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United States v. Robinson

November 10, 2009


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 08 CR 00067-Elaine E. Bucklo, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Manion, Circuit Judge.


Before POSNER, MANION, and EVANS, Circuit Judges.

In 2003, Myron "Boojie" Robinson gave law enforcement agents a signed statement implicating himself in criminal firearms trafficking. In 2008, he was indicted for conspiring to transport firearms across state lines without a license and for receiving firearms transported across state lines in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922. Before trial, he filed a motion to suppress the statement he had given to law enforcement agents, arguing that he was interrogated in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights. The district court denied the motion. The case went to trial and Robinson was convicted. Robinson appeals, arguing that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress. We affirm.

I. Background

Myron Robinson is apparently one of those people who is blessed with the gift of gab, but in this case that gift turned out to his detriment. Over the years, his criminal associations have brought him into contact with quite a few federal and state law enforcement agents. Despite the apparent conflicts of interest, Robinson has kept in touch with several of these acquaintances. He has even called them for advice on critical personal decisions, such as where to find the best criminal defense representation. In 1995 and 1996, Robinson got to know FBI Special Agent R. Lee Walters and Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Brian Netols. At that time, Robinson was a cooperating witness in an undercover sting investigation involving corrupt police officers. Robinson was paid cash for his cooperation, but during the investigation he made false statements to federal agents, which led to his guilty plea for violating 18 U.S.C. § 1001. He was sentenced to two years' probation. Over the next decade, Robinson kept in occasional contact with Agent Walters, calling him as often as three times per year to catch up and make small talk. Robinson also had some contact with Netols over the years. Most recently, in early 2008, he contacted Netols and asked for a recommendation for an attorney to represent him in this case. Netols ended the conversation after determining Robinson had been charged in federal court and was represented by counsel.

Returning to 2002, after his brief stint assisting federal law enforcement (and presumably after his term of probation had expired), Robinson and Carlos Orr went into business together reselling ill-gotten guns in the Chicago area. Robinson used his connections in Shreveport, Louisiana to make straw purchases of guns at pawn shops.*fn1

He and Orr used their Chicago connections to sell the guns up north at a hefty profit. On at least two occasions, Robinson and Orr traveled to Shreveport and hired people without criminal backgrounds, including Reginald Dean, Teresa Woodward, and Mary Williams to make straw purchases of guns that Robinson and Orr had selected. When they had assembled the guns, Robinson and Orr boxed and shipped them via Federal Express to Robinson's home in Maywood, Illinois. Once the guns arrived in Maywood, Robinson removed the serial numbers and resold them to various buyers, including Roynel Coleman, who had introduced Orr and Robinson. Sometime later, Chicago police officers recovered a .38-caliber High Point pistol and a 9-millimeter High Point pistol, both with serial numbers removed. Forensic specialists with the Illinois State Police were able to restore the serial numbers, which matched weapons that Woodward and Dean admitted to purchasing for Robinson in Shreveport.

In 2003, Robinson phoned Special Agent James Ferguson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives ("ATF") and set up a meeting at Robinson's mother's house in Maywood.*fn2 Ferguson was part of a task force with fellow ATF Agent Dave Balkema, Matt Gainer of the Illinois State Police, and Joseph Bowers from the Chicago Police Department. Before the meeting, Ferguson checked the National Crime Information Center database and discovered an outstanding warrant for Robinson for retail theft, originating out of the Lombard, Illinois, Police Department. When Ferguson and his team arrived at the Maywood residence, they were met by Charles Allen, Robinson's attorney. Allen asked Ferguson what they wanted and, after learning that the agents wished to discuss an investigation into firearms trafficking, informed Ferguson that Robinson would not talk to them about the investigation. At that point, Agent Gainer informed Allen that Robinson was going to be taken into custody on the outstanding warrant.

Robinson and the government dispute many of the details of the evening after that point. But in both versions, shortly after the police arrived at his mother's residence Robinson was arrested and transported to the Westchester, Illinois, Police Department at approximately 8:00 p.m. and later transferred to the Lombard Police Department shortly before midnight. While at Robin-son's mother's house his lawyer unambiguously asserted Robinson's right to counsel before Robinson was arrested, and the government acknowledges that Robinson was not informed of his Miranda rights at his mother's house or during the car ride to Westchester. While at Westchester, however, Robinson signed a Miranda waiver and a detailed statement implicating himself in illicit firearms trafficking. After he signed the statement, he was eventually transported to the Lombard police station. Robinson's mother testified that she called the Lombard police station around 9:00 p.m. to inquire about her son's status, but neither she nor his attorney went to the Lombard police station that evening.*fn3

In 2008, a grand jury indicted Robinson in a two-count indictment for conspiring to transport firearms purchased outside of Illinois and for receiving out-of-state firearms in Illinois.*fn4 Robinson moved to suppress the incriminating statement from 2003. The district court held an evidentiary hearing, at which it heard testimony from, among others, Agents Ferguson and Gainer, and from Robinson, Robinson's mother, and Robinson's former attorney, Charles Allen.

Each side told varying versions of the 2003 events. Everyone at least agreed that Robinson called Agent Ferguson and that Ferguson and other law enforcement agents came to the Maywood residence at his request. All also agreed that Robinson was informed that he was being arrested pursuant to a warrant out of the Lombard Police Department. Ferguson testified that Agent Gainer told Robinson that he was going to be taken to the closer police department in Westchester, while Gainer testified that he did not recall whether he told Robinson or his attorney where he was going to be taken for processing. Robinson was given time to change his clothes and was then taken to the Westchester Police Department. According to Ferguson and Gainer, Robinson was not questioned outside of routine processing questions and was not informed of his Miranda rights. After about twenty minutes at Westchester, Robinson asked Ferguson, "What do you want?" Ferguson testified that he informed Robinson that because Robinson's attorney had invoked Robinson's right to counsel, a Miranda waiver was required before they could discuss the investigation. At 8:41 p.m., Robinson signed a Miranda waiver; at 11:15 p.m. he made changes to and signed a hand-written statement implicating himself and several others in the gun trafficking conspiracy for which he was later convicted.

In his testimony at the evidentiary hearing, Robinson claimed that his attorney was told not only that the outstanding warrant for his arrest originated out of Lombard, but that the officers were going to take him to the Lombard Police Department. Robinson also claimed that the officers began questioning him during the ride to Westchester, continued interrogating him once they arrived at the police station, and told him that he did not need an attorney. Robinson testified that he signed the incriminating statement at 11:15 p.m. "to get out of there" and backdated the Miranda waiver to 8:41 p.m. at the instruction of Agent Bowes.

The district court denied Robinson's motion to suppress after finding that, although the question was close, Robinson-not the police officers-reinitiated the conversation about firearms trafficking at the Westchester Police Department. The district court found the evidence of Robinson's history of talking to law enforcement especially convincing and concluded that ...

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