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United States v. Knill

June 29, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


Presently before the court is a motion filed by defendant, Aaron Douglas Knill, to suppress his oral and written statements and the evidence obtained during a search of his residence. For the reasons that follow, the court will deny the motion.

I. Findings of Fact*fn1

On January 18, 2007, defendant was arrested by officers of the Frederick

Maryland Police Department pursuant to a federal arrest warrant issued by Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser. (Doc. 55 at 5, 11; Doc. 3.) The corresponding complaint charged defendant with bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113. (Doc. 1.) On February 6, 2007, defendant entered a plea of not guilty to the indictment, which charges defendant with: (1) armed bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a), (d), and (2) use of a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). (Docs. 11, 19). A superseding indictment, to which defendant entered a plea of not guilty, added a new count charging defendant with unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). (Docs. 32, 43.) Defendant subsequently filed the instant motion to suppress his oral and written statements as well as evidence obtained during a search of his residence. The court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the instant motion on May 4, 2007 (Doc. 50) and ordered supplemental briefing (Doc. 48). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

A. Oral and Written Statements

On the morning of January 18, 2007, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), Christopher T. Nawrocki ("Agent Nawrocki") became involved in the investigation of an armed bank robbery at the Mid Penn Bank in Hampden Township, Pennsylvania. An eyewitness provided information about a suspicious person leaving the bank and entering a vehicle. Through the license plate supplied by the eyewitness, Agent Nawrocki learned that Enterprise Rent-ACar ("Enterprise") owned the vehicle, a black Nissan Maxim, and that it was rented from their Frederick, Maryland location by defendant. Agent Nawrocki contacted the Enterprise location in Frederick and directed them to dial 911 if the vehicle was returned. (Doc. 55 at 52-55.)

At approximately 5:00 p.m. that day, Agent Nawrocki received a call from Enterprise informing him that the vehicle was at their Frederick location and that the local police department was on its way. (Id. at 55.) At the Enterprise location,*fn2 defendant attempted to make a payment on the vehicle by check. The clerk told defendant that the check was not clearing. After ten or fifteen minutes, defendant told the clerk he would get a cashier's check. When defendant turned to leave the rental agency, three Frederick police officers entered the agency and requested that defendant produce identification. The officers led defendant to believe that they were there because of an overdue payment on the rental vehicle. The officers did not give defendant his Miranda*fn3 rights and they cleared everyone out of the rental agency, including the employees. (Id. at 110-12.) At some point during questioning from the officers, defendant informed them that the address of his residence was 1513 Rosemont Avenue in Frederick, Maryland. (Doc. 61 at 21 n.7.) During the time defendant was at the Enterprise rental agency, Agent Nawrocki secured an arrest warrant for armed bank robbery and faxed it to the Frederick Police Department. Defendant was then arrested by the officers at Enterprise. (Doc. 55 at 55-56, 112.)

At the Frederick police office, two agents from Frederick's FBI office informed defendant that he was being charged with bank robbery and asked defendant if he wanted to speak to them. Defendant asked for an attorney and refused to waive his right to silence and his right to counsel. (Id. at 112-13; Gov't Ex. 47.)*fn4 Shortly thereafter, the agents presented defendant with a document stating:

I, Aaron Douglas Knill, have been informed that I am entitled to be presented to the closest U.S. Magistrate on my arrest warrant and that the closest U.S. Magistrate is in Baltimore, Maryland.

I have been advised that FBI Agents from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, are available to return me to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, tomorrow, January 19, 2007.

I prefer to return to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and waive my right to be presented to a U.S. Magistrate in Baltimore, Maryland. (Gov't Ex. 57.)*fn5 Defendant signed this document and was then taken to the Frederick County Adult Detention Center. (Doc. 55 at 56, 115.)

During his time at the detention center, defendant appeared before a state commissioner and was read a Request for Temporary Commitment document, which stated that "there exists probable cause to believe that Aaron Douglas Knill . . . violated Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 2113, i.e., bank robbery." (Def. Ex. 2; Doc. 55 at 115-16.) The document also informed defendant of his right to remain silent and his right to counsel. (Def. Ex. 2.) Defendant was ultimately transferred to a holding cell where, according to defendant, he attempted to hang himself twice during the night with his shoe strings.*fn6 (Doc. 55 at 116-17.)

On the morning of January 19, 2007, Agent Nawrocki and Agent Christopher Bean traveled to the Frederick Police Department and spoke with Detective Sergeant Bruce DeGrange ("Detective Sergeant DeGrange") about the previous night's search of defendant's residence. See infra Part II.B. Detective Sergeant DeGrange gave the agents photographs and the evidence seized during the search. The agents then went to the detention center and took defendant in their custody. (Doc. 55 at 56-57.) During the hour and a half trip back to Harrisburg, the agents did not question defendant about the Mid Penn Bank robbery or his whereabouts on the prior day.*fn7 (Id. at 58-59.)

Once in Harrisburg, the agents put defendant in the booking room. (Id. at 61.) After being given water and a granola bar, the following exchange between Agent Nawrocki and defendant took place:

(1) Agent Nawrocki asked defendant about the red marks on his neck and defendant responded: "You know what they're from." (Id. at 70.) Agent Nawrocki replied that he knew where the marks came from and advised defendant that he was not charged with a capital offense and would not face the death penalty. (Id. at 69-70, 81, 118.)

(2) Defendant then stated: "I'm worried about what's going to happen to me. I'm wondering what's going to happen to me." (Id. at 61.)

(3) Agent Nawrocki informed defendant that the agents could not speak with him about the case because defendant had invoked his right to counsel. Agent Nawrocki then asked defendant if defendant was willing to talk with them and told defendant that he would re-advise defendant of his rights if defendant was willing to talk. (Id. at 62.)

(4) Agent Nawrocki indicated that defendant could help himself by speaking with the agents. (Id. at 84.)

(5) Defendant stated he was willing to talk and the agents re-advised him of his rights by reading a standard FBI Advice of Rights form.*fn8 (Id. at 62-63.)

(6) Defendant informed Agent Nawrocki that he waived his rights and was willing to speak with the agents. He also signed the FBI Advice of Rights form.*fn9 (Id. at 62, 64; Gov't Ex. 51.)

After waiving his rights, defendant asked about the charges against him. Agent Nawrocki told defendant that he was being charged with armed bank robbery.*fn10 Then, over the course of forty-five minutes to an hour, the agents questioned defendant and defendant confessed to robbing the Mid Penn Bank and gave details about the robbery.*fn11 (Doc. 55 at 65-66.) Agent Nawrocki informed defendant that the employees of the bank were scared and that defendant could write an apology letter to them. Defendant then wrote an apology letter to the bank's employees. (Id. at 67; Gov't Ex. 52.)

B. Search of Residence

Detective Sergeant Bruce C. DeGrange ("Detective Sergeant DeGrange") of the Frederick Police Department became involved in this case after learning that other officers were detaining defendant at the local Enterprise rental agency. (Doc. 55 at 4, 9.) Based upon information he received from the officers at Enterprise and officers who he sent to the residence, Detective Sergeant DeGrange prepared an application for a search warrant. (Id. at 11, 16.) The application states, in pertinent part:

TO BE SEARCHED: Single family rancher style residence and garage located at 1513 Rosemont Avenue, Frederick City/County Maryland. Further described as having a brick exterior and a single vehicle detached garage ...

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