Winnipeg drug smuggler's appeal in jeopardy

By Terrapinzflyer · Dec 25, 2009 · ·
  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Winnipeg drug smuggler's appeal in jeopardy

    A lawyer's promotion, a frazzled computer and an email filter could cost a Winnipeg drug smuggler his chance of appealing a 20-year prison sentence he's serving in the U.S.

    Timothy Morneau's bid for a new trial is in danger of being thrown out of court after his lawyer missed an important deadline to file papers, documents obtained by CBC News show.

    Morneau, 32, is serving 20 years in a federal prison after being found guilty of smuggling nearly $5 million US worth of ecstasy tablets over the Canada-U.S. border in February 2008.

    His lawyer, David Duke, immediately launched an appeal of Morneau's conviction after he was sentenced by a Montana judge in April. However, documents show Duke defaulted on the appeals process by not filing an opening brief by Nov. 30.

    Duke scrambled to file a motion last Friday seeking an extension of time to keep the appeal alive.

    In that motion, he said "a series of events" happened that caused him to miss the deadline.

    Duke said he recently left his private practice to become a supervisor for Montana's public defender's office. He said the move caused him to "simply lose track" of Morneau's appeal and necessary dates for filing documents.

    He also said he wasn't notified by the courts of any pending deadlines because his home computer crashed and his email at his new job filtered out any "private" emails.

    Duke has asked the courts to give him until Jan. 15 to get the process back on track. A decision on his extension is still pending, but prosecutors have not raised any objections to giving him more time, documents said.

    Blown headlight led to search

    Morneau is likely to argue in his appeal that Montana police conducted an illegal search of a vehicle where the ecstasy was found, Duke told CBC News in an earlier interview.

    Morneau made a deal to pay two Winnipeg teenagers $1,000 each to take him and the drugs in a car to an area near the border where he used a rickety stolen snowmobile to cross into the U.S. undetected.

    The teens, then 18 years old, followed in a car and crossed over, telling border guards they were going shopping in Minnesota.

    Instead, they picked up Morneau in North Dakota and were driving toward Billings, Mont., when they were pulled over for a having a headlight out.

    Police said conflicting stories given by the three caused them to search the vehicle and find 223,810 tablets of ecstasy.

    Duke said that evidence shouldn't be admissible.

    "[The] argument would be something along the line that, when a police officer notices something like that they usually give a ticket for a light that's out or give a warning — one of the two — and send them on their way," Duke said.

    If that's the case, the drugs would never have been found and the evidence in the case would have to be tossed out, Duke suggested.

    Morneau tried a similar argument before his trial, but a judge allowed the drug evidence to stand. He is serving his 240-month sentence at a minimum-security prison in Lousiana.

    The teens, Christian Laurin and Alan Mulder, are serving four-year prison sentences. They were granted leniency in exchange for guilty pleas and their testimony against Morneau.

    Thursday, December 24, 2009 | 5:49 PM CT
    By James Turner, CBC News

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  1. Wavvv
    Holy S***! ... My cousin's enlarged unicorn knows both those teenagers! what a shame...
  2. Terrapinzflyer
    Police misconduct alleged in ecstasy smuggler's appeal

    A map presented by prosecutors to jurors at Tim Morneau's trial: The green line marks out the route from Winnipeg Morneau and two other men took to smuggle millions of dollars worth of ecstasy into the U.S. in February 2008. (U.S. Department of Justice)

    A Winnipeg man serving a 20-year sentence in a U.S. prison for smuggling ecstasy is hoping for a new trial based on alleged police misconduct during the routine traffic stop that led to his arrest.

    Timothy Morneau and two other Winnipeg men were convicted in 2009 of drug-related offences after being pulled over on the side of I-94 near Glendive, Mont.

    A broken headlight on the car the three men were travelling in led police to stop it, and police said inconsistent statements given by each of them led to the search and seizure of about $5 million US worth of ecstasy tablets.

    But in court documents filed Feb.1 with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Morneau, 35, claimed the search was unconstitutional because it was based solely on a police officer's hunch and took more than an hour to complete.

    "This case is a clear example of justifying bad conduct based on positive results," lawyer David Duke wrote in a pretrial brief.

    "This stop allowed police to hold three men over an hour based on nothing except nervousness, and, much later, slight contradictions in their answers," Duke said.

    "The law cannot tolerate faulty searches because this one happened to reveal a crime … this court should be more concerned with all the instances where innocent travellers are subjected to this type of behaviour which are probably never reported.

    "We ask this court to look past the results to the dangerous and overboard police activity that produced it," Duke said.

    Co-accused offered deals

    Morneau tried a similar argument prior to his trial, but a judge allowed the drug evidence to stand. He is serving his 240-month sentence at a minimum-security prison in Louisiana.

    If the appeal is successful, any new trial would likely fall apart because the drug evidence would be excluded. Prosecutors have yet to respond to Morneau's claims in the appeal documents.

    The two other occupants of the car, Alan Mulder and Christian Laurin, were offered leniency in sentencing in exchange for guilty pleas and testimony against Morneau at his trial. They remain in prison serving four-year sentences.

    At Morneau's trial, jurors heard the three men engaged in a haphazard plan to smuggle the ecstasy tablets over the border using a rickety stolen snowmobile.

    Prosecutors were able to trace the movements of the men on their smuggling venture by using receipts for gas and hotels along the way that were seized from the car, which belonged to Mulder's parents.

    Mulder and Laurin were to be paid $1,000 each out of the $5,000 Morneau claimed he was being paid to orchestrate the trip.

    The three-day journey in Mulder's parents' car began in Winnipeg, and snaked through parts of western Manitoba and North Dakota until the men were arrested.

    And while Morneau initially told police he didn't know Laurin and and Mulder and was simply picked up by them while hitchhiking, text messages seized from his Blackberry and Mulder's phone proved otherwise.

    Morneau has never said where the drugs came from.

    Timeline of events:
    Feb. 4, 2008: Mulder and Laurin are approached by a friend offering a way for the two to make some quick money. They meet Morneau that afternoon at a home in the North End of Winnipeg and leave the city with duffle bags packed with 223,810 tablets of ecstasy in at 4:30 p.m.

    Feb. 5-7: The trio make their way west through Souris, Man., and finally end up in a motel in Deloraine, a broken, stolen snowmobile in tow. At some point Mulder returns to Winnipeg to retrieve some identification. The plan is that Morneau will cross the border on the snowmobile and be retrieved by Mulder in Lauren who will cross over in a car.

    Feb. 8: The ecstasy is strapped to the back of the snowmobile. Morneau, Laurin and Mulder make plans to meet up in Bottineau, N.D. Video surveillance at the border shows Laurin and Mulder crossing over at 10:54 p.m. CT. They make their way to pick Morneau up as the snowmobile he was on broke down just over the U.S. side of the border.

    Feb. 9: The three are pulled over in Montana at 7:50 a.m. for having a broken headlight. Just over an hour later, the car is searched with Mulder's consent, and the three are arrested. Morneau tells police in an interview that Mulder and Laurin knew nothing about the drugs.

    Mar. 6: The trio are indicted for possession and conspiring to distribute the ecstasy. They each face a possible 40 years behind bars and a heft fine.

    June 2: The three file a motion to squash the drug evidence seized by police from the car. After months of deliberation, the motion is denied by Judge Richard Cebull.

    Jan. 7, 2009: Laurin and Mulder plead guilty to conspiracy in exchange for leniency and testimony against Morneau. The possession charge is dropped.

    Jan. 12: Morneau's jury trial begins and ends two days later with a conviction on both counts.

    Apr. 8: Laurin and Mulder each receive four-year sentences for their role in the drug conspiracy.

    Apr. 16: Morneau is sentenced to 240 months in prison plus three years of supervised probation.

    May 6: Morneau files an appeal of his conviction.

    Feb 1, 2010: Morneau's opening brief is filed.

    By James Turner, CBC News
    Sunday, February 7, 2010 | 4:24 PM CT
  3. Terrapinzflyer
    223,000 pills: 9th Circuit upholds $5.5M Ecstasy bust at border

    BILLINGS - A special panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the conviction of a Canadian man who helped bring $5.5 million worth of Ecstasy pills across the border into Montana.

    The panel, which included retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, heard arguments in the case in Billings on July 29 and filed the ruling Wednesday.
    The panel upheld a ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull, who found that a Montana state trooper was reasonable in stopping a car near Glendive in February 2008 for having a burned out headlight.

    Timothy Morneau, a 32-year old passenger from Winnipeg, Manitoba, was sentenced in April 2009 to 20 years in prison. He argued that the traffic stop and the subsequent search and seizure were not based on reasonable suspicion, and the evidence should have been suppressed.

    Officers seized more than 223,000 Ecstasy tablets weighing 141 pounds - worth about $5.5 million on the street.

    By the Associated Press
    Posted: Saturday, August 28, 2010 7:15 am
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