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United States v. Lee

April 25, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JOSEPH R. LEE



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

ELECTRONICALLY FILED

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A federal grand jury indicted defendant, Joseph Lee, in a one-count indictment that alleging he, being a convicted felon, possessed a firearm in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(g)(1). On June 22, 2007, defendant filed a Motion to Suppress Statements (Document No. 48), and a Motion to Suppress Audio Tape (Document No. 49), alleging that (1) his statements after arrest on July 12, 2005 should be suppressed because they were not voluntary; and, (2) the audiotape recording of the police dispatch recording during his police chase on a date prior to his arrest (June 27, 2005) should be suppressed because it is inaudible and otherwise inadmissible under United States v. Starks, 515 F.2d 112 (3d Cir. 1975). A Suppression Hearing was held before this Court on October 5, 2007, during which the government called Lieutenant Kevin Kraus (hereinafter "Kraus") as its sole witness. After the Court ordered the parties to jointly have a transcript made of the audiotape recording in question, and a transcript was made, albeit by Kraus himself (over defendant's objection), on March 27, 2008, a Supplemental Suppression Hearing was held and the government presented the audiotape recording, with the aid of the transcript.

After hearing the testimony of Kraus, and after listening to the audiotape and reviewing the written transcript of the record, and after careful consideration of the government's Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, as well as the defendant's Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, this Court will deny defendant's Motions to Suppress (Document Nos. 48 and 49).

II. FINDINGS OF FACT

A. As to Statement:

1. Lieutenant Kraus, who has been a police officer for approximately 16 years, is a member of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, and oversees the major crime section of the investigations branch. (Transcript of Suppression Hearing ("S.H.") October 5, 2007 (Document No. 65) at 5-6).

2. On June 27, 2005, Kraus observed that defendant fled a traffic stop in the Hill District section of the city of Pittsburgh, and at that time, Kraus believed that there was probable cause for state firearms violations against the defendant.

3. However, Kraus was unable to arrest defendant on that particular date, and he obtained an arrest warrant for defendant on June 29, 2005. S.H. at 7. (The police dispatch audiotape of the police chase that ensued on that date is discussed in Section B below).

4. On July 12, 2005, while Kraus was working in his office at police headquarters at 1203 Western Avenue, he received information that the City of Pittsburgh Zone 2 police units and the City of Pittsburgh Housing Authority officers were in pursuit of defendant, and that they had him contained in an apartment at 2199 Elmore Square, Apartment 176. S.H. at 7.

5. Kraus then departed his office and when he arrived on the scene, he made plans with the special response team and other officers, and defendant was found in Apartment 176, while hiding in a couch which had the bottom portion cut out of it. S.H. at 8.

6. Defendant was then handcuffed at approximately 6:45 p.m., was transported by the Housing Authority Police immediately to Pittsburgh headquarters (Kraus' office), and he was placed in the homicide interview room. Kraus remained on the scene, where he obtained written consent to search Apartment 176 with other officers, and Kraus returned to headquarters approximately 45 to 60 minutes later. S.H. at 9.

7. When Kraus arrived at the headquarters, defendant was sitting alone shackled at a table in the homicide interview room, which is approximately eight or nine feet by six or seven feet in size, and has no windows and one door. S.H. at 11. Kraus could not recall whether defendant was also handcuffed but he testified that it would not be uncommon for a defendant to be handcuffed. S.H. at 11.

8. At approximately 7:42 p.m, Kraus then read defendant his Miranda warnings and presented defendant with a Miranda waiver form. Kraus went over the form with defendant and defendant consented, signing the form after each section, and indicating that he was willing to speak with Kraus. S.H. at 12-16, 18. The signed Miranda form was entered into evidence as Government's Exhibit 1.

9. Kraus then had a conversation which he described as "pretty cordial" with defendant about the incidents that took place on June 27, 2005. Kraus testified that defendant thanked Kraus for arresting a man by the name of Ernest Harris years ago because defendant believed that Harris had the intention of ...


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