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United States v. Pemberton

United States District Court, D. Maine

January 2, 2020

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CARLOS PEMBERTON

          ORDER ON MOTION IN LIMINE

          JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         With trial looming, the Court grants in part and dismisses in part a government motion in limine. The Court grants the part of the motion that bars the defendant from rearguing before the jury the merits of the Court's ruling on a motion to suppress evidence. Otherwise, cognizant of the defendant's rights to due process, the benefit of the Confrontation Clause, and compulsory process, the Court declines to bar the defendant from presenting other defense evidence, such as the complicated motivations of certain witnesses, potential racial animus within the police department, and the relationship between the chief of police and a number of critical witnesses.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         A federal grand jury indicted Carlos Pemberton on July 18, 2018, alleging that he possessed heroin with the intent to distribute it in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Indictment (ECF No. 2). On October 9, 2019, the United States of America (Government) filed a motion in limine to preclude Mr. Pemberton from rearguing issues that it claims were resolved by a decision on a motion to suppress evidence and from offering irrelevant and confusing evidence. Gov't's Mot. in Limine to Preclude Defense from Rearguing Suppression Issue During Trial and Offering Irrelevant, Confusing Evid. (ECF No. 108) (Gov't's Mot.). Mr. Pemberton responded on November 6, 2019. Def.'s Resp. to Gov't's Mot. in Limine to Preclude Defense from Rearguing Suppression Issue During Trial and Offering Irrelevant, Confusing Evid. (ECF No. 122) (Def.'s Opp'n). The Government did not file a reply.

         B. Factual Backdrop: The Motion to Suppress Evidence

         1. Procedural History

         After Mr. Pemberton's indictment, he filed a motion to suppress evidence on October 10, 2018, seeking to suppress all evidence seized during a warrantless search of his residence in alleged violation of his constitutional rights. Def.'s Mot. to Suppress (ECF No. 17).[1] Mr. Pemberton filed an amended motion to suppress on November 20, 2019, together with an affidavit from Attorney Brown. Def.'s Am. Mot. to Suppress (ECF No. 26); Aff. of Donald F. Brown (ECF No. 27). The Government responded on December 21, 2018, and attached four exhibits to its opposition. Gov't's Obj. to the Def.'s Am. Mot. to Suppress (ECF No. 33), id., Attachs. 1-4. On February 28, 2019, the Magistrate Judge held a suppression hearing at which three witnesses testified, Ct. Witness List (ECF No. 47), and the Magistrate Judge admitted six exhibits into evidence. Ct. Ex. List (ECF No. 48). The Magistrate Judge held an oral argument on the motion to suppress on April 12, 2019. Min. Entry (ECF No. 54). On May 17, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued a recommended decision on the amended motion to suppress in which he recommended that the Court deny the motion to suppress. Recommended Decision on Def.'s Am. Mot. to Suppress (ECF No. 55). Mr. Pemberton did not object to the Magistrate Judge's recommended decision and on August 27, 2019, the Court affirmed it. Order Affirming the Recommended Decision of the Magistrate Judge (ECF No. 68).

         2. The Recommended Decision: The Facts

         To understand the basis of the motion in limine, it is essential to understand the motion to suppress and the recommended decision. According to the recommended decision, [2] the motion to suppress involved the following people, each at so-called Indian Township, in the town of Princeton, Washington County, Maine:

(1) Alex Nicholas: Chief of Police for the Indian Township Police Department, brother of Dolores Acheson, and uncle of Heather Sabattus;
(2) Dolores Acheson: sister of Chief Nicholas, mother of Heather Sabattus, and grandmother to Heather Sabattus' six children;
(3) Jessica Dana: a woman babysitting Heather Sabattus' children at Heather Sabattus' mobile home on the Reservation;
(4) Heather Sabattus: Dolores Acheson's daughter, Chief Nicholas' niece, and owner of the mobile home;
(5) Carlos Pemberton: an African-American male who was staying at Heather Sabattus' mobile home;
(6) Indian Township Police Officers Barnard, McCook and Mitchell;
(7) Heidi Sockabasin: a friend of Heather Sabattus who was present in the Sabattus mobile home at the time of the police entry and search; and
(8) Nevaeh Dana: Heather Sabattus' daughter and Dolores Acheson's granddaughter who was present at the Sabattus mobile home at the time of the police entry and search.

         The events leading to the search and seizure of evidence on March 26, 2018, began a few days before, when Heather Sabattus was arrested on a warrant. Chief Nicholas, Ms. Sabattus' uncle, arrested her, and this arrest left Delores ...


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