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United States v. Rasmussen

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

December 6, 2013

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
David Larry Rasmussen, Defendant.

ORDER

DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon the objection by defendant David Larry Rasmussen to the October 9, 2013, report and recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung. Based on a review of the file, record and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court overrules the objection.

BACKGROUND

The background of this matter is fully set forth in the report and recommendation, and the court summarizes only those facts necessary to resolve the current objection. On October 27, 2012, Mountain Lake Police Officer Brian Lunz responded to a dispatch directing him to an address in Mountain Lake, Minnesota. Mot. Hr'g at 16:38.[1] The dispatcher informed Officer Lunz that Charles Beckman had requested to speak with a police officer at the address about some photographs. Id. at 26:22-27:10. Officer Lunz testified that the dispatcher did not provide him with further information about the nature of the photographs. Id . In the driveway of the address, Officer Lunz encountered Beckman, who informed him that a cellular phone belonging to Rasmussen contained images of child pornography as he displayed one such image on the device. Id. at 17:28, 17:59-19:49, 20:20-32. Mountain Lake Police Officer Joseph Larson arrived on the scene to assist Officer Lunz. Id. at 23:38-49, 37:02-52. Officer Lunz seized the phone, conferred with his supervisor and prepared a search warrant application for the address and the phone itself. Id. at 22:40, 23:06-24:30.

Rasmussen returned to the address just before officers executed the search warrant. Id. at 38:30. Officer Larson asked Rasmussen if he would agree to speak with police. Rasmussen agreed and drove himself to the Mountain Lake Police Department. Shortly after midnight on October 28, 2012, Officer Larson interviewed Rasmussen at the Mountain Lake Police Department. Id. at 40:04-14. That initial interview was conducted in an unlocked room. Id. at 40:40-42:50. Officer Larson read Rasmussen his Miranda rights, and Rasmussen signed a form acknowledging that he understood and waived his rights. Id. at 43:39.

On October 29, 2012, Officer Larson again interviewed Rasmussen, who had been arrested following the execution of the search warrant. Id. at 50:12-20, 50:31. Again, Officer Larson advised Rasmussen of his Miranda rights, and Rasmussen signed a new form acknowledging and waiving his rights. Id. at 51:48-52:04. During questioning, Rasmussen was not handcuffed or physically restrained. Officer Larson was armed during the interviews, but did not unholster his weapon at any time. Id. at 45:32-38, 51:20-27, 54:53.

On October 9, 2013, the magistrate judge recommended that the court deny Rasmussen's motions to suppress (1) statements made during the two interviews and (2) the contents of the seized phone, as well as all physical evidence collected as a result of the seizure. Rasmussen objects.

DISCUSSION

The court reviews the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge de novo. 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1)(C); Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b); D. Minn. LR 72.2(b).

I. Statements to Officers

Rasmussen first moves to suppress statements he made to Officer Larson, arguing that they were not made voluntarily. The government responds that statements made by Rasmussen during the interview were made freely and voluntarily.

As a preliminary matter, there is no dispute that Rasmussen was in custody at the time the statements were made, and that he was therefore entitled to a reading of his Miranda rights. Rasmussen argues that (1) his waiver of his Miranda rights was not voluntary and (2) the statements he gave after the waiver were not voluntary.

The inquiries into the voluntariness of a Miranda waiver and of subsequent statements to police are identical. See, e.g., Colorado v. Spring , 479 U.S. 564, 573-74 (1987). A waiver or statement "is involuntary when it was extracted by threats, violence, or express or implied promises sufficient to overbear the defendant's will and critically impair his capacity for selfdetermination." United States v. Vega , 676 F.3d 708, 718 (8th Cir. 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The court "consider[s], among other things, the degree of police coercion, the length of the interrogation, its location, its continuity, and the defendant's maturity, education, physical condition, and mental condition." Id . (alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

Here, the court finds that the tactics used by Officer Larson during his interviews of Rasmussen were not improperly coercive. Officer Larson twice informed Rasmussen of his Miranda rights and Rasmussen acknowledged and waived those rights. See Mot. Hr'g at 43:39, 51:48-52:04. Further, Rasmussen has adduced no evidence that Officer Larson spoke or acted in a threatening or intimidating manner during either interview. Rasmussen never exhibited signs of extreme stress, intoxication or a medical issue that would have rendered his statements to Officer Larson involuntary. Id. at 46:03-52, 53:26-41, 54:18. Moreover, there is no evidence that lack of maturity, lack of education or a compromised condition compelled Rasmussen to answer the officers' questions. In sum, the circumstances of the interviews, including their tone, settings and the demeanor of the participants do not warrant a finding of coercion. See, e.g., United States v. Galceran , 301 F.3d 927, 930-31 (8th Cir. 2002) (per curiam) (finding ninety-eight minute interview in windowless conference room by two armed officers not coercive). The court ...


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