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Commonwealth v. Coleman

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

May 26, 2017

Commonwealth
v.
Sammie Coleman No. 137121

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          Paul D. Wilson, Justice

         On March 7, 2016, a Suffolk County Grand Jury indicted the defendant, Sammie Coleman, for money laundering pursuant to G.L.c. 267A, § 2, among other indictments. Now before me is Mr. Coleman's motion to dismiss the money laundering indictment on the ground that the evidence before the grand jury was insufficient. For the reasons set forth below, the defendant's motion to dismiss indictment is ALLOWED .

         BACKGROUND

         The following evidence relative to the money laundering charge was presented to the grand jury, through the testimony of Boston Police Officer Kevin Plunkett.

         On December 17, 2015, at approximately 7:18 P.M., Officers Plunkett, Dominic Columbo, and Kevin Sullivan observed a Buick, driven by Mr. Coleman, run a red light on Humboldt Avenue in Boston. The officers checked the license plate and discovered that it belonged to a Nissan Maxima. A traffic stop ensued.

         Officer Plunkett approached Mr. Coleman, and asked for his license. Mr. Coleman instead produced an identification card. Officer Plunkett asked whether he had a driver's license, and Mr. Coleman responded " no." Both Mr. Coleman and a passenger, Sadie Woods, were then ordered to step out of the vehicle. The officers observed some pills on the floor when Ms. Woods exited the vehicle.

         The officers conducted a pat frisk on Mr. Coleman's person and recovered various loose pills and pill bottles in his pant pockets. Officer Plunkett found two loose white circular pills and a pill bottle containing 29 white circular pills in Mr. Coleman's right jacket pocket, which were later identified as Oxycodone. The prescription label on the pill bottle was made out to Ronald Gonzales. Officer Plunkett found another pill bottle in Mr. Coleman's left jacket pocket. The bottle was for a drug called Metformin; however, the bottle contained approximately 90 pink circular pills, which were also identified as Oxycodone. The officers found various other pill bottles on Mr. Coleman's person. The pills contained in the bottles did not match the prescription labels.

         After searching Mr. Coleman's person, the officers searched the inside of the vehicle and found five white pills underneath the front passenger seat. When Officer Columbo inquired about the pills, Mr. Coleman responded that there were his. Officer Columbo then opened the trunk of the Buick and discovered a clear plastic bag containing multiple pill bottles, some with prescription labels and some without labels. Many of the pills in the bottles did not match the prescription labels on the bottles.

         The officers also found $1, 473 in various cash denominations in Mr. Coleman's wallet. The denominations included one $100 bill, sixty-three $20 bills, seventeen $5 bills and twenty-eight $1 bills. According to the testimony of Officer Plunkett, " [T]here was no organization to how the money was separated in his wallet . . . [The various denominations were not] all spaced out for you, hundreds, twenties, tens, fives etc." The large quantity of $20 bills, Officer Plunkett testified, was consistent with street level drug activity.

         Based on the foregoing testimony, the grand jury indicted Mr. Coleman for various drug offenses, and also under the money laundering statute. The grand jury heard no evidence about how Mr. Coleman intended to use the money in his wallet.

         DISCUSSION

         1. Standard

         While Mr. Coleman is charged with various crimes, he is moving to dismiss only the indictment for money laundering, based on the theory that the Commonwealth presented insufficient evidence to the grand jury. To obtain an indictment, the Commonwealth must present evidence sufficient to establish the identity of the accused and probable cause to arrest him for a crime. Commonwealth v. McCarthy, 385 Mass. 160, 163, 430 N.E.2d 1195 (1982). Probable cause exists where the facts and circumstances presented would warrant the belief, in a person of reasonable caution, that an offense had been committed. Commonwealth v. Hason, 387 Mass. 169, 174, 439 N.E.2d 251 (1982). " Probable cause requires more than mere suspicion but something less than evidence sufficient to warrant a conviction." Id. " [A] motion to dismiss is the appropriate and only way to challenge a finding of probable cause." Commonwealth v. DiBennadetto, 436 Mass. 310, 313, 764 N.E.2d 338 (2002).

         2. ...


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