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United States v. Mitchell

United States District Court, D. Maine

February 22, 2018



          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

         On June 27, 2016, at the conclusion of a five-day trial, a jury convicted Defendant Jermaine Mitchell of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846. The jury found both that Defendant was part of a conspiracy to distribute cocaine base and that Defendant's conduct involved 280 grams or more of cocaine base. (Jury Verdict, ECF No. 520.)

         The matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for New Trial and for Indicative Ruling.[1] (ECF No. 719.) Through his motion, Defendant contends that new evidence impugns the veracity of Rodrigo Ramirez, a witness who testified about Defendant's involvement in the conspiracy.


         On February 12, 2015, the grand jury returned a three-count indictment that charged eleven defendants with one or more of the following offenses: conspiracy to distribute cocaine base, use or maintenance of a drug involved premises, and conspiracy to violate federal firearms laws. (ECF No. 3-1.) Defendant was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine base. The conspiracy was alleged to exist among Defendant Mitchell, co-Defendants Jeffrey Benton, Christian Turner, Willie Garvin, Torrence Benton, Jeremy Ingersoll-Meserve, Jacqueline Madore, David Chaisson, Akeen Ocean, Burke Lamar, and Wendell White, and certain others, including Rodrigo Ramirez.[2]

         The evidence at trial demonstrated that Defendant and others were involved in a drug distribution operation for approximately three years (2010 - 2013), which activity included the distribution in and around the Bangor area of cocaine base that was obtained in New Haven, Connecticut. Rodrigo Ramirez testified on behalf of the Government as a cooperating witness. Mr. Ramirez has a notable criminal history. In addition to his drug distribution activity, Mr. Ramirez testified that he participated in a New Haven robbery in 2011 that resulted in a homicide.[3] (ECF No. 636 at 132 - 33.)

         1. The New Evidence

         In support of his motion, Defendant cites statements Mr. Ramirez made to law enforcement, after Defendant's conviction, in connection with a homicide/heroin distribution investigation conducted by law enforcement in Connecticut. Defendant contends that a new trial is warranted because Mr. Ramirez advised law enforcement that he had been untruthful in some of the statements he made regarding crimes committed in Connecticut, which disclosure generates further questions about Mr. Ramirez's credibility.[4]

         2. Trial Evidence of Defendant's Guilt

         At Defendant's trial, Mr. Ramirez testified that he distributed drugs in the Bangor area for approximately three years, and that others who participated in the same drug distribution group included Defendant, Mr. Benton, Mr. Turner, and Mr. Ocean. (ECF No. 636 at 129 - 30.) According to his testimony, Mr. Ramirez came to Maine in 2011 after the robbery-turned-homicide incident in Connecticut, when Mr. Benton recommended to him that he move to Maine to avoid trouble in New Haven and so he could assist with distributing cocaine base in Maine. (Id. at 142 - 46.) Mr. Benton introduced Mr. Ramirez to Defendant in New Haven, and Mr. Ramirez traveled to Maine with Defendant a few days later. (Id. at 147.) On their initial arrival in Maine, they went to “Amy's house in Old Town.”[5] (Id. at 149.) Thereafter, Defendant arranged for Mr. Ramirez to stay, initially, “at this lady Fern's house, ” but soon relocated Mr. Ramirez to “a lady named Christie's house” in Bangor.[6] (Id. at 148, 159.)

         Mr. Ramirez testified that Defendant was directly involved in the Maine-based drug distribution conspiracy in that Defendant resupplied the cocaine base when inventory was low, set the price, determined how dealers would be compensated for their efforts, and collected the revenue that Mr. Ramirez gathered for him. (Id. at 150 - 163.) Mr. Ramirez, Defendant and others periodically arranged for money to be sent back to New Haven to Mr. Benton. (Id. at 170 - 71.) According to Mr. Ramirez, he severed his association with Defendant in 2013, because he was no longer getting along with Defendant and another conspirator. (Id. at 180.)

         In addition to describing the conspiracy, Mr. Ramirez provided testimony relevant to the drug quantity. Mr. Ramirez testified that he was located at Christie's apartment for a period of months and that Defendant supplied him with 12 packages containing half-gram or one-gram “rocks” two or three times per day, on average. (Id. at 165, 168.) Mr. Ramirez also testified that revenue from the sales was nearly $20, 000 each week, with one-gram packages selling for between $75 and $100, and half-gram packages selling for $50. (Id. at 169 - 70.) On cross-examination, counsel explored Mr. Ramirez's criminal history, prior instances in which he was untruthful to law enforcement, and the fact that he was testifying with the hope of lenient treatment by the Government. (Id. at 192, 197 - 198, 211 - 219; ECF No. 637, at 244 - 79.)

         Mr. Ramirez was not the only government witness to connect Defendant to Mr. Benton, or Defendant to dealers who aided the conspiracy's drug distribution efforts. Mr. Ramirez was also not the only source regarding the drug quantity. Fern Dowling testified that Defendant asked her to sell crack for him and that she did so for an unspecified time prior to being introduced to Mr. Ramirez. (Id. at 335, 337 - 40.) Ms. Dowling stated she travelled to Connecticut with Defendant and transported two ounces (approximately 56 grams) of crack cocaine to Maine from Connecticut. (Id. at 341 - 42.) Ms. Dowling sold crack cocaine to approximately 20 people in the Old Town and Bangor area. (Id. at 345.) She estimated that she sold for Defendant for “a couple years” on a daily basis, with a “good day” consisting of sales of “like between 3 - like 5 and 6 grams a day.” (Id. at 351.) Ms. Dowling further testified that she also obtained crack cocaine from Mr. Ramirez, while Defendant operated out of the residence of another conspirator, i.e., when Mr. Ramirez continued to distribute crack on behalf of Defendant.[7] (Id. at 350.)

         Christie Thetonia also testified that she distributed crack cocaine for Defendant. According to Ms. Thetonia, she met Defendant after going to Ms. Dowling and to a person named Kizzy to purchase crack cocaine. Ms. Thetonia reported that Defendant supplied the crack cocaine to Ms. Dowling and Kizzy, on more than one occasion when she was present. (Id. at 432 - 33.) Eventually, Ms. Thetonia obtained crack cocaine directly from Defendant. (Id. at 433, 435.) For a period of two or three months, she obtained 2 or 3 grams on many days. (Id. at 436.) She estimated that during this period she obtained 100 grams from Defendant. (Id.) Subsequently, Defendant arrived at Ms. Thetonia's residence with Mr. Ramirez. Mr. Ramirez stayed at Ms. Thetonia's residence and held crack cocaine that she helped to distribute from her residence, so that Defendant would not need to make frequent trips to her home. (Id.) Mr. Ramirez remained at Ms. Thetonia's residence for five or six months. (Id. at 441.) Ms. ...

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