CHARLESTON, SC (WCIV) - A man the FBI says is a suspect in the disappearance of Brittanee Drexelwill learn his sentence on federal armed robbery charges in the coming weeks.
Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor, 28, faces up to 20 years in prison when he goes before a judge for sentencing December 9 on one federal Hobbs Act armed robbery charge.
A federal grand jury in 2016 originally issued a three-charge indictment against Taylor related to a 2011 armed robbery at a McDonald’s in Mount Pleasant, which left a restaurant employee shot twice.
At the same time as the indictment, the FBI declared Taylor also was a suspect in Drexel’s mysterious disappearance while visiting Myrtle Beach from New York in 2009. She’s never been found.
The FBI said an alleged eyewitness and a jail informant told investigators Taylor personally abducted Drexel, brought her back to a McClellanville “stash house,” and was one of several people to sexually assault her before she was ultimately murdered, and her body dumped in a swamp.
Taylor’s attorneys have insisted he has no knowledge of or involvement in Drexel’s disappearance.
When the FBI announced its new charges against Taylor for the 2011 robbery case, he had already been found guilty on state charges and sentenced to 18 months of probation for his role in the crime.
The FBI said initially it wanted to charge Taylor again because it was dissatisfied with Taylor’s sentence. The FBI claimed Taylor had been the mastermind of the robbery, and only got a light sentence because he cooperated with local investigators.
But transcripts from court hearings make it clear getting information on the Drexel case was federal prosecutors’ primary motivation for the new charges against Taylor.
When the government’s initial indictments were returned, federal authorities tried to used their Drexel investigation interests as leverage against Taylor being released from jail on bond.
When Taylor appeared before a federal magistrate for a bond hearing, a prosecutor dubbed Taylor a danger to society based on the witness and informant testimonies regarding the Drexel case.
The prosecution went on to promise more witnesses “that are about to come forward” believed to have firsthand information about Taylor’s direct involvement in the Drexel case.
No charges have been filed against Taylor related to the Drexel case to this day.
Despite the government’s pleas for no bail, Taylor was allowed to remain free after the indictment.
Taylor would go on to plead guilty to one count of the government’s indictment on the robbery charges in July 2017.
Authorities would arrest Taylor in October 2017, after they say he violated his parole by leaving Charleston County for work without notifying his parole officer.
A magistrate revoked Taylor’s bond in November 2017, and he remained in jail nine months afterward, until a legal challenge in a peripheral legal battle prompted his release.
Throughout his prosecution, Taylor’s attorneys had sought to have the federal case dismissed, arguing a second prosecution — after already being tried in state court for the robbery — violated Taylor’s “double jeopardy” protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
The double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment prevents someone from being tried twice for the same crime, absent a mistrial.
But the legal principal of “separate sovereigns” also is a factor in Taylor’s case, as with others in which the federal government and an individual state have mutual interests in prosecuting a crime.
Because it was argued individual states and the United States government are separate entities, lower courts long held the two factions could prosecute the same crimes independently under the “separate sovereigns” doctrine.
Taylor’s federal prosecution was allowed to proceed thus while he remained in jail for the parole violation, until the U.S. Supreme Court announced in 2018 it planned to hear a challenge to the double jeopardy exemption under the separate sovereigns rule.
The case, Gamble v. United States, argued prosecution for the same crime by separate entities is still, in fact, double jeopardy. In June 2019, SCOTUS ultimately disagreed, upholding the separate sovereigns rule by a 7-2 vote.
Before that, Taylor’s attorneys had argued his trial should be put on hold in the run up to the Supreme Court hearing, and lobbied for him to be given bond and released until the challenge was settled.
Judge David Norton agreed, and reinstated Taylor’s bond in August 2018. He was released after posting bail, set at $10,000. Taylor remains free on bond with house detention restrictions and a GPS ankle monitor.