Defense seeks to toss evidence against Caraballo
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | March 14,2013
Defense attorneys for a Massachusetts man charged with killing a Brattleboro woman are arguing that evidence seized and statements he made after his arrest should be excluded from his trial in federal court.
They are also asking the judge to move the trial to a different venue.
In motions filed with the U.S. District Court in Vermont, lawyers representing Frank Caraballo, 31, argued that Vermont State Police investigators violated constitutional search and seizure requirements for law enforcement as well as his right to remain silent.
And in a motion that one of Caraballo’s lawyers, Mark Kaplan, said was filed late Wednesday with the court, the defense is asking that the trial be moved to a different court due to high levels of media coverage.
Kaplan declined to comment on the details of the change of venue request. Presently, the case is before Judge Christina Reiss who presides over the U.S. District Court in Rutland.
Caraballo faces multiple lifetime jail sentences if he is convicted of killing 30-year-old Melissa Barratt whose body was found in a wooded area off East West Road in Dummerston on July 29, 2011.
In December, Caraballo received news from federal prosecutors who said the government would not pursue the death penalty in the case.
Reached Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Perella declined to comment on the new motions but said the government would soon file responses in court.
In the motions filed Wednesday, defense attorneys argue that the manner in which police arrested and interrogated Caraballo violated his rights.
Lawyers say police contacted Caraballo’s cell phone carrier on July 29, 2011 and asked them to locate him using a global positioning system in his phone.
Information received from the cell phone company led police to Caraballo, who was stopped driving his Nissan Maxima on Route 10 near the Springfield/Chester town line, defense attorneys say.
“The government violated Mr. Caraballo’s Fourth Amendment rights by using his cellular telephone ... to electronically track him without a warrant,” the new motion to suppress evidence reads.
Defense attorneys also argue that the trooper who stopped Caraballo lacked probable cause — the legal threshold law enforcement must meet to make a motor vehicle stop — to do so.
Caraballo’s attorneys say that police investigators who were investigating him prior to July 29 called state police Sgt. Eric Albright and told him to arrest Caraballo “for drug sale charges as a result of (Vermont Drug Task Force) investigations.”
But Caraballo’s attorneys argue that Albright lacked sufficient knowledge of the alleged offenses to make the stop.
“Sergeant Albright did not observe Mr. Caraballo engaged in any illegal activities and the information relayed to him by Detective Richard Holden concerning Mr. Caraballo’s prior activities was not sufficient to justify a stop and an arrest based on probable cause.”
After Caraballo was arrested, his attorney say his rights were violated again when he was taken to the state police barracks where they say he was left in a room handcuffed to a chair for five hours before he was questioned.
“During this period of time, Mr. Caraballo was not provided any nourishment although he requested it,” his lawyers wrote. “As the hours passed leading up to interrogation, Mr. Caraballo became increasingly fatigued and by the time the interrogation began, he was extremely tired.”
His lawyers added that at one point Caraballo asked to speak to an attorney and was reportedly told that could occur “at a later time.”