United States District Court, D. Maine
DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
E. WALKER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
February 14, 2019, the Defendant, Amanda Cowette, was charged
with (1) conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent
to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl (a Schedule II
controlled substance), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
846, 841(a) and 841(b)(1)(A); (2) possession of a firearm in
furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i), and aiding and abetting such
conduct in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2; (3) knowing
possession with the intent to distribute 40 grams or more of
a mixture or substance containing fentanyl, in violation of
21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2; and (4)
maintaining drug-involved premises, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 856(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. Indictment (ECF No.
1). Cowette now moves to suppress statements she made to law
enforcement on July 16, 2018 and July 17, 2018. Mot. Suppress
1 (ECF No. 36). A hearing on the motion was held on August 5,
2019. After careful consideration of the evidence and the
arguments of counsel, Defendant's Motion to Suppress (ECF
No. 36) is DENIED.
12, 2018, officers from the Somerset County Sheriff's
Office executed a drug search warrant on the person and
vehicle of Nicholas Culver based on information Mr. Culver
was trafficking Fentanyl in and around Somerset County.
Def.'s Ex. 1 (“Ex. 1”), 4 (ECF No. 36-2,
#96); Def.'s Ex. 2 (“Ex. 2”), 1 (ECF No.
36-3, #109). Following this search, Culver was arrested and
then charged with aggravated trafficking in a scheduled drug
and possession of scheduled drugs. Ex. 1 at 8; Ex. 2 at 3.
of their ongoing investigation into Culver's drug
trafficking, law enforcement officers executed a drug search
warrant at the residence of the Defendant, Amanda Cowette, on
July 16, 2018. Ex. 1 at 10; Ex. 2 at 5. Officers suspected
Cowette was Mr. Culver's girlfriend. Ex. 1 at 5; Ex. 2 at
arrival at Cowette's residence, law enforcement officers
notified Cowette that they had a search warrant and provided
her with a copy of the warrant. Ex. 1 at 10. Cowette had been
standing outside her residence speaking with Corporal Joseph
Jackson of the Somerset County Sheriff's Office regarding
her reports that she had observed men in the trees around her
residence. Ex. 1 at 10; Ex. 2 at 5. Law enforcement officers
were unable to locate any trespassers and officers suspected
she “was basically ‘seeing things that were not
there,' due to the drugs that she may have
ingested.” Ex. 2 at 5. Nevertheless, other than
unsubstantiated claims of men on her property, officers
reported she was “coherent and walked, talked, and
acted in a normal manner.” Ex. 2 at 5.
the responding officers, Lieutenant Gottardi, requested that
Cowette sit in his unmarked police vehicle so they could
speak. Ex. 2 at 5. Cowette was handcuffed at the time.
Def.'s Ex. 4 (“Ex. 4”) (ECF No. 40). After
confirming that Cowette did not have anything hidden on her
person, Lieutenant Gottardi read her Miranda rights
from a prepared card. Ex. 2 at 5; Ex. 4 at 2:40-3:30. When
Lieutenant Gottardi asked Cowette if she wished to speak with
him, Cowette responded while shrugging her shoulders:
“I guess I should probably wait until I have a lawyer,
that sounds like the best idea, I don't - I've never
been in Court, never been in trouble, I don't - …
I guess not, I guess I'll wait until I have a
lawyer.” Ex. 2 at 5-6; Ex. 4 at 3:35-3:52.
Lieutenant Gottardi did not question her further, but did
explain what would be taking place at her residence as a
result of the search warrant. Ex. 2 at 6. While waiting in
the vehicle, Cowette once again reported seeing
“homeless people in the trees.” Ex. 2 at 6;
Def.'s Ex. 5 (“Ex. 5”), 0:53-1:24 (ECF No.
40). Lieutenant Gottardi was unable to locate any people. Ex.
2 at 6; Ex. 5 at 2:20-2:22. Cowette denied recent drug use
and indicated that she had not taken any medications other
than ZQuil to help her sleep the previous night. Ex. 2 at 6;
Ex. 5 at 1:27-1:29, 3:12-3:23.
enforcement officers entered Cowette's residence to
execute the warrant while Lieutenant Gottardi and Cowette
stood outside the home. Ex. 1 at 10-11; Ex. 2 at 6. Once
again, Cowette reported seeing men in the woods, but
Lieutenant Gottardi was unable to see any men. Ex. 2 at 6.
When Lieutenant Gottardi repeated his concerns regarding
Cowette's health, she responded that she “did not
feel affected by what she had taken.” Ex. 2 at 6.
Inside the residence, officers found two safes. Ex. 1 at 11;
Ex. 2 at 6. In response to Lieutenant Gottardi's request,
Cowette provided the combination to the safes. Ex. 1 at 11;
Ex. 2 at 6.
minutes after providing the combinations, Cowette
spontaneously commented that a bag of Fentanyl in her top
drawer was hers. Ex. 2 at 6. Lieutenant Gottardi reminded her
of what he had interpreted as her previous request to not
talk. Ex. 2 at 6. Cowette then indicated “she would
talk now.” Ex. 2 at 6. Lieutenant Gottardi advised
Cowette to think about her request to talk and indicated that
he would be willing to talk with her later if she chose to
speak with him. Ex. 2 at 6. In an effort to ensure Cowette
“knew what she was talking about, ” Lieutenant
Gottardi also asked Cowette to confirm her name and date of
birth - “which she did rapidly and correctly” -
and then to confirm that she knew where she was. Ex. 2 at
home, officers located a loaded 9mm Glock handgun, various
drug paraphernalia items, approximately 100 grams of
Fentanyl, several Xanax pills, and over $7, 000 in cash. Ex.
2 at 10-11; Def.'s Ex. 3 (“Ex. 3”), 1 (ECF
No. 36-4, #118).
Gottardi asked Cowette to return to his police vehicle so he
could advise her of the status of the search. Ex. 2 at 7.
After Lieutenant Gottardi informed Cowette that officers had
found 100 grams of Fentanyl and a large quantity of cash,
Cowette stated that the small bag of Fentanyl was hers, but
the remaining Fentanyl was Culver's property. Ex. 2 at 7;
Def.'s Ex. 6 (“Ex. 6”), 3:58-4:24 (ECF No.
40). Lieutenant Gottardi then explained the charges against
her. Ex. 2 at 7; Def.'s Ex. 7 (“Ex. 7”),
0:01-0:45 (ECF No. 40). Cowette once again reported seeing
men in the woods. Ex. 2 at 7; Ex. 7 at 1:32-1:42.
exited Lieutenant Gottardi's vehicle and Detective David
Cole transported Cowette to the Somerset County Jail. Ex. 1
at 11; Ex. 2 at 8. Before speaking with her, Detective Cole
reminded Cowette of her Miranda rights and
reiterated that she did not need to speak with him. Ex. 1 at
11; Def.'s Ex. 8 (“Ex. 8”), 0:46-1:04 (ECF
No. 40). Nevertheless, Cowette continued to speak with
Detective Cole and during the course of their ensuing
conversation, she shared information regarding her personal
drug use as well as information relating to Culver's drug
trafficking. Ex. 1 at 11-12; Ex. 8 at 1:05-15:44.
following day, July 17, 2018, Detective Cole met with Cowette
in his office. Ex. 1 at 14. He reread Cowette's
Miranda warnings in full. Ex. 1 at 14; Ex. 2 at 8;
Def.'s Ex. 10 (“Ex. 10”), 0:41-1:09 (ECF No.
40). Cowette indicated she understood her rights pursuant to
Miranda but wished to waive those rights and later
signed a waiver to that effect. Gov't Ex. 1. During the
conversation, Cowette provided officers with additional
information regarding Culver's drug trafficking
activities as well as her involvement in those activities.
Ex. 1 at 14-15, Ex. 2 at 8.
support of her motion to suppress, Defendant advances two
primary arguments. First, she asserts that immediately after
being read her Miranda rights in Lieutenant
Gottardi's vehicle - at which point the parties agree she
was in custody - she “invoked her right to
counsel.” Mot. Suppress, 8 (ECF No. 36, #82). Defendant
then asserts the officers impermissibly reinitiated
questioning four times and, as a result, her responsive
statements should be suppressed. Id. at 11. In
response, the Government asserts that the Defendant failed to
“articulate her desire to have counsel present
sufficiently clearly that a reasonable police officer in the
circumstances would understand the statement to be a request
for an attorney.” Gov't Resp., 5 (ECF No. 42, #133)
(quoting Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452, 459
(1994)). In her reply, Defendant raises additional arguments,
one of which is that the waiver of rights she signed on July
17, 2018, is invalid under Maryland v. Shatzer, 559
U.S. 98 (2010). Def.'s Reply, 12 (ECF No. 43, #155).
established by the Supreme Court in Miranda v.
Arizona, an individual subject to a custodial
interrogation must be “warned that he has a right to
remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as
evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence
of an attorney, either retained or appointed.” 384 U.S.
436, 444 (1966). An individual may waive her right to remain
silent or right to counsel, and if that waiver is made
voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently, then officers are
free to question the individual and the statements made will
be available for use by the prosecution in court.
Id. If, however, an individual “clearly
assert[s] his right to have counsel present during custodial
interrogation, ” the officers “must immediately
cease questioning [the] suspect” and may not reinitiate
questioning “until a lawyer has been made available or
the suspect himself reinitiates conversation.”
Davis, 512 U.S. at 454, 458 (citing Edwards v.
Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981)); see also Moran v.
Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 433 n.4 (1986)
(“‘[T]he interrogation must cease until an
attorney is present' only ‘[i]f the
individual states that he wants an attorney.'”
(quoting Michigan v. Mosley, 423 U.S. 96, 104 n. 10
this elemental primer in mind, I turn to the parties'
arguments, keeping in mind that the Government must bear the
heavy burden of establishing that the statements made by
Cowette were not in violation of her Miranda rights.
Miranda, 384 U.S. at 475 (“This Court has
always set high standards of proof for the waiver of
constitutional rights, Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S.
458 (1938), and we reassert these standards as applied to in
Failure to Invoke ...