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United States v. Jackson

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 8, 2019

Craig Steven Jackson, Jr., Defendant.



         This matter comes before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to a general assignment, made in accordance with the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.1, upon Defendant Craig Steven Jackson, Jr.'s (hereinafter “Defendant”) Motion to Suppress Statements, Admissions, and Answers. [Docket No. 66]. The Court held a Motions Hearing on February 11, 2019, regarding the parties' pretrial motions after which Defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements, [Docket No. 66], was taken under advisement.[1]

         For reasons discussed herein, the Court recommends that Defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements, Admissions, and Answers, [Docket No. 66], be DENIED.

         I. Background and Statement of Facts

         A. Background

         Defendant is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B), and 846, as well as, one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B). (Indictment [Docket No. 1]).

         B. Facts

         The record presently before the Court indicates that on April 12, 2018, Minnesota State Trooper, Nick Otterson, initiated a traffic stop of a black Ford Explorer Limited. (February 11, 2019, Motions Hearing, Digital Recording at 3:42-3:44). During that traffic stop, Trooper Otterson completed a K-9 sniff of the stopped vehicle which alerted to a controlled substance possibly being present inside the vehicle. (Id.). A subsequent search of that vehicle by law enforcement yielded a “large amount of suspected mixture of cocaine and heroin.” (Id.).

         Subsequent to the traffic stop and search by Trooper Otterson, Special Agent Daniel Skoog (hereinafter “SA Skoog”) contacted Red Lake Tribal Criminal Investigator Kristopher Larson (hereinafter “CI Larson”)[2] to inform him of the situation and to request his assistance in a “controlled delivery” deriving out of the traffic stop and search by Trooper Otterson. (Id.). Specifically, SA Skoog requested that CI Larson surveille the parking lot of the Walmart in Detroit Lakes where the controlled delivery was to take place. (Id.). SA Skoog informed CI Larson that the stopped vehicle was a black Ford Explorer Limited, and the suspected controlled substances was intended to be delivered to a female individual named Dawn. (Id. at 3:40-3:43).

         CI Larson then began surveilling the parking lot of the Walmart in Detroit Lakes. CI Larson subsequently observed the previously stopped black Ford Explorer Limited entered the parking lot. (Id. at 3:43-3:45). After parking, the black Ford Explorer Limited was approached by a white Pontiac Grad Prix. (Id.). The two individuals in the white Pontiac Grand Prix where later identified as Defendant and co-Defendant Dawn Lee Kier. (Id. 3:44-3:47). Defendant was the driver of the Grand Prix, and co-Defendant Kier was the passenger. (Id.).

         CI Larson observed co-Defendant Keir exited the passenger seat of the Grad Prix and enter the rear passenger seat of the black Ford Explorer Limited. (Id.). Defendant Kier subsequently exited the Ford Explorer Limited and returned to the passenger's seat of the Grand Prix. (Id.). The Grad Prix then drove across the parking lot to park in front of the Walmart, and the vehicle's two occupants exited the vehicle. (Id. at 3:43-3:47).

         CI Larson and other law enforcement officers made contact with the two individuals as they exited the Grand Prix. (Id.). Defendant was subsequently arrested. (Id.). Upon being arrested, Defendant was searched, handcuffed, and placed into a Becker County Sheriff's squad car to be transported to the Becker County Sheriff's office and jail. (Id.). A quantity of suspected heroin was found on Defendant's person. (Id.).

         CI Larson testified that while he assisted in the search of Defendant's person and placing Defendant in the back of the squad car, Defendant attempted to speak to CI Larson. (Id. at 4:01- 4:07). Although CI Larson could not remember the specifics of what Defendant said while being placed in the back seat of the squad car, CI Larson testified that he believed Defendant said something to the effect that “he wanted to help himself out.” (Id.). CI Larson further testified the conversation was “very short” due to the fact the scene was still active with “the parking lot blocked off, ” and if he provided any response to Defendant's assertion, it was something to the effect of “we would sit down and talk at a later time.” (Id. at 4:01-4:11). CI Larson explained that the duration of the conversation was “just long enough” to handcuff Defendant, search his person, and place him in the back seat of a squad car. (Id.).

         At approximately 10:16 p.m., SA Skoog and CI Larson interviewed Defendant in the interview room of the Becker County Sheriff's office and jail. (See, Id. at 3:45-3:52). CI Larson testified that, at the time of the interview, he was dressed in “plain street clothes” with his firearm concealed. (Id.). CI Larson also testified that while he did not know if SA Skoog had a firearm during the interview, neither CI Larson nor SA Skoog ever drew their firearms or displayed their firearms to Defendant. (Id. at 3:51-3:54).

         CI Larson testified that Defendant, at the time of the interview, seemed to understand the questions being presented to him, responded appropriately to the questions presented to him, did not appear to be under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, appeared to understand what was going on in the situation, and never indicated that he was confused or failed to understand what was happening. (Id. at 3:54-3:59). Defendant remained handcuffed during the interview, and the entirety of the interview was audio recorded by SA Skoog. (Id. at 3:47-3:52).

         SA Skoog began interviewing Defendant by verifying Defendant's name, date of birth, phone number, and address. (Gov't's Ex. 1 at 00:00-2:00).[3] SA Skoog then advised Defendant of his rights as follows:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have him present-have the lawyer present with you now or at any time during question- during questioning. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer one will be appointed for you without cost. Do you understand each of these rights as I've explained them to you?

(Gov't's Ex. 1 at 1-4). Defendant responded “Yeah.”

         SA Skoog then asked Defendant, “Having these rights in mind, do you wish to talk to me right now? Are you willing to talk with us?” (Id.). Defendant again responded, “Yeah.” (Id.).

         During the interview, SA Skoog, CI Larson, and Defendant discussed various topics, including why Defendant had provided co-Defendant Kier with a ride, where Defendant picked up co-Defendant Kier, where Defendant got the suspected controlled substances that was found on his person, and where he had previously obtained heroin. (Id. at 4-16). Throughout the interview, Defendant asserted that he was unaware of co-Defendant Kier's intentions, but he did receive a discounted price when purchasing heroine because he agreed to give co-Defendant Kier a ride as requested. (Id.).

         On several occasions during the interview, Defendant implied that he was willing to cooperate with law enforcement and would be willing to “make a buy or whatever.” (See, e.g., Id. at 8-9). CI Larson concluded the interview by asking Defendant if he would be willing to speak with law enforcement again if anything else came up to which Defendant responded affirmatively. (Id. at 14-16).

         Throughout the recorded interview, SA Skoog and CI Larson can be heard maintaining a conversational tone without raising their voices to yell or threatening Defendant. Although SA Skoog and CI Larson at various times during the interview told Defendant that they did not believe Defendant was telling the complete truth, Defendant maintained a conversational tone, and he ...

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