, 2006, Defendant and a coconspirator ("Coconspirator 2") allegedly searched for and located Timothy Pinkney, a former associate of Defendant who had opened a drug location with a rival of Defendant. (Id.) On January 5, 2006, in Bushwick, Defendant allegedly was present when he directed Coconspirator 2 to shoot Pinkney; however, despite having been shot four times, Pinkney survived the shooting. (Id.) Additionally, on October 3, 2006, also in Bushwick and in connection with the same dispute, Defendant personally shot Michael Blocker. (Id.) ...


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