Steven Baxter, 36, pleaded guilty in District Court before Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller, to mailing firearms to the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced in a news release issued Wednesday.
According to court records, on or around March 30, 2017, Baxter resided in Orangeberg, South Carolina, and used the United States Postal Service to mail two packages containing firearms to St. Thomas. A Customs and Border Protection canine discovered the first firearm during routine inspection of incoming mail to St. Thomas. Two days later, a United States Postal Inspection officer discovered the second firearm while sorting mail inside the post office.
In 2018, Baxter filed a motion to suppress the firearms. He argued that CBP and the USPS needed to secure a warrant prior to searching his incoming mail. Then District Court Judge, Curtis V. Gomez agreed with Baxter and suppressed the firearms. In his ruling, Gomez found that the government could not search first class mail coming into the Virgin Islands from the mainland United States without first obtaining a warrant.
The government appealed Gomez’s decision and, on Feb. 21, 2020, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Gomez, concluding there was no search warrant requirement for incoming mail. As a result of that ruling, Baxter sought a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. (Certiorari is a process to seek judicial review of a decision of a lower court or government agency.) On Jan. 25, 2021, the Supreme Court denied Baxter’s request.
As a result of his guilty plea, Baxter faces a maximum sentence of 60 months in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Everard E. Potter.