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United States v. Brown

July 14, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KRYSTAL BROWN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY Chief U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This case is before the court for ruling on Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence (#26). Following this court's careful consideration of the arguments of the parties and the transcript of the evidentiary hearing held in this case, Defendant's Motion (#26) is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

On October 2, 2007, Defendant, Krystal Brown, and her co-defendant Ahkeem J. Thomas, were charged by indictment (#9) with the armed bank robbery of Busey Bank in Rantoul, Illinois which took place on September 28, 2007. Defendant was found to qualify for court-appointed counsel and Attorney Ellyn Bullock was appointed to represent her. On December 4, 2007, a superseding indictment (#19) was filed which added a charge of armed bank robbery of a Busey Bank in Urbana, Illinois, on June 15, 2007. Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss with Prejudice Superseding Indictment of a Minor (#21). Defendant stated that she turned 18 on September 23, 2007, and was a minor at the time of the June 15, 2007, bank robbery charged in the superseding indictment. On December 12, 2007, the Government orally moved to dismiss Count 2 of the superseding indictment as to Defendant. This court granted the motion.

On December 18, 2007, co-defendant Thomas pleaded guilty to Count 1 and Count 2 of the superseding indictment before Magistrate Judge David G. Bernthal. On January 15, 2008, this court approved Judge Bernthal's Report and Recommendation and accepted Thomas' guilty plea. Thomas' sentencing is currently scheduled for August 5, 2008, at 2:30 p.m.

MOTION TO SUPPRESS

On December 19, 2007, Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence with Incorporated Memorandum of Law (#26). In her Motion, Defendant stated that, on September 28, 2007, she had been 18 years old for less than one week. She had a baby on September 5, 2007, three weeks before the alleged crime. Defendant stated that she grew up in foster care and is still in foster care and not emancipated because of the birth of her baby.

Defendant stated that the alleged robbery of the Busey Bank in Rantoul occurred on September 28, 2007, at approximately 11:00 a.m. According to Defendant, she and Thomas were at her foster parents' home and were taken into custody at 3:54 p.m. that day. Thomas was taken to the police station while Defendant was questioned at her foster home. Defendant stated that she gave oral statements incriminating to herself between the time of 3:54 and approximately 5:35 p.m. No Miranda warnings were given before Defendant made these oral statements. Defendant stated that she was then handcuffed and placed in a squad car. During the ride to the Rantoul police station, Defendant made additional statements. No Miranda warnings had been given at that time. At the police station, Defendant completed a handwritten confession.

Defendant argued in her Motion to Suppress that she was in custody from the time the police arrived at her foster home at 3:54 p.m. on the day of the robbery. She argued that she was detained and not free to leave at that time. Defendant also argued that, based upon the totality of the circumstances, her oral and written statements were involuntary. Defendant attached her affidavit to the Motion. In the affidavit, Defendant stated that she was holding her baby daughter when the police arrived at her foster home on September 28, 2007. She stated that the police handcuffed Thomas and took him away and asked her questions. Defendant stated that, when the police asked her questions about her baby, she began to cry and said she missed her baby. Defendant also attached police reports, a copy of her handwritten statement, and a copy of the Miranda waiver she signed at 6:55 p.m. on September 28, 2007.

On January 25, 2008, the Government filed its Response to Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence (#28). The Government stated that the evidence would show that Defendant participated in two bank robberies with her boyfriend, Thomas. The first occurred on June 15, 2007, when Defendant was 17 and pregnant. The second occurred on September 28, 2007, when Defendant was 18 and had a three-week-old baby. The Government contended that Defendant was not in custody when she made statements to law enforcement officers the afternoon of September 28, beginning with denials of any knowledge of criminal activity and culminating with her admission of involvement in the bank robberies to Special Agent Andrew Havrilla. The Government argued that, to the extent she was detained while the officers executed a search warrant, she was not in custody pursuant to Miranda. The Government argued that, because she was not in custody, no Miranda violation occurred and the pre-arrest statements should be admitted at trial. The Government further contended that Defendant's statement while being transported to the police station is not subject to suppression because the statement was volunteered and not made in response to police questioning. The Government also argued that Defendant's recorded and written statements were made after she was advised of her Miranda rights and should be admitted.

On February 11, 2008, Defendant filed a Reply (#29). In her Reply, Defendant argued that the police officers used an impermissible two-step pre-Miranda/post-Miranda custodial interrogation process resulting in an unconstitutional evasion of Miranda under Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004). Defendant also again contended that her statements were involuntary due to her immaturity and also due to the psychological coercion used by the police particularly through subtle threats to her motherhood.

An evidentiary hearing was held on February 21, 2008. At the hearing, the Government presented the testimony of six law enforcement officers, Bradley Saltsgaver, David Young, Kevin Kaiser, Jeffrey Wooten, Andrew J. Havrilla and Steven Evans. Defendant presented the testimony of Richard Keith Welch of the Rantoul police department. This court found all of the witnesses who testified at the hearing to be credible. Various exhibits were also introduced into evidence, including Defendant's affidavit, which Defendant requested be admitted into evidence.

The evidence showed that a bank robbery at a Busey Bank in Rantoul, Illinois, occurred around 11:15 a.m. on September 28, 2007. It was reported that an assault rifle was used during the robbery. A witness provided a description of the car the bank robber used following the robbery and a police officer found a car matching that description outside of a residence in Rantoul. The witness was taken to the residence and identified the vehicle as the vehicle that had left the scene of the bank robbery. Law enforcement officers then set up a police perimeter around the residence which involved approximately eight to ten officers. Thomas' brother came to the residence and spoke to one of the officers, Kevin Kaiser. Thomas' brother told Kaiser that Thomas had called their mother in Chicago and said "that he had done something bad" and that he was going to die, he was "going to jail for a long time, or somebody else was going to die." Thomas' brother also informed Kaiser that Defendant and her three-week-old baby were inside the residence.

Thomas' brother called Thomas on the phone and, eventually, around 4:00 p.m., Thomas came out of the residence with his arms raised and laid down on the driveway. He was arrested, handcuffed, and placed in a squad car. Defendant was told to come out of the residence and came out holding her baby. At that time, there were five or six officers with guns drawn outside of the residence. Some of the officers checked her and checked the baby to make sure there were no weapons or money on them. Officer Wooten testified that he gave the baby to a female family member or friend. Two or three of the officers escorted Defendant to a safe location near the adjoining duplex. The officers testified that they did not think Defendant was involved in the bank robbery and did not consider her a suspect. At 4:19 p.m., Defendant gave written consent for the officers to go into the residence and search for other occupants. Officer Saltsgaver testified that, when he was talking to Defendant about consent to search, he believed that he established that Defendant was 18 years ...


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