United States District Court, D. Minnesota
H. Thompson, Esq., Assistant United States Attorney, counsel
Douglas L. Micko., Esq., and Douglas Olson, Esq., Assistant
Federal Public Defender, counsel for Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. THORSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Suppress Statements, Admissions, and Answers (Doc. No. 19).
On February 26, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the motion
at which the parties were represented by counsel. (Doc. No.
35.) At the hearing, Special Agent Glenn Moule from the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) testified
concerning the circumstances surrounding Defendant's
statements that are the subject of the Defendant's
motion. The Government offered and the Court received in
evidence two exhibits: (1) an audio recording of the
interview at issue; and (2) a target letter to Defendant
dated January 18, 2018. (Doc. No. 32, Exhibit List.) The
parties submitted post-hearing briefing as ordered by the
Court. (Doc. Nos. 39, 40.) As discussed below, the Court
recommends that Defendant's motion be denied.
Agent Moule is the case agent for the investigation of this
fraud case against Defendant. (Tr. 9.) He testified that
Defendant used to operate a small wind turbine company, and
that the allegation in this case is “that multiple
customers of his provided him with money that he failed to
deliver their product, and he used some of their funds for
personal expenses.” (Tr. 9.)
January 23, 2018, Special Agent Moule and another FBI agent
interviewed Defendant at his single-family home in Humble,
Texas. (Tr. 9-10.) At that time, Special Agent Moule had been
working on this case for well over a year. (Tr. 19.) Both
agents were wearing business suits and carrying a firearm;
however, the firearms were not visible. (Tr. 10.) Without
providing advance notice, the agents arrived at
Defendant's home between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. (Tr. 11, 17.)
When they rang the doorbell, Defendant came to the door and
Special Agent Moule identified himself as an FBI agent. (Tr.
11.) Special Agent Moule told Defendant he was interested in
some information regarding his wind turbine business he had
in Minnesota and asked Defendant if he could talk to him.
(Tr. 11, 18.) Defendant appeared surprised that the FBI was
at his door but allowed the agents inside his house and they
all sat town at a table about twenty feet from the door. (Tr.
Agent Moule told Defendant that he was not under arrest, that
he did not have to talk to them, that he could ask them to
leave his house at any time, and that the decision was
completely up to Defendant. (Tr. 11; 2/26/19 Hr'g Ex. 2.)
Defendant agreed at that time to talk to Special Agent Moule.
(Tr. 11.) During their conversation, which was recorded,
Defendant did not at any time ask for a lawyer and did not
say that he did not want to talk. (Tr. 11-12.) The agents did
not handcuff Defendant, nor did they restrain or restrict his
movements in any way. (Tr. 12.) The conversation was casual
and lasted for approximately one hour. (Tr. 12, 18.) About
half-way through the interview, Defendant got up and went to
his front office area near the front door to check on a phone
call that he missed. (Tr. 12.) After about ten seconds,
Special Agent Moule got up to see where he was, for his own
personal safety reasons. (Tr. 12.) When Defendant returned to
the table, the interview resumed.
end of the interview, while still sitting at the table,
Special Agent Moule handed Defendant a target letter from the
U.S. Attorney's Office and informed him that he was the
subject of a criminal investigation. (Tr. 14, 21.) Defendant
asked Special Agent Moule what wire fraud was (which was
referenced in the target letter), and Special Agent Moule
talked to him about it. (Tr. 14, 16.) Special Agent Moule also
told Defendant that he could contact the U.S. Attorney's
Office if he had any other questions. (Tr. 14.) Defendant
asked Special Agent Moule for his business card, which
Special Agent Moule gave to him along with his cell phone
number, and then the agents got up and left after thanking
Defendant for his time. (Tr. 14.) The agents did not arrest
Defendant at that time. (Tr. 16.) Defendant was later
indicted in November 2018, and he thereafter self-reported to
the District of Minnesota for his initial appearance. (Tr.
challenges the admissibility of the statements he made to FBI
agents on January 23, 2018, on grounds that he was provided
no Miranda warnings when they were required. The
Government opposes Defendant's motion to suppress and
argues that the January 2018 interview was both non-custodial
and voluntary, and therefore Miranda warnings were
a defendant's statements made during a custodial
interrogation against him at trial, government agents must
provide a Miranda warning prior to questioning. The
warning must inform a defendant that he has the right to
remain silent, that anything he does say can be used against
him as evidence, that he has a right to the presence of an
attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will
be appointed for him. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S.
436, 444 (1966). These warnings need not follow a precise
formulation, and the “inquiry is simply whether the
warnings reasonably convey to a suspect his rights as
required by Miranda.” Duckworth v.
Eagan, 492 U.S. 195, 203 (1989) (quotations and
custodial interrogation that triggers the need for
Miranda warnings is one that involves
“questioning initiated by law enforcement officers
after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise
deprived of his freedom of action in any significant
way.” Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444. When analyzing
whether a particular defendant was in custody at the time of
an interrogation, “the ultimate inquiry is simply
whether there [was] . . . restraint on freedom of movement of
the degree associated with a formal arrest.”
California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125 (1983)
(quotations omitted); see also United States v.
Huether, 673 F.3d 789, 794 (8th Cir. 2012) (“To
determine whether a defendant was in custody for
Miranda purposes, a court looks to the totality of
the circumstances confronting the defendant at the time of
the interview, and asks whether a reasonable person in his
position would consider his ...