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United States v. Whitefeather

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 21, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
Donald Scott Whitefeather, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LEO I. BRISBOIS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter came before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge upon the parties' pretrial motions. This case has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 72.1. The Court held a motion hearing on April 8, 2014, regarding the parties' pretrial discovery motions[1] and Defendant Donald Scott Whitefeather's Motion to Suppress Statements, [Docket No. 25]. For reasons discussed below, the Court recommends that Defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements, [Docket No. 25], be DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF FACTS[2]

A. Background

Defendant is charged with one count of assault with a dangerous weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 113(a)(3), 1151, and 1153, and one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 113(a)(6), 1151, and 1153. (Indictment [Docket No. 15]).

B. Statement of Facts

On the evening of December 31, 2013, Red Lake Police Sergeant Alexandra Dow ("Sgt. Dow") was on duty, pursuant to the Red Lake Police Department's "special tour" increased patrols policy for New Year's Eve, when she responded to an ambulance call heard over police dispatch regarding an alleged assault at a residence - specifically, an alleged "throat slash." Sgt. Dow was approximately one mile from the site of the alleged assault when she intercepted the call and arrived just ahead of the ambulance. Upon arriving at the residence, the homeowner directed Sgt. Dow into the home. Inside the residence, Sgt. Dow immediately observed two males; one was covered in blood and slumped against a wall and was, by all appearances, unconscious. Upon seeing Sgt. Dow enter the residence, the second male, later identified as the Defendant, immediately stated, "I did it, I slashed his throat, " or words to that effect. Sgt. Dow did nothing to prompt Defendant - verbally or otherwise - to make these statements; she had just entered the residence and had not yet event had the opportunity to ask anyone any questions.

After first assisting the medical responders with the victim, Sgt. Dow handcuffed Defendant. Sgt. Dow observed a strong odor of alcohol on the Defendant and assessed him as intoxicated. As Sgt. Dow escorted Defendant to her marked patrol vehicle, the Defendant again stated, "I did it, " and "Let him die, " without any questioning by Sgt. Dow.

Sgt. Dow placed Defendant in her patrol vehicle and read Defendant a Miranda[3] warning. Sgt. Dow asked Defendant if he understood his rights; Defendant stated that he did. Up until and including this time, Sgt. Dow had not and did not ask Defendant any questions. Sgt. Dow returned to the residence, leaving Defendant restrained and secured in her patrol vehicle.

Inside the residence, Sgt. Dow met with Red Lake Criminal Investigator Paul Kwako (now a Leech Lake Criminal Investigator) and brought him up to speed on what she had witnessed and learned at the scene.[4] Sgt. Dow left CI Kwako to process the scene, and Sgt. Dow transported Defendant to the Red Lake Detention Center. On the way to the Detention Center, Defendant continued to make comments such as, "Let him die" and "I'd do it again." At no point during the transport of Defendant to the Red Lake Detention Center did Sgt. Dow ask Defendant any questions.

Upon arriving at the Red Lake Detention Center, Defendant was booked into custody and, for the second time that night, given a Miranda warning. (Gov't Ex. 1). Although Defendant did not sign the Miranda Rights Warning and Waiver Form provided at the Red Lake Detention Center, Sgt. Dow testified that when asked if he understood his rights, Defendant nodded his head "yes." Sgt. Dow did not attempt to interrogate Defendant at this time.

The following day, on January 1, 2014, at approximately 3:00 p.m., CI Kwako arrived at the Red Lake Detention Center with FBI Special Agent Charles Bonser, to speak with Defendant. CI Kwako and SA Bonser introduced themselves to Defendant and stated the purpose of the interview. CI Kwako read Defendant a Miranda warning, reading enumerated rights from an Advice of Rights form and checking-off each right as Defendant indicated he understood it. (Gov't Ex. 2). Defendant acknowledged and said, "yes, " he understood each right as CI Kwako read from the form. CI Kwako then asked Defendant if he wanted to waive the aforementioned rights and talk with CI Kwako and SA Bonser, to which Defendant replied that he did and signed the waiver of rights. (Id.)

CI Kwako testified that he observed no indication that Defendant did not understand his rights or the questions. CI Kwako testified that there was no evidence of drug or alcohol impairment, and that he had no doubt that Defendant was sober and aware.

II. DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS STATEMENTS, [DOCKET NO. 25]

Defendant moves the Court for an order suppressing any and all statements alleged to have been made by Defendant in connection with the above-captioned matter. The present record before the Court indicates that four sets of statements by Defendant are at issue: (1) statements made at the scene of the alleged assault immediately upon Sgt. Dow's arrival, (2) statements made at the scene of the alleged assault after Defendant had been handcuffed and restrained, prior to receiving a Miranda warning, (3) statements made in transit to the Red Lake Detention Center, after Defendant had ...


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