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United States of America v. Donald L. Weidenburner

December 7, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DONALD L. WEIDENBURNER, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on the defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements (Doc. 616) and Memorandum in Support (Doc. 615). The government has filed a response (Doc. 621) to which there is no reply. The defendant, Donald Weidenburner, moves to suppress statements he made to law enforcement agents in 2002 from being introduced into evidence claiming he was not advised of his Miranda rights, his statements were given under false pretenses, and he was denied counsel.

BACKGROUND

The procedural history of this case has already been discussed by this Court (Docs. 597, Doc. 623) and the Court will now only present the factual allegations relevant to Weidenburner's motion. On December 28, 2001, Weidenburner and his girlfriend were arrested on methamphetamine charges. Weidenburner had previously cooperated with law enforcement so Agents Hanisch and Mitchell met with the defendant in Spencer County Jail (Indiana) to speak with him and see if he would want to help again. The agents did not advise Weidenburner of his Miranda rights before speaking with him in the jail. The agents did not make promises regarding the charges against Weidenburner but did say they would tell the prosecutor about any cooperation or assistance he provided. Weidenburner claims that in exchange for his cooperation, the two officers promised him he would not be prosecuted. Weidenburner was at first unable to post bond, however, his bond was later reduced. He was then able to pay it and be released from jail. Weidenburner claims the agents reduced his bond, however, there is no evidence to support this and it is denied by the government.

On February 19, 2002 (twelve days after being released and six weeks after being interviewed), Weidenburner contacted the Indiana authorities to tell them he had received a large amount of pseudoephedrine pills at a motel in Evansville, Indiana. Agents Hanisch and Mitchell met with Weidenburner at the motel. During this interview, he turned over the pills to the agents and provided the agents with multiple receipts and an eight-page letter about the manufacture of methamphetamine he had his girlfriend prepare for them. On February 20, 2002, Weidenburner placed two recorded phone calls on behalf of law enforcement.

On March 14, 2002, Weidenburner and his girlfriend participated in a tape recorded interview with Agents Hanisch and Mike Dinn at the Illinois State Police Office in Carmi, Illinois. Before this interview, Weidenburner signed an agreement with the Spencer County Sherriff's Department (Doc. 621, Ex. 5), and initialed next to the statement "no DCI agent may make any explicit or implicit promises or predictions regarding the likely disposition of any criminal charges that are pending against me." (Doc. 621, Ex. 5). Weidenburner also wore a hidden recording device on behalf of law enforcement on several occasions in April of 2002. On April 13, 2002, Weidenburner met with Agents Hanisch and Mitchell again in the Illinois State Police Office in Carmi for another recorded interview. Weidenburner claims throughout this process he gave the agents information about his own illegal activities that is now being used against him.

On May 20, 2002, authorities came upon Weidenburner's van parked at a residence associated with methamphetamine and searched the van. The agents found methamphetamine-related materials and engaged in a vehicle and foot pursuit of Weidenburner before arresting him and charging him with new methamphetamine offenses. Following these charges, the Illinois State Police deactivated Weidenburner as a confidential source on June 7, 2002. The defendant traveled to Carmi, Illinois to speak with agents in the Illinois State Police Office sometime in September 2002. He attempted to convince agents not to indict him but the agents refused to make promises. Defendant claims the agents told him to "disappear" in order to protect his safety. He successfully evaded law enforcement until he was arrested in November of 2010.

ANALYSIS

I. Motion to Suppress Standard

A defendant who seeks to suppress evidence bears the burden of making a prima facie showing of illegality. United States v. Randle, 966 F.2d 1209, 1212 (7th Cir. 1992). The Court need not schedule a hearing on the basis of a motion which fails to allege a prima facie showing of illegality and which relies, at best, on vague, conclusory allegations. Id. at 1212; United States v. Rollins, 862 F.2d 1282, 1291 (7th Cir. 1988). A defendant must present "definite, specific, detailed, and nonconjectural" facts that justify relief before a district court will even grant a suppression hearing. Randle, 966 F.2d at 1212; see e.g., United States v. Villegas, 388 F.3d 317, 324 (7th Cir. 2004); United States v. Felix-Felix, 275 F.3d 627, 633 (7th Cir. 2001) (stating defendant's "burden to establish the necessity of a hearing by demonstrating that there was a disputed material issue of fact justifying relief").

It is a well-established rule that "the burden is on the movant to make specific factual allegations of illegality, to produce evidence and persuade the court that the evidence should be suppressed." United States v. Evans, 572 F.2d 455, 486 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 870 (1978). It is only once the defendant establishes a basis for his motion to suppress that the burden shifts to the government to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the statement was given voluntarily. United States v. Williams, 604 F.2d 1102, 1125 (8th Cir. 1979). Voluntariness is "a question of fact to be determined from the totality of the circumstances." Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 227 (1973).

II. Requirement of Miranda Warnings

A. Standard

In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 460-61 (1966), the Supreme Court determined that the rule against self-incrimination attaches, and is "fully applicable during a period of custodial interrogation." The Supreme Court requires police to comply with certain "prophylactic" procedures before questioning an individual in custody. "[T]hey must fully apprise the suspect of the State's intention to use his statements to secure a conviction, and must inform him of his rights to remain silent and to 'have counsel present . . . if [he] so desires.'" Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 420 (1986) (quoting Miranda at 468-70); accord Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428, 435 (2000). The Miranda requirements are constitutional, not simply an exercise of the Supreme Court's supervisory authority to regulate evidence. Dickerson, 530 U.S. at 438, 444.

Statements gathered without giving Miranda warnings carry an irrebuttable presumption of involuntariness and are inadmissible in the prosecution's case in chief, even if seemingly voluntarily made by other standards. Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298, 306 (1985). If a suspect unambiguously invokes his rights under Miranda, he is not subject to further interrogation until counsel is present or until he initiates further discussions. Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 484-85 (1981). However, if a suspect waives his right to counsel after receiving the Miranda warnings, law enforcement officers are free to question him. North Carolina v. Butler, 441 U.S. 369, 372-376 (1979). Further, although such statements may not be used in the government's case-in-chief, the statements may be used for impeachment purposes. United States v. Handlin, 366 F.3d 584, 592 (7th Cir. 2004).

An individual is "in custody" for Miranda purposes when "there is a formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest." California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125 (1983) (per curiam). The determination requires an objective, two-part inquiry: first, what were the circumstances surrounding the interrogation; and second, given those circumstances, would a reasonable person have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave. Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U.S. 99, 112 (1995) (internal quotations omitted), cited in Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652 (2004). The first prong is entirely factual ...


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