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United States v. Barfield

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

October 15, 2019

THOMAS BARFIELD, et al., Defendants.



         Defendant Barfield's motion to reconsider [251] is granted. Defendant Barfield"s motion to suppress [238] is denied.


         Defendant Thomas Barfield ("Defendant" or "Barfield") has moved to suppress his post-arrest statements made to law enforcement during a roughly five-hour interrogation on June 28, 2018. Barfield had been arrested earlier that day after a more than year-long federal narcotics investigation in Chicago's Austin neighborhood, which resulted in the present ten-defendant drug distribution and money laundering conspiracy case. The interrogation began at about 7:15 a.m., and about three-and-a-half hours of the questioning was audio recorded.[1]

         Barfield makes two arguments for suppression, each of which draws directly from the audio recording of the interrogation, which the Court has reviewed. First, Barfield argues that roughly two-hours, 41-minutes into the interrogation he invoked his right to remain silent and, despite that invocation, officers continued to question him. The Government stated in response that it will not rely on any statements made after that alleged invocation, and thus this argument is moot for purposes of this motion and any statements made after the two-hour, 41-minute mark of the interrogation will not be entered into evidence. See Dkt. 269 at 2. Second, Barfield argues that the interrogating officers made a false promise that there was a "way out" of prosecution for Barfield and that this false promise, combined with psychological pressure related to the fate of his former intimate partner and co-defendant Quiera Walls, had the effect of rendering all of Barfield"s statements coerced. As to this second argument, the Court disagrees, and for the following reasons Defendant's motion to suppress is denied.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND

         The relevant facts are as follows. On June 27, 2018, the Government filed a complaint charging Defendant with conspiring with others to possess with intent to distribute more than a kilogram of heroin and a quantity of fentanyl from December 2017 to May 2018. On the morning on June 28, 2018, Defendant was arrested pursuant to a warrant. Following his arrest, at approximately 7:15 a.m., Barfield was taken in for questioning with Special Agents Hagee and Denwitz of the Department of Homeland Security. The agents asked whether Barfield had been arrested before and whether he understood his rights, to which he responded yes. Tr. 5:11-14. Agent Denwitz then read Barfield his rights and stated that if he understood his rights he should print and sign his name to a Miranda waiver form, which he did. Tr. 6:15-7:9. The agents began asking Barfield biographical questions, including his age (36), the number of children he had (seven), about his girlfriend (Alice), and what he did for a living (he had previously worked in waste management but had been out of work for a year). See Tr. 7-11.

         The agents then transitioned to a discussion of what had been going on historically at the corners of S. Homan Ave. and W. Douglas Blvd, where agents had been investigating alleged narcotics trafficking. Tr. 16. The agents began showing Barfield photos of various individuals and asking him to identify them. Tr. 20-34. The tenor of the conversation shifted, however, when the agents played Barfield audio of a conversation that Barfield had had that law enforcement had recorded. Tr. 34:11. Agent Hagee then asked Barfield whether the investigation was bigger than Barfield had originally thought, to which Barfield expressed some surprise that earlier in the conversation Hagee had said that Barfield was normally a sharp dresser, from which Barfield said he inferred that he was being surveilled. Hagee then said the following:

Mr. Hagee: . . . Here's the thing. There's - there may be a way out of this. Okay? I know you're not all the way at the top, but I know you're above Socks; right? You're in the middle. I know there's people above you; there's people below you; right?
Mr. Barfield: [Inaudible]
Mr. Hagee: Okay. So this is going to be - well, let's kind of hit the restart button on this. All right? There may be a way for you to sort of help yourself-
Mr. Barfield: You got a lot of Mexicans up in there. I don't know no Mexicans.
Mr. Hagee: We'll get to that. That's where you come in. That's where you might be able to help.

Tr. 35:12-36:2, Hagee then said he wanted to go through some of the same photographs he had already shown Barfield, and Barfield stated that he had already told the agents their names. Denwitz then said:

Ms. Denwitz: ... it takes time to start to build the relationship. So we - we're not, like, accusing you. We're not telling you, like, we're pissed that that happened that you - we expect that and we get it. And, like, we understand you don't us yet either. So that's why we're, like, here -
Mr. Barfield: I didn't say I don't trust you all.
Ms. Denwitz: But, I mean, that's how it is. I don't trust you right away. Like we're going to communicate and figure things out together. We understand why you're being a little vague. Now, we kind of put more cards on the table, and so we're going to give you an opportunity to work with us. That's your biggest opportunity. You know what I'm saying? So we're going to give you the opportunity to work with us, and we'll go over some of these photos and. you know . . .
Mr. Barfield: Okay.

Tr. 36:2-37:14. Next, Barfield expressed concern that after the warrant had been executed that morning the house may have been left accessible to potential burglars, and the agents stated that the house would have been secured following the arrest. Tr. 39:16-17. After a brief back and forth, the agents played another audio recording for Barfield, this one from January 16, according to the agent. See Tr. 40-41. Barfield and the agents then began talking about heroin. Id. Almost immediately after talking about heroin, the following exchange occurred:

Mr. Hagee: Okay. What's a pack of heroin?
Mr. Barfield: They call it 13 packs. I mean, like I said, you all helping me [inaudible] can be used against me. [inaudible].
Mr. Hagee: It's both. Okay? So it's kind of a double-edged sword. You got to talk to us in order ...

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