United States v. Reyes

Citation24 F.4th 1
Decision Date19 January 2022
Docket NumberNo. 19-2013,19-2013
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Carlos REYES, Jr., Defendant, Appellant.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)

Leslie Feldman-Rumpler for appellant.

Karen L. Eisenstadt, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Nathaniel R. Mendell, Acting United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

Before Thompson and Kayatta, Circuit Judges, and Katzmann,* Judge.


A jury convicted defendant Carlos Reyes, Jr. ("Reyes") of one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and one count of possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Defendant now appeals, asserting error by the district court. Before us are claims that:

(1) evidence obtained during a traffic stop should have been suppressed; (2) the district court erroneously admitted certain statements of lay witnesses that unfairly prejudiced the defendant; (3) the proceedings contravened the defendant's statutory and constitutional rights to a speedy trial; and (4) the defendant's absence at certain pre-trial proceedings violated his statutory and constitutional presence rights. We affirm.

I. Background
A. Facts

"We state the facts in the light most favorable to the verdict." United States v. Vega-Figueroa, 234 F.3d 744, 747 (1st Cir. 2000) (citing United States v. Duclos, 214 F.3d 27, 32 (1st Cir. 2000) ). Because "[m]any of the facts pertaining to particular issues will be set forth in our discussion of the issues[,] [a]ll we do now is state those facts that will give the reader the necessary background information to understand the different issues raised by defendant." Id. at 748.

In 2016, the United States Postal Inspector Service and the Massachusetts State Police began investigating a potential drug distribution conspiracy that law enforcement assessed was using the mail to transport controlled substances from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts. Investigators became suspicious after observing packages bearing characteristics common to drug conspiracies, namely parcels with: fictitious sender information (either a fake sender name or undeliverable return address, or both); deliverable, but slightly incorrect addresses for recipients; postage paid in cash; and handwritten mailing labels all in the same handwriting but listing different senders' names.

After additional investigation, law enforcement identified Pablo Santiago-Cruz ("Santiago-Cruz") as the conspiracy's central figure and Reyes as a "runner" who received some of the drug shipments from Puerto Rico and then transferred their contents to Santiago-Cruz. Of the more than thirty suspicious parcels identified as part of the conspiracy, seven were identified as addressed to Reyes; five of these packages were delivered as "controlled deliveries" executed under law enforcement surveillance.

Through these controlled deliveries and corresponding surveillance, law enforcement observed that on three occasions, shortly after Reyes took delivery of the packages, Santiago-Cruz either came to Reyes's house or Reyes traveled to meet Santiago-Cruz; on two of these occasions, law enforcement observed Reyes carrying bags consistent with the size and shape of cocaine. Additionally, telephone records obtained by investigators revealed that on days parcels were shipped from Puerto Rico and delivered in Massachusetts, Santiago-Cruz and Reyes had multiple telephone contacts.

On July 18, 2016, the investigative team carried out the final controlled delivery that led to Reyes's arrest. At around 12:30 p.m., a postal inspector dressed as a mail carrier left the controlled parcel addressed to Reyes at 45 Winthrop Street in Framingham -- Reyes's correct address was in fact 47 Winthrop Street -- on the shared porch of Reyes's duplex at 45-47 Winthrop Street. Approximately ten minutes later, an unidentified person came out and carried the parcel into 47 Winthrop. Reyes returned home that night at around 7:00 p.m. and reemerged from his house approximately ten minutes later carrying the parcel. Law enforcement saw Reyes walk down his driveway to an out-of-sight area behind the house and shortly thereafter observed Reyes pulling into the street in his car.

Once mobile, members of the investigative team surreptitiously followed Reyes for approximately thirty minutes, driving in a "stack" of eight to ten unmarked vehicles and one State Police cruiser. Trooper Dennis Lynch ("Trooper Lynch"), of the Massachusetts State Police, -- who had been involved in surveillance of some of the prior controlled deliveries to Reyes -- drove the police cruiser. After another trooper in the "stack" -- Trooper Keith Pantazelos -- conveyed over the radio that he had observed Reyes tailgating, and after Trooper Lynch "clocked" Reyes speeding, Trooper Lynch initiated a traffic stop of Reyes. As Trooper Lynch pulled Reyes over to the side of the road, Trooper Pantazelos and the other officers in the unmarked vehicles continued driving to a nearby parking lot where they could covertly monitor the traffic stop from a distance.

In order to avoid alerting Reyes to the larger drug investigation, Trooper Lynch approached Reyes as if he were conducting an ordinary traffic stop. Accordingly, Trooper Lynch began by asking Reyes routine traffic-related questions through the driver's side window, such as where Reyes was going; Reyes could not identify his destination beyond "Boston". As the conversation proceeded, Reyes acknowledged to Trooper Lynch that he had previously served a 188-month sentence in a federal narcotics case, and Trooper Lynch knew -- from his involvement in the overarching drug investigation -- that Reyes had prior convictions for firearms and assault, including assault and battery on a police officer. Throughout their conversation, Trooper Lynch observed that Reyes was extremely nervous and was crumpling something in his left hand, which Trooper Lynch thought at the time was cocaine. Upon inquiry, Reyes told Trooper Lynch that it was a shipping label from a package with his name on it; when Trooper Lynch asked for and took possession of the label, he identified it as the Priority Mail label from that day's controlled delivery.

Trooper Lynch proceeded to ask Reyes for his consent to search the car for drugs and weapons, which Trooper Lynch testified -- and the district court found -- that he received. In order to conduct the search, Trooper Lynch asked Reyes to exit his vehicle, at which point, Trooper Lynch escorted him to the front of the car. After conducting a brief scan of the immediate driver's area, Trooper Lynch called for a canine team to assist. Trooper Lynch testified -- and the district court found -- that as he waited for the K-9 unit to arrive, Trooper Lynch reconfirmed Reyes's consent to the search.

Once the canine team -- consisting of Trooper William McSweeney and his dog -- arrived, Trooper Lynch handcuffed Reyes and placed him in the back-passenger seat of his police cruiser for the duration of the dog's search. Trooper Lynch informed Reyes that he was not under arrest and that these measures were just for safety. The dog then commenced its search; at some point surrounding the dog's search, a third trooper -- Trooper Daniel Mahoney -- arrived on the scene. After the dog finished searching the passenger areas of the car, Trooper McSweeney opened the car's trunk and the dog jumped into it; the dog "alerted on" a box containing a Girl Scout Cookie Oven, which the Troopers removed from the trunk.

Prompted by the discovery of the Girl Scout Cookie Oven box, Trooper Lynch asked Reyes if he "ha[d] kids," to which Reyes replied that he had a nineteen-year-old daughter. When Trooper Lynch expressed skepticism that a nineteen-year-old would want a Girl Scout Cookie Oven, Reyes claimed the oven was for his two-year-old niece. When Trooper Lynch expressed further skepticism that a Girl Scout Cookie Oven was an appropriate toy for a two-year-old, Reyes said that a girl had given him the box and that he did not know what was inside of it.

Trooper Lynch picked up the Girl Scout Cookie Oven box and assessed that it felt heavier than a toy oven. Accordingly, Trooper Lynch opened the box and took out the actual oven. After reconfirming his assessment that the Girl Scout Cookie Oven felt heavier than a toy, Trooper Lynch peeled open the plastic top of the oven and found what he believed to be -- and what was later confirmed to be -- a kilogram of cocaine inside it. Trooper Lynch returned to Reyes, informed him of what the dog had found, and placed him under arrest. Trooper Lynch read Reyes his Miranda rights1 at that time.

On July 19, 2016, law enforcement executed search warrants of Santiago-Cruz's and Reyes's residences. Agents found drugs, drug paraphernalia, and a quantity of U.S. currency at Santiago-Cruz's residence and the discarded parcel box from the July 18 controlled delivery with its mailing label removed in Reyes's trash.

B. Proceedings

On August 31, 2016, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Reyes with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and one count of possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).

On September 25, 2017, Reyes made a pre-trial motion to suppress the physical evidence seized from his vehicle as well as the statements he made to Trooper Lynch during the stop on July 18, 2016. Reyes argued that the physical evidence should be suppressed because there was no valid basis for the stop and search -- as he neither committed any traffic violations to justify the initial stop nor did he consent to the search -- and that his statements should be suppressed because the stop was a de facto arrest that required Miranda warnings.2

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5 cases
  • United States v. Agramonte-Quezada
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • March 25, 2022
    ...credibility." Id. (quoting Meises, 645 F.3d at 17 ). "While there is no ‘blanket ban on all overview testimony,’ " United States v. Reyes, 24 F.4th 1, 22 (1st Cir. 2022) (quoting United States v. Etienne, 772 F.3d 907, 914 (1st Cir. 2014) ), "such testimony is ‘[d]isfavored’ in the drug con......
  • United States v. Agramonte-Quezada
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • March 25, 2022
    ...rather than on his own personal knowledge or participation' 'testif[ies] about a defendant's specific role in [a] charged conspiracy, '" id. (alterations in Reyes) (quoting Etienne, 772 F.3d 913-14). Agent Fernández's testimony meets none of the criteria for problematic overview testimony. ......
  • United States v. Dexter
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Hampshire
    • May 4, 2022
    ...on reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation, or whether they need the higher standard of probable cause. Compare United States v. Reyes, 24 F.4th 1, 17 (1st Cir. 2022) (suggesting that probable cause is the standard) with United States v. Lawrence, 675 F. Appx. 1, 3 (1st Cir. 2017) (the ......
  • United States v. Potter
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • August 22, 2023
    ...motion to suppress, we review the district court's legal conclusions de novo and findings of fact for clear error. United States v. Reyes, 24 F.4th 1, 11 (1st Cir. 2022); United States v. Orth, 873 F.3d 349, 353 (1st Cir. 2017). "A traffic stop for a suspected violation of law is a 'seizure......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Indictment and information
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Federal Criminal Practice
    • April 30, 2022
    ...Courts have found that a defendant must also file a motion to remedy a delayed indictment under §3162(a)(1). United States v. Reyes , 24 F.4th 1, 28 (1st Cir. 2022) (“failure to timely file a motion to remedy speedy indictment and/or speedy trial violations under the Speedy Trial Act will r......

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