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United States v. $63

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

April 3, 2018

UNITED STATES, Plaintiff,
v.
$63, 788.00 MORE OR LESS IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Callie V. S. Granade SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the United States' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 26), the response in opposition filed by Claimant, Hjordis Blackmon (Doc. 29), Claimant Blackmon's motion to strike (Doc. 30), and the United States' reply (Doc. 31). For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that the motion to strike should be denied and the motion for summary judgment should be granted.

         I. FACTS

         This is a civil action for forfeiture, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6), of $63, 788.00 in U.S. currency that was seized on September 9, 2016 by a Mobile County Sheriff's Office deputy during a search warrant execution at the Longleaf Pines Apartments, Apartment 1322, 6190 Girby Road, Mobile, Alabama. Hjordis Blackmon filed a claim of interest asserting that the monies in question are his personal property. (Doc. 5). Claimant Blackmon does not dispute the following facts that the United States alleges led to the search and seizure:

1. In January 2016, a Louisiana State Police Trooper pulled over a Toyota Camry for a traffic violation as it traveled East on Interstate 12 in Tangipahoa parish. Its driver, Ashley Newton, said she was traveling from Houston, Texas to Mobile, Alabama. A consensual search of Newton's car revealed approximately 2.96 kilograms of cocaine inside a backpack.
2. The Louisiana State Police brought Newton to the Mobile DEA office for questioning by DEA Special Agents about her involvement in drug trafficking. Newton discussed the drug conspiracy and the roles of co-conspirators, Marcus and Ann Dooms. Newton made drug runs "[o]nce a week" for "2 months" and would "deal directly with Ann and Marcus." Newton would get a call from Ann Dooms, meet her at a location in Mobile, and retrieve a bag of money. Newton would then take the money to Marcus Dooms in Houston, Texas. Marcus Dooms would then take the money and call her later that day to pick up the cocaine for her to transport back to Mobile.
3. Newton called Ann Dooms to establish a place and time to conduct a controlled delivery of cocaine to Dooms, who agreed to meet Newton at a Mobile Walmart parking lot. DEA agents gave Newton the backpack that contained two sham cocaine bricks simulating the nearly three kilograms of cocaine she had been caught with and a third sham brick that had a small amount of cocaine hidden in it. Trailed by agents, Newton drove away in her Camry with the backpack to the meeting location where Ann Dooms waited inside her Cadillac CTS. Newton parked beside her, got the backpack, walked over to Ann Dooms' car, opened the car door, and placed the backpack in Dooms' car. Following the successful delivery to Dooms, Newton returned to her Camry and drove away.
4. Ann Dooms also drove away and agents followed her to a restaurant. An agent went inside, identified himself to Dooms, and asked her to step outside. The agent explained to Dooms that the package that she had picked up from Newton belonged to the DEA and that it was investigating the transportation of cocaine. The backpack that Newton delivered to Dooms was on the back seat of Dooms' car. The agent further explained that the Mobile County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) had obtained a search warrant for her home, and Dooms agreed to return to her home during its execution.
5. At Dooms' Mobile residence, MCSO Deputy McClain read Dooms her Miranda rights, and Dooms agreed to speak with the Deputy. Dooms said that she had been receiving cocaine but did not know how much. Dooms said that when she received cocaine she would contact her son, Marcus Dooms, in Houston, and Marcus would call cocaine dealers in Mobile, who in turn would come to her house to pick up the cocaine. Ann Dooms had distributed cocaine at least three or four times over the past few months. She also collected money from the dealers. Once she had received the payments, she would contact Ashley Newton, and then meet her and deliver the money. Newton would then take the money to Marcus in Houston.
6. Ann Dooms delivered kilograms of cocaine to a lighter complexioned black male who identified himself to her as “Yellow”, whom she later learned is Howard Pompey, Jr. She first met “Yellow” at her house in November or December 2015 after he called her on her cell phone and said he needed to pick “it” up. She delivered to “Yellow” a backpack or plastic bag that Ashley Newton had recently delivered to her from Marcus that she understood contained cocaine. “Yellow” came to her house twice to make such pick-ups. Following the deliveries to “Yellow”, she received calls from “Yellow” to meet him for him to deliver money to her and ultimately to Ashley Newton and Marcus. She met “Yellow” in a store parking lot near her home where he delivered money to her that was bundled with different-colored rubber bands and vacuum-sealed or wrapped in tape. “Yellow” drove a dark-colored SUV. Ann Dooms would then deliver the money to Ashley Newton for delivery to Marcus.
7. Marcus Dooms met Howard Pompey, Jr., who also goes by “Yellow”, in 2012 or 2013. Dooms' girlfriend at the time, Ashley Newton, introduced them. Dooms bought high-grade marijuana from “Yellow” and he sometimes sold “Yellow” marijuana, too. In about 2014, Howard/“Yellow”, began to buy cocaine from Dooms. The first time he sold “Yellow” cocaine “Yellow” gave Dooms about $16, 000 for a ½ kilogram of in the driveway of Dooms' home. Dooms continued to sell cocaine to “Yellow” at a rate of one to two kilograms per week ($32, 000-$64, 000 worth) for months at a time up to when Ashley Newton was caught in January 2016. Dooms knew that he was not the only cocaine supplier for “Yellow” because “Yellow” introduced him to another Houston dealer from whom he bought some Promethazine, also called codeine syrup, and shared it with “Yellow”. At one point, “Yellow” wanted to get 10 kilograms of cocaine (about $250, 000 worth) which Dooms did not have the ability to supply. The most Dooms could have gotten someone to front to him was about $150, 000 worth.
8. Before Ashley Newton was caught, Dooms went to the apartment where “Yellow” was living on Girby Road three to four times. Dooms and “Yellow” would smoke some weed and play video games, and “Yellow” was always paying him money for cocaine. The money would be folded and rubber-banded together in $1, 000 stacks and $5, 000 bundles. Sometimes it would be vacuum-sealed.
9. In about May or June 2016, Marcus Dooms met with “Yellow” and he wanted to buy cocaine from Dooms again. “Yellow” complained that the other Houston dealer could not keep up with his demand. He mentioned something about Deputy McClain saying I had “got him” (“Yellow”) and Dooms decided he needed to stop dealing with him for the time being. Dooms has never known “Yellow” to have a legitimate job.

(Doc. 27, pp. 1-5 (footnotes and citations omitted)).

         Claimant Blackmon lived in the Longleaf Pines Apartment 1322 but moved out around July 2016, before the search was executed on the apartment. (Doc. 27-7, p. 10-11). Blackmon testified that he had to move out because his mother broke her hip and he moved with her to what had been his grandmother's house. (Doc. 27-7, p. 10). Blackmon testified that he was “back and forth, ” but he spent most of his time taking care of his mother and he had to be there to give his mother her medicine and to check her sugar in the morning and at night. (Doc. 27-7, p. 11, 12). Blackmon still had clothes in the apartment, but he was at his mom's house more than he was at the apartment then, “when she's there, [he is] there.” (Doc. 27-7, p. 30). According to Blackmon, his godson, Howard Pompey, moved in with him to Apartment 1322 about three to six months before Blackmon left. (Doc. 27-7, pp. 18, 30-31). Blackmon testified that although Pompey had his own key and could come and go at will, he was not coming in Blackmon's room, because that was off limits. (Doc. 29, pp. ...


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