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United States v. Hampton

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 21, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Walker L. Hampton, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued February 28, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 15-cr-40023-001-Sara Darrow, Judge.

          Before Manion, Sykes, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM.

         Walker Hampton was caught breaking into a trucking business and later confessed to robbing a nearby post office as well. He was charged in a four-count indictment. He then entered a conditional guilty plea and was sentenced to 132 months' imprisonment. Hampton reserved his right to appeal two issues that he now presents, arguing: (1) that robbing a person in lawful custody of United States property, see 18 U.S.C. § 2114(a), is not a "crime of violence" under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), and (2) that his motion to suppress his recorded confession should have been granted because he was questioned after he invoked his right to counsel. We affirm the judgment because Hampton's first argument is foreclosed by our precedent, and his second is meritless because Hampton did not clearly express a present desire to consult with counsel before talking with law enforcement.

         I. Background

         On January 24, 2015, Hampton robbed a post office in Taylor Ridge, Illinois, at gunpoint. The employees handed over $34 and seven books of stamps worth $68.60. Hampton also took the employees' wallets. A month later, he was arrested after breaking into Mack Trucking in Viola, Illinois. When sheriff's deputies searched Hampton's home, they found three firearms that he was not allowed to possess because of a prior felony conviction. Two of the guns had been stolen.

         After arresting Hampton, the deputies took him to the Mercer County Sheriff's Office. Deputy Eric Holton, Deputy Dusty Terrill, and Deputy Jessie Montez sat down to talk with Hampton. Terrill first gave an introduction and informed Hampton that they were recording the conversation. Hampton interjected and said: "Actually, I want to change that. I haven't even gotten a chance to get a lawyer or anything."

         At that point, Terrill left the room to turn off the video recorder and then, according to Holton's uncontradicted testimony at the suppression hearing, went back into the room and explained to Hampton why they wished to record the Miranda process. Holton and Terrill left the room and discussed for five to ten minutes whether Hampton had invoked his right to counsel. They concluded that he had not. The officers then returned and, with the recorder still off, advised Hampton of his rights. At some point during that discussion, Hampton said: "Maybe I should have a lawyer." Terrill explained that Hampton had the right to have an attorney present. Holton did not recall exactly what Hampton said in response, but he testified that he and his colleagues interpreted it as permission to continue the interview and record it. Hampton does not contest that he was informed of his rights, and that he agreed to proceed with the interview without counsel.

         The recording resumed. After Terrill read Hampton his Miranda rights, Hampton signed a form saying he understood those rights and waived them. Hampton then confirmed that he had not been threatened or received any promises while the recording was off. Hampton confessed to stealing scrap metal, copper tubing, and wires from empty houses and an old school, but he denied robbing the post office. After a laborious ninety minutes of questioning, Hampton confessed to the post office robbery.

         A grand jury indicted Hampton for robbing federal property, see 18 U.S.C. § 2114(a), brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, see 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii), being a felon in possession of firearms, see 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and possessing stolen firearms, see 18 U.S.C. § 922(j).

         Before trial Hampton moved to dismiss the § 924(c) charge because, he argued, robbery of federal property is not a crime of violence since it can be accomplished by "intimidation." The district judge denied the motion.

         Hampton also moved to suppress his confession. Hampton contended that he unequivocally invoked his right to counsel by saying "Actually, I want to change that, I haven't even gotten a chance to get a lawyer or anything." The district judge denied the motion because she found the statement ambiguous.

         Hampton entered into a plea agreement but reserved his right to appeal the denial of his ...


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