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United States v. Easter

March 5, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CARLTON L. EASTER JAMEL E. EASTER JOSEPH JAMENE MOORE



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Background

On November 7, 2007, a grand jury handed up a second superseding indictment against the Defendants captioned above. Count I of the indictment charged Carlton L. Easter with possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base from February 2007 to March 29, 2007, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a). Count II of the indictment charged Carlton L. Easter, Jamel E. Easter and Joseph Jamene Moore with possession with intent to distribute and distribution of 50 grams or more of cocaine base on March 29, 2007, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a). Count III charged Carlton L. Easter, Jamel E. Easter and Joseph Jamene Moore with possession or carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime on March 29, 2007, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Count IV charged all three Defendants with conspiracy in the drug distribution charges in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Count V charged Jamel E. Easter and Joseph Jamene Moore with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). In Count VI of the indictment, the Government sought forfeiture of the currency seized on March 29, 2007, in violation of 21 U.S.C.§§ 853 and 982.

From February 4 through February 8, 2008, a jury trial was held. Carlton Easter was acquitted on Count I. All Defendants were found guilty on Count II. Carlton Easter and Joseph Moore were acquitted on Count III. Jamel Easter was found guilty on Count III. All Defendants were found guilty on Count IV. Joseph Moore was acquitted on Count V as a result of a fact finding by the jury that he was not in possession of a firearm. Jamel Easter's conviction on Count V was subsequently dismissed when a presentence report revealed he did not have a conviction which prohibited him from possessing a firearm. Defendants all conceded their interest in the currency seized in the arrest.

All Defendants have filed motions for judgment of acquittal and new trial. All Defendants claim there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they possessed 50 grams or more of cocaine base or that there was sufficient proof of a conspiracy or that they belonged to a conspiracy. Jamel Easter further contends that his conviction for possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking be dismissed because the Government failed to present evidence to establish that the gun was actually a firearm as defined by the statute or that it was connected to drug trafficking. The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.

II. Facts*fn1

On March 29, 2007, an informant working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") notified the FBI that a person named "Mel," later identified as Jamel Easter, had approached him and wanted to purchase a kilo of cocaine from the informant. (Notes of Testimony ("N.T.") at p. 30.) After speaking with the FBI, the informant contacted Jamel Easter and agreed to sell Jamel Easter crack cocaine. The FBI instructed the informant to attempt to set up a drug transaction where the informant would meet with Jamel Easter in a public location where surveillance could watch the transaction. Once Jamel Easter provided the informant with cash for the fictitious cocaine, surveillance officers would respond to arrest Jamel Easter.

The informant made a series of recorded telephone calls to Jamel Easter. During these calls, Jamel Easter indicated that he wanted 18 ounces of crack cocaine. As the calls progressed, Jamel Easter explained that he gotten crack cocaine. Jamel Easter indicated that he now only needed nine ounces of crack cocaine and that those nine ounces were for someone else. Jamel Easter agreed to meet the informant on a street corner in Harrisburg at approximately noon on March 29, 2007.

On the day of the transaction, the informant utilized a telephone provided by the FBI. Unfortunately, the telephone number would appear blocked whenever the informant called Jamel Easter. Jamel Easter failed to appear at the meeting location at the set time, so the informant called him. Jamel Easter expressed concern over his telephone number being blocked and attempted to delay the transaction. The informant waited on the street corner for almost three hours, having repeated telephone calls with Jamel Easter. At one point, Jamel Easter's girlfriend drove by the meeting location and observed the informant standing at the set location and waiting. Finally, at three o'clock, Jamel Easter drove to the meeting location.

However, unlike what was discussed, Jamel Easter had three other occupants in the car. As the informant testified in trial, this aroused his concerns of something occurring. Carlton Easter was the front seat passenger, Joseph Moore was a backseat passenger, and another unknown male was the other backseat passenger. The informant entered the backseat of the car and sat next to Joseph Moore. The informant expressed his displeasure with waiting as long as he did and with the three other individuals being in the car. Immediately, Carlton Easter identified people he suspected were parole officers potentially watching the area and notified everyone in the car. In response, Jamel Easter drove the car from the location where he picked up the informant to another block where they could do the transaction out of view of law enforcement.

Once parked, the informant notified them that he did not have the crack cocaine with him. The informant told them that the informant's partner had the drugs nearby and would bring them to the location once they paid the informant the money. Carlton Easter handed the informant the money. The informant began to count the money while the other occupants looked on. Jamel Easter attempted to renegotiate the price from $6,000to $5,900, however, the informant refused. The informant explained that his partner had driven the crack cocaine from Philadelphia to Harrisburg and that he needed $6,000 for the nine ounces. The informant proceeded to count the money. While he counted, officers responded to the location to attempt to arrest the defendants. Carlton Easter identified the responding law enforcement and told Jamel Easter to drive away.

Jamel Easter proceeded to drive up onto the sidewalk and speed down the sidewalk over road signs in an attempt to get away from the law enforcement which was driving down the road. As they sped away, the informant testified that he observed Joseph Moore withdraw a black gun and throw it forward towards the front seat of the car. As the car slowed while rounding a corner, the informant opened the door and rolled out of the moving car into the street. The six thousand dollars in cash were left blowing in the air as the assailants continued to speed down the street.

Jamel Easter drove the car another block or more before stopping. Carlton Easter had previously been shot in his leg and was unable to run. Carlton Easter sat in the front seat of the vehicle. Jamel Easter grabbed the gun which Moore had thrown to him and ran towards some abandoned houses. Joseph Moore and the unidentified individual also fled from the car. Joseph Moore followed Jamel Easter towards the abandoned houses. Officers followed them closely behind.

While Jamel Easter ran, he went down to the ground near the rear of an abandoned house. After momentarily being down, Jamel Easter immediately arose and proceeded into the abandoned home. Officers responding to the area observed -- in the exact location where Jamel Easter had gone down -- a bag containing crack cocaine weighing 83.7 grams, a digital scale, and a black, .40 caliber Glock pistol, serial number GVN235. Officers attempted to arrest Jamel Easter and Joseph Moore inside the abandoned home, however, the floor of the abandoned house was falling through. Ultimately, they were unable to safely enter the property and arrest the assailants.

Officers also searched the car which Joseph Moore and Jamel Easter abandoned. They found a bag on the floor of the back seat near where Joseph Moore and the unidentified individual were seated. Inside the bag, the officers found 4.7 grams of cocaine base and marijuana. The officers found a small amount of marijuana in Carlton ...


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