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UNITED STATES v. SIBLEY

March 24, 1982

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Wilbur SIBLEY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODERICK

MEMORANDUM

On November 23, 1981, the United States Attorney for Eastern District of Pennsylvania filed a criminal information charging the defendant with mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341. The information alleges that the defendant, Deputy Health Officer of Plymouth Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, received payments through the mails from the operators of Moyer's Landfill in Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in return for his influencing Plymouth Township to do business with Moyer's Landfill.

 On January 4, 1982, the defendant filed with this Court a motion to suppress statements taken from him on May 20, May 26, and June 3, 1981, and all evidence, statements and testimony derived directly and indirectly, therefrom. For the reasons hereinafter set forth, the Court will deny defendant's motion.

 On March 24, 1982, the government having advised the Court that defendant Sibley had cooperated as required by the plea agreement, and the Court having reviewed the presentence report, the Court accepted the plea agreement and imposed upon the defendant a sentence of 25 months probation, with defendant to make restitution to Plymouth Township in the amount of $ 12,000 at the rate of $ 500 per month.

 On January 11, 1982, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on defendant's motion to suppress statements which he made. Called as witnesses by the government were Special Agent George E. Bramley, Jr. of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Criminal Investigator William E. Graff of the Environmental Protection Agency. The defendant also testified. There were only slight differences in the recollections of the witnesses. Based on the evidence presented at the hearing, the Court found the following facts.

 On May 20, 1981, Agents Bramley and Graff met outside the defendant's apartment house sometime between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. They knocked on the defendant's door and were admitted to the apartment by defendant Sibley. The agents identified themselves and told the defendant that they were investigating Moyer's Landfill. Mr. Sibley invited the agents into his living room to talk. They told him that their investigation of documents and interviews had led them to conclude that a significant amount of money had gone from Moyer's Landfill to Mr. Sibley personally on a regular basis and that they were visiting him to ascertain his explanation. Mr. Sibley denied receiving money from Moyer's or its representatives. He stated that he had once received a case of liquor as a gift and distributed it to other township employees. The agents told Mr. Sibley that if he cooperated with them his cooperation would be brought to the attention of the United States Attorney and that this would benefit him if he had taken money from Moyer's Landfill. Furthermore, the agents told Mr. Sibley that he would derive greater benefit from cooperating if he did so quickly. The agents did not give Mr. Sibley his Miranda warnings. Mr. Sibley had not been charged with any crime, was not under arrest, nor was he in custody at the time. As they departed, the agents gave to Mr. Sibley, Agent Bramley's telephone number with the suggestion that in the event he wished to tell them more he should telephone them.

 Later, on May 20, an unidentified person called the FBI office in Lansdale, Pennsylvania and asked to speak with Mr. Bramley, who was not in at the time. Mr. Sibley admitted to being that caller. (N.T. 42). On May 26, 1981, Mr. Sibley called Agent Bramley in the morning and arranged an appointment to see him that afternoon. At 1:30 p.m., the defendant and Agents Bramley and Graff met in the FBI office in Lansdale. Mr. Sibley said he wanted to tell them more about his involvement with Moyer's Landfill. He then asked, "What about immunity?" (N.T. 16).

 On June 3, 1981, Mr. Sibley joined the agents and Assistant United States Attorneys Peter Smith and Geoffrey Beauchamp in Mr. Smith's office in the United States Courthouse in Philadelphia. Mr. Smith told the defendant that the United States intended to prosecute him but would treat him as leniently as possible under the circumstances. (N.T. 23). As on the two previous occasions (the May 20 and May 26 meetings), the defendant was not given a Miranda warning. He was told, however, that he should retain counsel. The defendant was then shown a typed memorandum containing the statement which he made at the May 26 meeting in the FBI office in Lansdale. He made some corrections and then signed the memorandum. (N.T. 24).

 The defendant contends that the statements taken from him on May 20, May 26 and June 3, 1981, and all evidence, statements and testimony derived, directly and indirectly therefrom, should be suppressed because the aforesaid statements "were obtained in violation of the defendant's privilege against self-incrimination and in violation of due process of law," "were coerced and involuntarily made", were made without the assistance of counsel, and were made in response to statements of the government agents which overbore the defendant's will. In essence, the defendant contends that the totality of the circumstances surrounding the defendant's statements to the Agents makes the statements involuntary. The defendant relies upon Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 18 S. Ct. 183, 42 L. Ed. 568 (1897).

 It is well settled that in testing the voluntariness of a statement, the Court must determine whether the government's behavior was such as to overbear the defendant's will to resist and therefore bring about a statement not freely self-determined. Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 544, 81 S. Ct. 735, 741, 5 L. Ed. 2d 760 (1961); United States v. Pomares, 499 F.2d 1220, 1222 (2d Cir. 1974). In making such a determination, the Court must consider the entire set of circumstances resulting in the inculpatory statement. See Beckwith v. United States, 425 U.S. 341, 347-48, 96 S. Ct. 1612, 1616-17, 48 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1976); Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 749, 90 S. Ct. 1463, 1469, 25 L. Ed. 2d 747 (1970).

 The instant case presents a factual situation falling between the two extremes of an obviously voluntary statement given with no inducement and an obviously involuntary confession obtained under harsh custodial interrogation. Consequently, it is not surprising that neither the prosecution nor the defense has cited a case on all fours with the circumstances presented.

 Both parties agree that the defendant was not in custody during any of the three discussions with government's Agents. It is agreed that the government was not obligated to give Mr. Sibley a Miranda warning on any of the three occasions. Thus, the only question to be decided by the Court is whether the government's conduct reasonably induced the defendant to believe that in the event he gave a full and complete statement he would not be prosecuted. In other words, provided the circumstances herein presented Mr. Sibley with a reasonable basis for ...


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