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United States v. Yarrington

February 4, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THOMAS A. YARRINGTON, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This cause is before the Court on Defendant Thomas A. Yarrington's Post-Trial Motions (Motions) (d/e 38). The Government has filed Government's Response in Opposition to Defendant's Post-Trial Motion (d/e 39). This matter is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motions are denied.

FACTS

On January 7, 2010, after a three-day trial, a jury convicted Defendant of one count of knowingly and intentionally possessing cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C). Verdict (d/e 31).

Jury selection in Defendant's case began on January 5, 2010. Minute Entry of January 5, 2010. Juror 26, Michelle Hudson, was one of the individuals on the panel. During voir dire, Hudson, a black female, stated that she recognized the names of two of Defendant's potential witnesses. The first potential witness was an individual with whom Hudson had attended high school; the second potential witness was Digoola Addison; Hudson had worked for Addison as a certified nursing assistant. The Government exercised one of its peremptory challenges to strike Hudson from the panel. Defendant, who is black, argued that the Government was striking Hudson because of her race. The Government responded that the decision was not motivated by race, but by the fact that Hudson knew two potential witnesses. The Court overruled Defendant's objection, and struck Hudson from the panel.

After the jury was sworn and attorneys for both sides gave opening statements, the Government presented its case in chief to the jury. The evidence presented showed that on May 22, 2008, federal and Sangamon County, Illinois, drug enforcement agents were doing surveillance of the apartment Defendant shared with his girlfriend, Melody Pryor, in Springfield, Illinois. They had received information from an informant that Defendant was involved in a drug distribution operation with another individual, Jeremy Wallace. On that day, agents observed Wallace's vehicle pull up to the apartment and leave a short while later.*fn1

Defendant then left the premises in his own vehicle; agents stopped him and explained that they were investigating him and his residence for illegal drug activity. Defendant consented to a search of his truck, but did not consent to a search of the apartment, since Pryor's name was on the lease. Agents found nothing illegal in Defendant's truck. Defendant accompanied agents to the Sangamon County Jail, where he signed a waiver of his Miranda rights and agreed to cooperate to avoid getting Pryor into trouble. Defendant told special agent Kevin Rollins of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that Defendant was holding cocaine for Wallace, who would pay Defendant $300 an ounce for packaging the cocaine for distribution. Defendant stated that he would cut the cocaine with inositol powder, and that he believed there was about $12,000 in cash in the apartment, some of which came from his music and modeling endeavors, and some of which came from the sale of drugs.

Defendant told Rollins that his fingerprints would be on the bags of cocaine, and that he had recently purchased a digital scale.

Meanwhile, other agents had arrived at the apartment Defendant shared with Pryor. Pryor gave consent to the agents to search the apartment. In the closet of Defendant's music studio on the apartment's second floor, agents found four separate plastic bags of cocaine, totaling nearly one-third of a kilogram. Laboratory testing later revealed that Defendant's fingerprints were on the bag containing the largest amount of cocaine. They also found a digital scale, a cardboard box full of plastic bags, and a jar of inositol powder, which agents testified is commonly used to "cut," or dilute, cocaine powder as it is being packaged for distribution. Defendant testified that the nearly thirty pairs of shoes in the closet were his, and that he owned the music equipment that filled the room. Agents also searched the bedroom, where they found nearly $15,000 in cash stuffed into a satchel inside of a Nike shoe box under the bed.

Thomas Summerlin testified on behalf of the Government, pursuant to a cooperation agreement. Summerlin stated that he had purchased cocaine from the Defendant on a number of occasions and that he had bought cocaine from Wallace on other occasions. Cellular telephone records revealed that between August 2007 and April 2008, Summerlin and Defendant called each other 144 times, with most calls lasting for one minute or less.

After the Court denied Defendant's oral motion for directed finding of acquittal, Defendant presented evidence. His evidence showed that he was a musician who owned several pieces of specialized music equipment that he used to make "beats," or background music tracks, which he sometimes sold for money. Defendant stated that he would occasionally rent out his music studio to others. He also testified that he earned money from modeling, and that in order to stay in shape he would drink protein shakes made from whey powder, which he would measure out by using the digital scale found in the bedroom. Defendant also testified that he worked out frequently to stay in shape for his modeling career, and he had hurt his knee doing so. He stated, and other witnesses corroborated, that he would often ice his knee with ice cubes he placed in a plastic bag. Defendant testified that when he was finished icing his knee, he would throw away the plastic bag.

At the close of evidence, Defendant moved for a directed verdict, and the Court denied the motion. Both parties presented closing arguments, and the Court instructed the jury. The jury deliberated, and found Defendant guilty. Defendant timely filed his Motion, and asks the Court either to grant him a new trial, or to vacate the guilty verdict and enter a judgment of acquittal. He presents six arguments for relief, which the Court addresses in turn.

I. OBJECTIONS MADE DURING TRIAL

Defendant first renews all objections made at trial. For the reasons stated of record at the time, the Court's rulings on these objections were correct. Therefore, the Court ...


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