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United States v. Spencer

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 11, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Mario Martell Spencer (1) and Ahmed Osman Farah (2), Defendants.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND AFFIRMING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S ORDER

          Wilhelmina M. Wright United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the November 30, 2018 Report and Recommendation (R&R) of United States Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer. (Dkt. 79.) The R&R recommends denying Defendant Mario Martell Spencer's motion to suppress evidence and granting in part and denying in part Defendant Ahmed Osman Farah's motion to suppress statements. Defendants filed timely objections, and Plaintiff United States of America responded. Farah also appeals the magistrate judge's December 21, 2018 Order denying his motion to modify his detention. (Dkt. 85.) For the reasons addressed below, Defendants' objections are overruled, the R&R is adopted, and the December 21, 2018 Order is affirmed.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Two individuals brandishing firearms robbed a convenience store in Minneapolis on March 23, 2018. After hearing a description of the perpetrators and the getaway vehicle over the dispatch radio, police encountered a vehicle that matched the description. The officers attempted to initiate a traffic stop. But the vehicle fled and led police on a chase before crashing into a garage. When officers approached the crashed vehicle and observed that it was empty, they began searching the area for the suspects. Spencer and Farah were subsequently apprehended separately on foot. Farah made several brief statements to officers as he was arrested and placed in the back of a squad car. After the police transported Spencer and Farah to City Hall, two officers interviewed Spencer. When asked whether he wanted to provide a statement, Spencer replied “I don't got nothing to say” and “[t]here's nothing to explain.” After Spencer made these statements, an officer gave Spencer a Miranda warning, and the interrogation continued.

         A grand jury returned an indictment charging Spencer and Farah with interference with commerce by robbery; using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. Both Spencer and Farah were ordered detained on June 4, 2018. Farah subsequently sought to modify the terms of the detention order to permit his release with electronic monitoring or to a halfway house. Following a hearing, the magistrate judge denied the motion, concluding that no conditions of release could reasonably assure the safety of the community and Farah's appearance at future court proceedings.

         Spencer moves to suppress evidence that police seized from him during and after his arrest and statements that he made to police after his arrest. Farah moves to suppress his post-arrest statements to police. The magistrate judge issued the pending R&R following an August 29, 2018 evidentiary hearing. The R&R recommends denying Spencer's motion to suppress evidence in its entirety. The R&R recommends granting Farah's motion to suppress as to one of Farah's statements to police and denying the motion in all other respects. Defendants filed timely objections to the R&R, and the United States responded.

         On November 19, 2018, Farah again moved to modify the terms of the detention order, seeking release to his sister's residence or a halfway house. Farah reasserted his arguments regarding his mental health conditions, his history of appearing for court proceedings, and his family support. He also argued that he was assaulted while in custody and that one of his family members is suffering from a serious medical condition. In a December 21, 2018 Order, the magistrate judge concluded that none of these arguments establishes that there are conditions that would reasonably assure either the safety of the community or Farah's appearance at future court proceedings. Farah appeals the December 21, 2018 Order.

         ANALYSIS

         I. The November 30, 2018 R&R

         Spencer objects to the R&R's determination that his statements to police should not be suppressed because he did not unequivocally invoke his right to remain silent. Farah objects to the R&R's determination that several of the statements he made to police during his arrest should not be suppressed because those statements either were made in response to routine questions or were voluntary statements not made in response to interrogation. This Court reviews each objected-to determination de novo. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Crim. P. 59; LR 72.2(b)(3); accord Grinder v. Gammon, 73 F.3d 793, 795 (8th Cir. 1996) (per curiam).

         A. Spencer's Motion to Suppress

         Spencer objects to the R&R's determination that he did not unequivocally invoke his right to remain silent when officers began to interrogate him at City Hall following his arrest. According to Spencer, the officers were required to end the interrogation when he told them “I don't got nothing to say” and “[t]here's nothing to explain.” The United States counters, and the R&R concludes, that these statements from Spencer were not unequivocal invocations of his right to remain silent.

         The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in relevant part, that “[n]o person shall . . . be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” U.S. Const. amend. V. The prosecution cannot use statements “stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless [the prosecution] demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination.” Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966). During a custodial interrogation, if an individual “indicates in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease.” Id. at 473-74. A suspect must make “a clear, consistent expression of a desire to remain silent” in order to “adequately invoke this right” and end questioning. United States v. Adams, 820 F.3d 317, 323 (8th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Indirect, ambiguous, and equivocal statements or assertions of an intent to exercise the right to remain silent” are insufficient. United States v. Ferrer-Montoya, 483 F.3d 565, 569 (8th Cir. 2007). An individual's evasiveness or reluctance to talk generally also is insufficient to invoke one's right to remain silent. See Id. Whether a suspect invoked the right to remain silent is a factual determination for the district court. Id.

         Spencer's statements “I don't got nothing to say” and “[t]here's nothing to explain” could be interpreted as an invocation of Spencer's right to remain silent. But the R&R determines, and this Court agrees, that another equally reasonable interpretation of Spencer's statements is that he had no information to provide the officers, or that he knew nothing that the officers did not already know. Cf. United States v. Johnson, 56 F.3d 947, 955 (8th Cir. 1995) (concluding that defendant did not unambiguously invoke right to remain silent when he told officers “you guys have all the evidence against me. I don't need to make any statement. I don't need to say anything.”). Notably, Spencer's statements do not convey a desire not to talk. See Adams, 820 F.3d at 323 (explaining that a suspect must express “a desire to remain silent” (emphasis added)). Indeed, Spencer's first clear expression of a desire, which occurred immediately after his statement that there was “nothing to explain, ” is that of a desire to talk.[2] And after the officers subsequently informed Spencer of his ...


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