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United States v. Richardson

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 14, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MARSHA RICHARDSON, Defendant

Page 121

For MARSHA RICHARDSON, Defendant: Shawn Franklin Moore, LEAD ATTORNEY, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER FOR D.C., Washington, DC.

For USA, Plaintiff: Karla-Dee Clark, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

Page 122

MEMORANDUM OPINION

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, United States District Judge.

Defendant Marsha Richardson is charged in an indictment with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (Indictment, ECF No. 3.) Pending before the Court is Richardson's motion to suppress statements that she allegedly made to police on January 24, 2014, during the execution of a search warrant at her residence. (Mot. to Suppress Stmt. & Mem. in Supp. Thereof (" Def.'s Mot." ), ECF No. 8; see Stmt. of Facts, Ex. 1 to Compl., ECF No. 1-1.) Richardson contends that her statements admitting to gun possession must be suppressed because they were obtained in violation of her rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), which requires suppression of statements that are the product of " custodial interrogation" in the absence of Miranda warnings. (Def.'s Mot. at 2.) The Court held an evidentiary hearing on March 27 and 28, 2014, and heard testimony from two police officers who executed the search warrant and heard the statements at issue. As explained below, this Court concludes that, although Richardson was being held in custody during the search, the incriminating statements that Richardson made were not the product of police interrogation. Consequently, her motion to suppress those statements must be DENIED. A separate order consistent with this opinion will follow.

I. FACTUAL FINDINGS

The following facts were established at the suppression hearing. For the purposes of this suppression motion and except as otherwise noted, the basic facts preceding Richardson's challenged statements are not in dispute.[1]

On January 24, 2014, at about 6:00 A.M., a team of approximately 14 law enforcement officers who were employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (" FBI" )

Page 123

and the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ) executed a search warrant at an apartment in the Southeast quadrant of D.C. (Preliminary Transcript of March 27, 2014, Suppression Hearing (" Hr'g Tr. I" ) at 9, 35.)[2] FBI Special Agent Christopher Ray (" Agent Ray" ) led the law enforcement team that day, and Agent Ray was among the five or six officers who first approached the door to the apartment. ( Id. at 31-32.) Agent Ray knocked on the apartment door and announced the police presence twice. ( Id. at 11.) Hearing no response, the officers forced entry into the apartment using a battering ram to take down the door. ( Id. at 32-33.)

When the police forcibly entered, it was dark inside the apartment, and the home was lit only with lights mounted to the officers' weapons, which were drawn for the officers' safety. ( Id. at 11, 13, 33.) Upon entering the house with their weapons visible, the officers loudly identified themselves as police and ordered the inhabitants of the apartment to " come out" with their " hands in the air." ( Id. at 12.) In compliance with the officers' commands, Richardson and another individual, William Hill, came out of a back bedroom with their hands up, and proceeded toward the officers, coming down a hallway from the master bedroom into the living room. ( Id. at 12-13, 33.) Officers pointed their guns at Richardson and Hill ( Id. at 13, 33) until both individuals had been handcuffed with their hands behind their backs and searched for weapons. ( Id. at 14-15.) At that point, the officers holstered their weapons, turned on the lights in the apartment, and directed Richardson and Hill to the living room, where they were placed sitting on a couch and a chair within five feet of one another. ( Id. at 15.) While seated, Richardson and Hill were still handcuffed behind their backs and had a clear view of each other. ( Id. at 15, 48-49.) The officers then began to search the apartment. ( Id. at 16.)

It is undisputed that the search warrant had been issued to target Hill, who the Government believed was part of a larger drug conspiracy. ( See id. at 9, 17.) The search warrant authorized the officers to search the apartment where Hill was known to be staying and to seize drugs and guns. ( See id. at 17.) After entering the apartment and securing Richardson and Hill, the officers commenced their search for those items. ( See id. at 16.) By that point, most of the 14 officers were in the apartment, and at least one officer remained in the living room with Richardson and Hill at all times. ( Id. at 34-35.)

Five to ten minutes after securing Richardson and Hill, and while other officers continued the search, Agent Ray returned to the living room to speak with Hill. ( Id. at 17-18, 35.) Agent Ray faced Hill directly, and he notified Hill that the basis of the search warrant was Hill's relationship with another individual who was the subject of an ongoing drug investigation, and in particular, Hill's history of drug transactions with that individual. ( Id. at 17-18.) Hill admitted to knowing the person Agent Ray mentioned, but denied that his " business" with that person should have any bearing on the search of the apartment. ( Id. at 18.) During this conversation, there was no background noise in the living room, and Richardson remained seated on a chair a few feet away. ( Id. at 18.) Agent Ray did not speak to Richardson at that time, nor did she say anything to him. ( Id. )

Page 124

Sometime after that conversation, approximately ten minutes into the search, MPD Detective Lavinia Quigley (" Detective Quigley" ) entered the apartment. ( Id. at 47.) Detective Quigley was one of the officers who had remained outside when the door was breached and the warrant was initially executed. ( Id. at 46, 60.) Although dressed in plain clothes, Detective Quigley was armed and wore a mask that covered her face, showing only her eyes, in order to protect her identity. ( Id. at 46.)[3] When she was outside of the apartment, Detective Quigley's role was to activate the emergency lights on a police car and to provide " outside detainment" ( id. at 45), which generally meant ensuring that none of the occupants of the apartment fled or no evidence was tossed out of the windows. ( Id. at 61.) Detective Quigley testified that she was also present at the scene that day in order to assist generally with the search. ( Id. at 45.)

It was approximately 10 minutes after the initial team of officers entered the apartment that Detective Quigley also went inside. ( Id. at 47.) Detective Quigley approached Richardson and asked her to provide basic background information so that Detective Quigley could run a warrant check. ( Id. at 50.)[4] Richardson calmly provided the requested information, and Detective Quigley left the apartment to run a check using the information Richardson provided. ( Id. at 50.)

Approximately 20 minutes into the search, the searching officers found a black .38-caliber pistol wrapped in a pink washcloth in a black purse at the bottom of a laundry basket in the corner of the master bedroom. ( Id. at 19-20.) The officers found men's clothing in the laundry basket on top of the purse, along with several other items that appeared to belong to Hill, including mail matter and other documentation. ( Id. ) Suspecting that the gun belonged to Hill ( id. at 42), Agent Ray returned to the living room to speak with Hill once again. ( Id. at 20.) Agent Ray told Hill that the officers had found the gun and questioned Hill about whether it belonged to him and why he had it. ( Id. ) When Hill answered that the gun was not his, Agent Ray responded that Hill was on parole for a felony and that possession of a gun could have serious consequences for him. ( Id. at 21.) Hill repeated that the gun was not his and he did not know whose it was. ( Id. ) Just like the first conversation, while Agent Ray spoke to Hill, Richardson remained seated just a few feet away. ( Id. ) After speaking to Hill, Agent Ray resumed the search, without asking Richardson any questions about the gun or saying anything else to her. ( Id. at 22.)

Richardson's First Statement

Shortly after the exchange between Agent Ray and Hill, Detective Quigley, who had been outside running the records check, returned to the apartment. ( See id. at 50.) She learned that the searching officers had discovered a gun. ( See id. at 66, 75.) Another officer also informed her that Richardson had asked to use the bathroom. ( Id. at 51.) As one of the few female officers on the search team ( see id. at 63), Detective Quigley removed ...


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