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United States v. Young

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 19, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
LAMAR YOUNG, Defendant, Appellee.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE [Hon. George Z. Singal, U.S. District Judge]

          Edward S. MacColl, with whom Thompson, Bull, Bass & MacColl, LLC, P.A. were on brief, for appellant.

          Renée M. Bunker, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Thomas E. Delahanty, II, United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

          Before Lynch, Thompson, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          THOMPSON, Circuit Judge.

         Defendant-appellant Lamar Young (Young) entered a conditional guilty plea and was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) & (b)(1)(B), and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). Before us, Young challenges the district court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained by law enforcement officers while executing a warrant for his arrest. Young argues that the evidence was improperly seized when the officers entered his girlfriend's apartment without consent. After careful consideration, we conclude that the officers had insufficient grounds to reasonably believe that Young lived at or would be present at the apartment and, therefore, lacked the necessary level of belief to justify entering the apartment to execute the arrest warrant without consent. Accordingly, we vacate Young's conviction, reverse the district court's denial of his motion to suppress, and remand for further proceedings.

         I.

         We recite the key facts as found by the district court, [1]consistent with the record support, noting where relevant Young's contrary view of the testimony presented at the suppression hearing. See, e.g., United States v. Werra, 638 F.3d 326, 328 (1st Cir. 2011).

         On March 11, 2014, the district court issued an arrest warrant for Young following his indictment for conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute "28 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base." That evening, six Lewiston, Maine law-enforcement officers set out in search of Young, traveling to three different residences and making four different stops, before finally locating Young at a fourth location. The search team included Lewiston police officer and United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) task force officer Ryan Rawstron (Rawstron), Maine State Police trooper Thomas Pappas (Pappas), who was assigned to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA), Lewiston police officer and MDEA task force officer Tyler Michaud (Michaud), Joey Brown (Brown) from the Lewiston Police Department, Auburn police officer David Madore (Madore), and trooper Kevin Rooney (Rooney) from the Maine State Police Department (collectively, and for simplicity's sake, we will refer to the task force officers, police officers, and trooper as "officers").

         The officers began their search at the Howe Street residence of Kayla Davidson (Davidson), where the officers had located Young during a prior investigation. Officer Rawstron had also spoken with Davidson "shortly before" that night, and Davidson had informed him during that conversation that she was dating Young. Davidson had further informed officer Rawstron that Young had stayed with her at another apartment on Ash Street. Neither Young nor Davidson was at the Howe Street apartment when the officers arrived. The officers then decided to check the Ash Street apartment, where Young and Davidson had previously stayed with another woman, Stephanie Webster (Webster). Young and Davidson were not at the Ash Street apartment either.

         At this point, the officers traveled to the residence of yet another woman, Crystal, who lived on Horton Street. The officers apparently "had information" that Young had, at some point in the past, also been staying with Crystal. Officer Rawstron testified at the suppression hearing that the officers "were familiar with" Crystal and the Horton Street address because they "had [] done a controlled buy at that . . . address . . . fairly shortly before." When the officers arrived, Crystal was there, with someone she was dating (not Young), but Young was, once again, not present.

         Out of ideas, and having failed to locate Young - or Davidson - thus far, the officers circled back to where they had begun their night, Davidson's Howe Street apartment. This time they ran into Webster, whose Ash Street apartment they had visited earlier in the evening. Webster, in exchange for the officer's promise to forgo taking her to jail that night on outstanding warrants and instead allow her to turn herself in the following day, told them that if Young was not at her apartment on Ash Street, or Davidson's apartment on Howe Street, or Crystal's on Horton Street, then "he had to be back with his former girlfriend" "Jen" on Walnut Street. According to Webster, Young had stayed with "Jen" "on and off, again a couple nights here and there" when he was not with Davidson. Not knowing the address, Webster provided the officers with a description of the building.

         Although the officers had no way of knowing that Young was not, in fact, with Davidson as they had failed to locate either of them, the officers then traveled to the Walnut Street apartment building Webster had described. The six officers arrived at approximately 11:00 p.m. Spotting a familiar car parked outside the apartment building, officer Rawstron realized that "Jen" was Jennifer Coleman (Coleman). Officer Rawstron knew Coleman from a prior investigation, and knew that she had previously lived with Young in an apartment on Tampa Street. Based on that prior investigation, officer Michaud also knew that Coleman and Young had an "off-again, on-again" relationship.

         Upon their arrival, officers Michaud and Brown positioned themselves at the front of Coleman's apartment building by a fire escape, while officers Rooney and Madore guarded the back of the building. Meanwhile officers Rawstron and Pappas, both armed and wearing bulletproof vests emblazoned with the word "police, " entered Coleman's apartment building through a back door and climbed the three flights of stairs to Coleman's apartment. The landing in front of Coleman's door was too narrow for both officers Rawstron and Pappas to stand on with their equipment. So, they quickly positioned themselves with Rawstron in the front at Coleman's door and Pappas behind him, three or four steps down, with his head level with the doorknob. Once in position, officer Rawstron knocked on Coleman's apartment door. He heard someone from inside the apartment ask who was at the door, but did not respond as was his usual practice.

         Less than a minute later, Coleman's 22-year-old daughter opened the door. Officer Rawstron asked her where her mother was and began to ask about Young when he noticed Coleman - who had been lying in bed in her room at the opposite end of the hallway - walking down the hallway to the front door. Coleman reached the officers within seconds but, by that time, officer Rawstron had, without consent, stepped into the apartment, and Pappas had moved to stand in the doorway so that he could scan the hallway.[2] Once inside her apartment, officer Rawstron asked Coleman if Young was there. Coleman told officer Rawstron that her kids and Young were present. Officer Rawstron then told Coleman that he needed to speak to Young and, again without asking for consent, he immediately walked by her and down the hallway. Trooper Pappas followed. Both officers drew their weapons. Officer Rawstron also carried a flashlight.

         As officers Rawstron and Pappas reached Coleman's bedroom, officer Michaud, who was still guarding the front of Coleman's apartment building, observed one of Coleman's front blinds lift up, Young look out the window, and then the blinds close.[3] A few seconds after the blinds went down, Michaud saw flashlights "scan across the window."

         Back inside the apartment, officer Rawstron had reached Coleman's bedroom door, pushed aside a curtain that was covering the doorway, and discovered Young kneeling on the bed. Seeing Young on the bed, officer Rawstron immediately pointed his firearm and flashlight at Young and ordered him to show his hands. Officer Pappas, who was positioned behind officer Rawstron, also pointed his firearm at Young. Young complied. Officer Rawstron holstered his weapon, grabbed Young's right arm, and ...


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