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United States v. Pierce

United States District Court, W.D. New York

February 21, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
ISIAH PIERCE a/k/a Isiah Johnson and LARRY WILLIS, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          LAWRENCE J. VILARDO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On November 22, 2017, after hearing evidence over three days and deliberating for a day and a half, the jury returned a verdict on the 12-count superseding indictment in this matter. The charges were based on narcotics and weapons recovered from both the upper and lower apartments at 70 Henrietta Avenue in Buffalo, New York, as well as narcotics found in police interview rooms at 45 Elm Street in Buffalo. Docket Item 32. Defendant Isiah Pierce was acquitted of conspiring to sell narcotics and possessing narcotics found in the interview room where he was placed after his arrest; he was convicted on seven counts of possessing narcotics and weapons consistent with what was found in the upper apartment at 70 Henrietta. Defendant Larry Willis was acquitted of conspiring to sell narcotics, of possessing those narcotics found only in the upper apartment, and of possessing the narcotics found in the interview room where he was placed after his arrest; he was convicted on five counts of possessing narcotics and weapons consistent with what was found in the lower apartment.

         At the conclusion of the government's proof at trial, both defendants moved for judgments of acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29. After trial, both defendants renewed those motions as to the counts of conviction. For the following reasons, those motions are denied.

         FACTS

         On December 1, 2016, as part of a narcotics investigation, police officers obtained and executed two search warrants for the duplex at 70 Henrietta Avenue, Buffalo, New York-first for the lower apartment and then for the upper apartment. On the same day, but before the warrants were obtained and executed, police arrested both Pierce and Willis, who had been seen exiting the house separately.

         The officers who executed the search found narcotics and weapons in both the upper and lower apartments. In addition, the officers who processed both defendants at the police station found narcotics on the floor of the separate rooms in which each defendant was held. More specifically, in the room where Willis was held, the officers found a quantity of heroin and a quantity of cocaine base; in the room where Pierce was held, the officers found a quantity of cocaine base.

         Both defendants were charged with conspiring to possess and distribute narcotics; possessing narcotics with intent to distribute them; possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes; possessing firearms when they were precluded from doing so by prior felony convictions; and maintaining a drug-involved premises.

         More specifically, the most recent charges-filed on May 19, 2017-included the following:

• Count 1 - conspiring to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute heroin and butyryl fentanyl, cocaine base, cocaine, and fentanyl; and conspiring to use and maintain 70 Henrietta Avenue for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, and using those substances (both defendants);
• Count 2 - possessing cocaine base with intent to distribute (both defendants);
• Count 3 - possessing heroin and butyryl fentanyl with intent to distribute (both defendants);
• Count 4 - possessing fentanyl with intent to distribute (both defendants);
• Count 5 - possessing cocaine with intent to distribute ...

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