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United States v. Taylor

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 24, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
SHAUN TAYLOR and TIMOTHY PINKNEY, Defendants

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For Timothy Pinkney, also known as " Little Timmy", Defendant: Royce Russell, LEAD ATTORNEY, Emdin & Russell, New York, NY; Richard Jasper, Law Offices of Richard Jasper, New York, NY.

For USA, Plaintiff: Matthew S. Amatruda, United States Attorneys Office, Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn, NY; Tali Farhadian, United States Attorney's Office, Brooklyn, NY.

OPINION

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OPINION AND ORDER

DORA L. IRIZARRY, United States District Judge.

Defendants Shaun Taylor (" Taylor" ) and Timothy Pinkney (" Pinkney," together with Taylor, " defendants" ) are charged with various narcotics trafficking, firearms, and murder offenses in a twelve-count superseding indictment (" Superseding Indictment" ) filed on December 17, 2012.

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( See Superseding Indictment, Doc. Entry No. 88.) By motion dated March 3, 2014, the government moves in limine for an anonymous jury, to admit evidence of defendant Pinkney's prior bad acts, and to admit evidence of defendant Taylor's shooting of an individual identified as " V1." (Government's Memorandum of Law in Support of its Motion for an Anonymous and Partially Sequestered Jury and to Admit Uncharged Acts (" Gov. Mem." ), Doc. Entry No. 130.) By motion dated March 3, 2014, defendant Taylor moves to sever his trial from that of his co-defendant. (Shaun Taylor's Pre-Trial Severance Motion (" Taylor Mem." ), Doc. Entry No. 129.) In his opposition to the government's motion in limine, Taylor also moves for reconsideration of the Court's prior order dated November 14, 2012 admitting evidence of Taylor's prior bad acts and for disclosure of Brady material. (Defendant Shaun Taylor's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to the Government's Motion for an Anonymous Jury and for Other Relief (" Taylor Resp." ), Doc. Entry No. 131.) By motion dated March 3, 2014, defendant Pinkney moves in limine for suppression of his recorded statement to a confidential informant, as well as to compel the government to clarify what Brady material exists and provide him with a bill of particulars. (Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant Pinkney's Omnibus Motion (" Pinkney Mem." ), Doc. Entry No. 127.) For the reasons set forth below the government's motions are granted in their entirety; defendant Taylor's severance motion and motion for reconsideration are denied; and defendant Pinkney's motion is denied.

I. The Superseding Indictment

The charges in the Superseding Indictment stem from defendants' alleged involvement in a decade-long narcotics trafficking conspiracy. (Superseding Indictment; Gov. Mem. at 2.) Defendant Taylor is charged with: (1) one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and cocaine base (" crack" ); (2) one count each of drug-related murder and drug-related murder conspiracy for the murder of Terrance Barnett; (3) two counts of cocaine distribution; (4) one count each of murder-for-hire and murder-for-hire conspiracy for the murder of Joseph Vargas; (5) one count each of drug-related murder and drug-related murder conspiracy for the murder of Joseph Vargas; (6) two counts of use, discharge, and brandishing of a firearm; and (7) one count of causing death with a firearm. (Superseding Indictment ¶ ¶ 1-12.) Defendant Pinkney is charged with: (1) one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and crack; (2) one count each of drug-related murder and drug-related murder conspiracy for the murder of Terrance Barnett; and (3) one count of use, discharge, and brandishing of a firearm. (Superseding Indictment ¶ ¶ 1-3, 10.)

The government alleges that defendant Taylor was the leader of a narcotics trafficking conspiracy in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York and the Woodhaven neighborhood of Queens, New York that was responsible for two homicides and numerous non-fatal shootings between January 2, 2000 and August 2, 2010. (Gov. Mem. at 1, 3; Superseding Indictment ¶ ¶ 1, 2, 8, 12.) Pinkney is alleged to have acted as an enforcer in the conspiracy. (Gov. Mem. at 1.) Defendants allegedly conspired to distribute kilograms of heroin and cocaine and hundreds of grams of crack. (Gov. Mem. at 3; Superseding Indictment ¶ ¶ 1, 4-5.) On April 29, 2005, defendants allegedly conspired to murder Terrance Barnett (" Barnett" ). (Superseding Indictment ¶ ¶ 2-3.) Pinkney is alleged

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to have murdered Barnett at Taylor's behest in exchange for $1,000. (Gov. Mem. at 4.) On or about June 20, 2007, Taylor allegedly hired two coconspirators, Jaquan Petty and D'Andrew Yelverton, to murder Joseph Vargas (" Vargas" ) in exchange for narcotics. (Gov. 8/20/12 First Motion In Limine at 5, Doc. Entry No. 65; Superseding Indicment ¶ ¶ 6-9, 12.) Later that day, Taylor allegedly provided Yelverton with a firearm, which Yelverton, acting together with others, then used to shoot Vargas to death. ( Id. at 5-6.)

II. Pinkney's Motion to Suppress

Defendant Pinkney moves to suppress the recorded statement he made to a confidential informant (" CI" ) on the grounds that it was obtained in violation of Pinkney's constitutional rights under the Fifth and Six Amendments to the United States Constitution and in violation of the American Bar Association's (" ABA's" ) Code of Professional Responsibility. (Pinkney's Mem. at 2.) According to Pinkney, " to the extent [that] Pinkney's recorded statements to [the CI] related to the . . . conspiracy for which Pinkney was interrogated previously[,] said recording was obtained in violation of his Miranda rights and right to counsel and thus must be suppressed." ( Id. at 4.) The government opposes, arguing that Pinkney's Fifth and Sixth Amendment right to counsel had not attached at the time his statement was made, and that the prosecutors did not commit any ethical violation. (Gov. Resp. at 12-15.) For the reasons set forth below, Pinkney's motion to suppress is denied in its entirety.

a. Pinkney's Recorded Statement

On March 9, 2009, defendant Pinkney was arrested after New York City Police Department (" NYPD" ) officers executed a search warrant at his residence in Brooklyn and discovered two firearms, marijuana packaged for street-level distribution, and currency. (Pinkney Mem. at 2; Gov. Resp. at 2, Doc. Entry No. 132.) Pinkney was charged in Kings County Supreme Court with drug possession and two counts of felony gun possession (the " Kings County case" ). (Pinkney Mem. at 2; Gov. Resp. at 2.) On January 30, 2010, while released on bail in the Kings County case, Pinkney was arrested in Pennsylvania for an unrelated weapons offense (the " Pennsylvania case" ). (Pinkney Mem. at 2; Gov. Resp. at 2.) On August 31, 2010, Pinkney pled guilty to felony possession of a firearm without a license in the Pennsylvania case. (Pinkney Mem. at 2; Pinkney Decl. ¶ 5, Doc. Entry No. 127-1; Gov. Resp. at 2.)

On February 25, 2011, Pinkney failed to appear in court in the Kings County case due to his incarceration in Pennsylvania, and a bench warrant was issued. (Pinkney Mem. at 2-3; Pinkney Decl. ¶ 7.) On April 8, 2011, Pinkney was " returned to Kings County Supreme Court to vacate [the] warrant." (Pinkney Decl. ¶ 7.) In April 2011, NYPD Detectives (the " Detectives" ) visited Pinkney while he was detained at Rikers Island pending resolution of the Kings County case. (Pinkney Mem. at 3; Pinkney Decl. ¶ ¶ 8-9; Gov. Resp. at 2.) While Pinkney claims that the Detectives interrogated him and threatened to transfer the Kings County case to federal court, the government contends that the Detectives visited Pinkney to " gauge his interest in potentially cooperating in an ongoing criminal investigation of the Barnett homicide and other crimes related to the instant case." (Pinkney Mem. at 3; Pinkney Decl. ¶ ¶ 8, 10; Gov. Resp. at 2.) According to the government, the Detectives " elected not to interrogate Pinkney, and thus did not give him Miranda warnings." (Gov. Resp. at 2-3.) On May 4, 2011, Pinkney pled guilty in the Kings County

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case and, thereafter, was sentenced to concurrent three-to-six-year prison terms. (Pinkney Mem. at 3; Pinkney Decl. ¶ 11; Gov. Resp. at 3.) Pinkney then was returned to Pennsylvania to complete his term of incarceration. (Pinkney Mem. at 3.)

In January 2012, Pinkney was brought from state custody in Pennsylvania to this district on a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum and housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center (" MDC" ) in Brooklyn, New York. (Pinkney Mem. at 3; Pinkney Decl. ¶ ¶ 12-13; Gov. Resp. at 3.) On January 17, 2012, Pinkney was transported from the MDC to the United States Courthouse for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn to meet with the same Detectives who had visited him at Rikers Island and a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (" FBI" ). (Pinkney Mem. at 3; Pinkney Decl. ¶ 14; Gov. Resp. at 3.) Pinkney claims that the Detectives and FBI agent interrogated him while he was at the Brooklyn federal courthouse. The government, however, maintains that the officials again elected not to interrogate Pinkney, an, instead, encouraged him to cooperate in the ongoing investigation. (Pinkney Mem. at 3; Pinkney Decl. ¶ 14; Gov. Resp. at 3.) Pinkney also claims that he was not offered an attorney until the end of the questioning, nor was he advised of his Miranda rights. (Pinkney Mem. at 3; Pinkney Decl. ¶ 15.) Pinkney further asserts that he was told he was going to be indicted and he requested an attorney. (Pinkney Mem. at 3.) The government, on the other hand, maintains that Pinkney " invited" the government to indict him for the Barnett murder and indicated that he did not want to meet with an attorney. (Gov. Resp. at 3.) Notably, in his declaration submitted in support of his motion, Pinkney does not state that he requested an attorney at any time during this meeting. ( See Pinkney Decl.)

While Pinkney was detained at the MDC, the government received information from an individual who shared a cell with Pinkney that Pinkney sua sponte had confessed to three homicides and several shootings. (Gov. Resp. at 4.) The individual agreed to become a confidential informant for the government. ( Id.) On November 20, 2012, Pinkney had a two-hour conversation with the CI, who was equipped with a recording device. (Pinkney Mem. at 3; Gov. Resp. at 2; Gov. Mem at 4.) The CI mentioned Taylor " in the hope that Pinkney would speak about the Barnett murder," and Pinkney " proceeded to admit to the Barnett murder, two additional murders and several other crimes of violence." (Gov. Resp. at 4-5.) Specifically, Pinkney stated that Taylor had offered him money to kill Taylor's former drug supplier. ( Id. at 5.) After Taylor drove Pinkney to the murder scene and pointed out the victim, Pinkney walked up to the victim and shot him several times in the head. ( Id.) Although Taylor believed that Barnett was a rival, Barnett actually was an innocent victim, killed by Pinkney in a case of mistaken identity. (Gov. Mem. at 4.) Pinkney stated his " vehement dislike" for Taylor and belittled " Taylor's toughness, recounting that Taylor was hesitant before shooting Pinkney and asked Pinkney to kill his drug rival rather than shooting the man himself." (Gov. Resp. at 4.) In contrast, Pinkney " touted his own willingness to commit acts of violence." ( Id. at 4-5.)

b. Fifth Amendment Claim

The Fifth Amendment provides that " [n]o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." U.S. Const. amend. V. In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court held

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that the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination " prohibits admitting statements given by a suspect during 'custodial interrogation' without a prior warning." Illinois v. Perkins, 496 U.S. 292, 294, 110 S.Ct. 2394, 110 L.Ed.2d 243 (1990) (citing Miranda, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966)); see also Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U.S. 98, 103, 130 S.Ct. 1213, 175 L.Ed.2d 1045 (2010) (noting that, in Miranda, the Supreme Court " adopted a set of prophylactic measures to protect a suspect's Fifth Amendment right from the 'inherently compelling pressures' of custodial interrogation" ). " Custodial interrogation means 'questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody.'" Perkins, 496 U.S. at 296.

The Fifth Amendment is not implicated, and Miranda warnings are not necessary, when a suspect is unaware that he is speaking to a government agent and voluntarily gives a statement. Perkins, 496 U.S. at 294. This is because " [t]he essential ingredients of a 'police-dominated atmosphere' and compulsion are not present when an incarcerated person speaks freely to someone whom he believes to be a fellow inmate." Id. at 296; see also Howes v. Fields, U.S. ,132 S.Ct. 1181, 1187, 182 L.Ed.2d 17 (2012) (noting that the Supreme Court in Perkins " rejected the argument that Miranda warnings are required whenever a suspect is in custody in a technical sense and converses with someone who happens to be a government agent" ).

Even where a suspect is aware that he is speaking to a government official, Miranda warnings are not necessary unless the statements are made in the course of a " custodial interrogation." See Shatzer, 559 U.S. at 113 (" lawful imprisonment imposed upon conviction of a crime does not create the coercive pressures identified in Miranda " ). In the Fifth Amendment context, " 'custody' is a term of art that specifies circumstances that are thought generally to present a serious danger of coercion." Howes, 132 S.Ct. at 1189. " [I]mprisonment alone is not enough to create a custodial situation within the meaning of Miranda." Id. at 1190. To determine whether a person is in custody, courts must " ascertain whether, in light of 'the objective circumstances of the interrogation, a reasonable person would have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave.'" Id. at 1189.

Here, Pinkney's confession was not made in a police dominated atmosphere. Pinkney was unaware that the CI was a government informant, and he made the statement at issue voluntarily to a fellow cellmate. Notably, Pinkney voluntarily made incriminating statements to the CI before the CI became a government informant. He does not challenge the admissibility of this prior, unrecorded statement. The record also shows that Pinkney was not in custody for the purposes of Miranda or subject to any coercive pressures when he made the statement he seeks to suppress. Although Pinkney was incarcerated at the time he made the statement, Pinkney was not physically restrained or in any way coerced into continuing the conversation. Indeed, he was free to end the conversation at any time. Pinkney spoke freely, candidly, in detail, and at ...


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