United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion to suppress
statements [ECF No. 21]. The Court held an evidentiary
hearing on Defendant's motion and the parties filed
post-hearing memoranda [ECF Nos. 37 and 40]. Based upon the
arguments of the parties and the evidence adduced at the
hearing, the Court recommends denial of Defendant's
Government charged Defendant with three counts of violation
of 18 U.S.C. Section 641 (theft of government funds) [ECF No.
1]. The Government alleged that Defendant, who was deemed
eligible for the receipt of Social Security disability
payments in 1988, concealed from the Social Security
Administration: receipt of a $112, 000 insurance settlement;
the ability to work five days a week in his clothing store;
purchase of a Cadillac Escalade; ownership of a bank account
and receipt of a check from the Rebuild North County Fund.
The Government further alleged that Defendant fraudulently
received three Social Security checks for $733.00 each
(Counts 1, 2 and 3).
filed a Motion to Suppress Statements on the grounds that:
(1) he was subjected to a custodial interrogation without
agents advising him of his Miranda rights; and (2)
his statements were involuntary as a result of his
intellectual disability. In his post-hearing memorandum,
although Defendant reiterates that his statements were
involuntary because of his “low intelligence, ”
he appears to alter his argument with respect to
Miranda warnings, contending that because he
believed he was in custody, he was entitled to
Government opposes Defendant's motion on the grounds that
Defendant was not in custody and therefore was not entitled
to Miranda warnings. The Government also rejects the
assertion that Defendant's diminished mental capacity
either caused him to believe that he was in custody or
independently rendered his statements involuntary.
The arresting agents
Alexander, a special agent with the Social Security
Administration Office of Inspector General
(“OIG”) along with Agent Joel Ferris, also of the
Social Security Administration OIG, interviewed Defendant at
Defendant's business, King David Fashions, in August
2015. The business was a clothing shop. The agents conducted
the interview in midday. The agents did not advise Defendant
of his Miranda rights prior to the interview.
agents entered Defendant's business through an open front
door. The door remained unlocked throughout the exchange.
Both agents were armed but did not display their weapons.
Defendant was standing behind a counter as the agents
approached, and remained in that area during the interview.
The agents identified themselves as special agents with the
Social Security Administration. Agent Ferris advised that the
agents wished to discuss matters related to SSI (Supplemental
Security Income). At the commencement of the discussion,
Agent Ferris asked if Defendant would consent to an audio
recording of the interview. Defendant declined.
Defendant stated “he didn't want to talk about
it.” Agent Ferris further explained that
“[Defendant] didn't have to answer any questions
but he wanted to explain to him the information, evidence SSA
had . . . relevant to the investigation.” Next, Agent
Ferris explained that the investigation was about
after Agent Ferris started to explain the investigation,
Defendant “began to talk.” Immediately, Agent
Alexander interrupted Defendant and stated, “This is a
voluntary interview, do you want to continue to talk?”
After Agent Alexander reiterated that the interview was
voluntary, Defendant continued to speak to Agent Ferris,
stating, “[y]es, I want to speak to him.”
Alexander acknowledged that he was aware that Defendant
received benefits because of a “mental
diagnosis.” Agent Alexander also recalled asking
Defendant if he knew right from wrong and Defendant replying,
“I knew it was wrong but how am I going to
survive.” In addition, Agent Alexander testified that
Defendant stated, “Let me make ...