FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MAINE [Hon. Jon D. Levy, U.S. District Judge]
C. Andrews, for appellant.
M. Lipez, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Thomas
E. Delahanty II, United States Attorney, and Margaret D.
McGaughey, Assistant United States Attorney, Appellate Chief,
were on brief, for appellee.
Torruella, Selya, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.
TORRUELLA, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Pierre Azor ("Appellant") appeals the district
court's denials of his motions for suppression and
severance, and claims that his sentence of thirty-six months
of imprisonment is substantively unreasonable. After review,
we find that the district court properly denied his motion to
suppress and did not abuse its discretion in denying his
motion to sever. Additionally, Appellant's sentence is
substantively reasonable. Seeing no reason to vacate
Appellant's conviction or sentence on the grounds that he
has presented, we affirm.
Intercepted Phone Calls
March 2014, pursuant to a wiretap order authorized by the
United States District Court for the District of
Maine, United States Drug Enforcement Agency
Task Force agents (the "Agents") intercepted phone
calls and electronic communications in connection with a
suspected drug trafficking conspiracy based out of Lewiston,
Maine. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510-2522. From
March 19 to March 21, 2014, Agents intercepted several phone
conversations between Romelly Dastinot ("Dastinot")
and an unidentified person known only as "Cash."
During these conversations, Dastinot and Cash discussed a
plan in which Cash would take a bus to Boston, Massachusetts,
and purchase approximately one thousand "blues, "
which the Agents knew to mean thirty-milligram pills of
Oxycodone. The pair planned to split the pills so that each
had an inventory of five hundred to sell. Cash also commented
that he could possibly sell "brown" (heroin) or
"white stuff" (cocaine), but preferred dealing with
March 21, 2014, the Agents intercepted another call between
Dastinot and Cash in which they discussed Cash's travel
plans. Cash informed Dastinot that he would take the 1:50
p.m. bus from Lewiston to Boston, but would return instead to
Portland, Maine, so that he would not appear at the Lewiston
bus station twice in one day. In another call intercepted on
the same day, the Agents heard Cash refuse to go to an
apartment on Knox Street (in Lewiston) to collect money from
Dastinot because Cash believed that the area was "too
hot, " and that possessing such a large amount of money
would be suspicious and risky. Instead, the two confederates
agreed that Dastinot, accompanied by an "elderly, "
would take Cash to the Lewiston bus station.
hearing this conversation, the Agents contacted Maine State
Police Trooper Tom Pappas ("Pappas"), who was
assigned to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program
through the Drug Enforcement Agency. The Agents informed
Pappas what they had heard over the wiretap and requested
that he conduct surveillance at the Lewiston bus station to
watch for Cash. Pappas made his way to the top of a parking
garage near the bus stop, where he could see the 1:50 p.m.
Greyhound bus parked on the street. Pappas saw a red truck
behind the bus that he recognized as belonging to Carrie
Buntrock ("Buntrock"), a woman Pappas knew to be
connected to Dastinot and whose age was in the early sixties.
Pappas saw a man whom he did not recognize exit the vehicle
and enter the Boston-bound bus. Pappas noticed that the man
was wearing a blue jacket and black hat. Pappas watched as
the bus departed the bus station without the man getting off
relayed his observations to the Agents monitoring the
wiretap, who informed him that the man who boarded the bus
could be returning from Boston that same day with a load of
drugs. Around 10:05 p.m. that same night, the Agents
intercepted a call between Dastinot and Pierre Dubois
("Dubois"), a man who was primarily located in
Boston. Dubois told Dastinot that he had dropped off a man at
South Station, a bus and train terminal in Boston. The Agents
informed Pappas of this call, and that the suspect could be
on a bus destined for Portland. After reviewing the schedule
to see when the bus from Boston was scheduled to arrive in
Portland, Pappas drove to the Portland bus station to conduct
surveillance. He observed a bus arrive at the station and,
although he was not able to see the passengers disembarking
from the bus itself, he was able to see the passengers as
they left the bus terminal. As he watched, Pappas saw the
same man whom he had seen in Lewiston exit the bus terminal
and get into a taxi. The man was wearing the same clothing
that Pappas observed him wearing earlier that day.
followed the taxi as it drove from the bus station, onto
I-295, and then northbound on I-95 towards Lewiston. Because
Pappas was not wearing a uniform and was driving an unmarked
cruiser, he asked Maine State Police Trooper Robert Cejka
("Cejka, " or, collectively with Pappas and others,
the "Officers"), who was in uniform and was driving
a marked police cruiser, for assistance. Pappas had
previously explained the developing situation to Cejka, and
had asked him to remain stationed along the Maine Turnpike in
case the man headed northbound from Portland towards
Lewiston. As he followed the taxi, Pappas relayed the
taxi's location to Cejka. Once the taxi passed the
location where Cejka was parked, Cejka followed the vehicle
for over ten miles, waiting for it to commit a traffic
after midnight on March 22, 2014, Cejka observed the taxi
going 41 m.p.h. as it approached the Gray-New Gloucester toll
booth, where the speed limit drops from 65 or 70 m.p.h. to 35
m.p.h. After the taxi drove through the toll booth, Cejka
pulled the taxi over. By this time, Cejka was aware that
Pappas had called Maine State Police Trooper Jerome Carr
("Carr"), a certified dog handler, to help with the
investigation. Pappas had asked Carr to be ready to bring his
drug-sniffing dog, Zarro, to help investigate the suspected
drug smuggling. Cejka informed the driver that he had pulled
the taxi over for exceeding the speed limit. After requesting
and receiving a driver's license from the passenger,
later identified as Appellant, Cejka discovered that the
license had been suspended. Appellant, who acknowledged being
aware of the license suspension, told Cejka that he had spent
the night in Portland and was now going to Lewiston.
arrived at the scene approximately twenty minutes later.
Zarro sniffed intently along the car doors until he reached
the passenger-side front door, where Appellant was seated.
Zarro lifted himself up to the windowsill of the open
passenger-side window, put his nose directly on
Appellant's jacket sleeve, and then immediately sat down.
According to both Carr and Cejka, drug dogs are trained to
sit when they detect the presence of narcotics. Carr ordered
the two occupants out of the taxi and asked Cejka to
pat-frisk Appellant. The pat-frisk revealed a bus ticket
showing that Appellant had gone from Boston to Portland only
a few hours earlier. Appellant was not able to explain why he
had lied about his trip. Zarro continued to search the
vehicle, leading to Carr's discovery of a baseball-sized
plastic bag underneath the passenger seat. The bag was filled
with 1, 075 blue pills, later identified as Oxycodone. Cejka
arrested Appellant and booked him in the Cumberland County
Jail, where Appellant confessed that the driver's license
was not his, and that his real name was Pierre Azor.
After the Stop
days later, while Appellant was no longer in custody, law
enforcement intercepted another call between Cash -- whom
they now identified as Appellant -- and Dastinot in which
Appellant thanked Dastinot for "bailing him out, "
and told Dastinot that Appellant would repay him. In another
call on March 31, 2014, Appellant inquired whether Dastinot
had "Molly, " and the two discussed drug sales and
prices for "the blues." During the following month,
Appellant and Dastinot continued to set up sales of drugs
over the telephone, with Appellant often asking Dastinot for
"blues." On May 22, 2014, Agents executed an arrest
warrant at ...