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United States v. Snell

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 18, 2013



R. BARCLAY SURRICK, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Defendant Malik Snell's Motion for New Trial Pursuant to Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. (ECF No. 252.) For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion will be denied.


Defendant, a former Philadelphia police officer, participated in two robberies of drug dealers. The first robbery occurred on December 14, 2007. Around noon that day, Ricardo McKendrick, Jr. was driving in south Philadelphia and had with him a diaper bag containing $40, 000 in illegal drug proceeds. As McKendrick made a turn, he heard a horn and noticed that a black car behind him had activated police-style lights. Believing he was being pulled over for a moving violation by a police officer in an unmarked car, McKendrick stopped his minivan on the side of the street.

Snell, who was at the time a Philadelphia police officer, emerged from the black car wearing his full police uniform, which included a holstered gun. He approached McKendrick's car, opened the door, pulled McKendrick out, and then handcuffed him and patted him down. During the pat down, Snell took $130 out of McKendrick's pocket and put it into his own. Snell also told McKendrick that federal agents had told him to stop McKendrick, and he asked whether McKendrick had any weapons or drugs in his car. McKendrick insisted that he had neither, but Snell proceeded to search McKendrick's car while continuing to ask McKendrick about weapons and drugs.

After that initial search, Snell placed McKendrick in the backseat of Snell's car without closing the door. Snell then returned to McKendrick's car and resumed the search. He soon emerged with the diaper bag and placed it in the trunk of his car.

Moments later, McKendrick overheard Snell on his cell phone relating these or similar words: "Yeah, I got it right here. We-I got him right here. Hurry up." Hearing that, and noting Snell's apparent disregard for police protocol, McKendrick began to fear for his safety and tried to flee. Snell blocked him and forced him back into the backseat. In forcibly detaining McKendrick, Snell used his right hand to push McKendrick while keeping his left hand on his waist near his holstered gun.

After forcing McKendrick back into the backseat, Snell again searched McKendrick's car. He then abruptly stopped searching, returned to his car, removed McKendrick from the backseat, placed him on the curb still in handcuffs, and drove off at a high speed. About an hour later, after a phone call from a bystander, the police arrived and released McKendrick from the handcuffs. McKendrick then reported his encounter with Snell and his having been robbed of $130, but he did not at that time report the $40, 000 being stolen, for fear of alerting the police to his drug dealing.

The second robbery for which Snell was convicted occurred two days later on December 16, 2007. Late that evening, Snell, his brother-in-law Tyree Aimes, and Stephen Gibson drove in Snell's Dodge Durango to an apartment in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where they had heard that approximately $10, 000 in illegal drug proceeds was stored. Snell had his personal firearm with him.

When the three men arrived at the Pottstown apartment, they saw two police cars parked at the apartment building. After driving past the building twice, Snell and his two accomplices proceeded to a nearby convenience store where they planned to wait until the police had left the vicinity. A few minutes later, they returned to the apartment and found that the police cars were gone. Aimes and Gibson then began searching for a back window through which they could enter the apartment that they believed contained the money. They were unsuccessful and returned to the Durango to inform Snell of that fact. In response, Snell told them to knock on the front door and, once it was opened, to enter the apartment and tie up the occupants.

Aimes and Gibson returned to the front door and knocked twice. After the second knock, the male occupant, Stephen Stackhouse, opened the door, and Aimes immediately began fighting with Stackhouse, while Gibson entered the apartment. Gibson found the female occupant, Sharon Ann Minnick, in the bedroom. Gibson tied Minnick up, rummaged through her closet, and then left. Aimes and Stackhouse eventually stopped fighting, and Aimes ran back to the Durango.

Snell and Aimes circled the block in the Durango three times looking for Gibson but sped away when the police arrived. The police pursued them on an extended high speed chase at speeds of over one hundred miles per hour until the Durango crashed into a smaller vehicle and careened to a stop at the side of an intersection. The passenger in that vehicle suffered permanent injuries as a result of the crash. Snell and Aimes fled on foot. Snell was apprehended a short while later after a K-9 officer and his dog tracked him to a small shed at a nearby residence where he was hiding.

After being taken into custody and advised of his Miranda rights, Snell told the Pottstown police officers that he was a Philadelphia police officer and he had been carjacked and kidnapped. Once at the police station, Snell provided a detailed written statement to that effect. However, roughly two hours later, after seeing Aimes being escorted through the station by police, Snell retracted his statement and gave a new one. In his new statement, Snell recounted the evening's events basically as described above, but he asserted that he had simply driven Aimes to Pottstown by request and was ignorant of the intended robbery.

In May 2008, based on the Pottstown robbery, a grand jury indicted Snell, along with Aimes and Gibson, on one count of conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 ("Count One"); one count of attempted interference with interstate commerce by robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 ("Count Two"); one count of carrying a firearm during or in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) ("Count Three"); and aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2. Aimes ...

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