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United States v. Drayton

November 24, 2009


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




Defendant is charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The Indictment charges that "[i]n and around the summer of 2005, in the Western District of Pennsylvania, the defendant, Stephone Quinton Drayton, . . . , did knowingly possess in and affecting interstate commerce, a .45 caliber Taurus pistol, after having been convicted of [two offenses in 2002 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County] punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . ." Indictment (Doc. No. 2).

Before the Court is defendant's motion to suppress statements he made to investigators at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institute ("SCI") in Graterford, Pennsylvania, on August 9, 2006. After careful consideration of the motion to suppress, the government's proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, the transcript of the suppression hearing of December 11, 2008, and defendant's supplemental post-hearing brief in support of suppression, the Court finds that defendant's statement was made after he had been advised of his Miranda rights, that he implicitly waived his rights, that the waiver was knowing and intelligent, and that his statement was voluntary. The Court will, therefore, deny the motion to suppress.

Suppression Hearing

This Court conducted a suppression hearing on defendant's motion to suppress (doc. no. 50) any statements he made to investigators who interviewed him while he was in custody in a state prison facility. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF") Special Agent ("SA") Maurice Ferentino testified at the hearing about the circumstances surrounding the taking of the statement at SCI-Graterford, where defendant was serving state time for offenses against the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. See Notes of Testimony of December 12, 2008 ("NT") (Doc. No. 80) at 4-38.

SA Ferentino and City of Pittsburgh Police Detective Steven Hitchings were investigating the August 23, 2005 shooting homicide of Aaron Eleazor in the City of Pittsburgh. SA Ferentino testified that on December 28, 2005, a .45 caliber Taurus pistol was seized during an arrest that the Allegheny County Crime Lab ballistically matched to the firearm used to kill Mr. Eleazor. The firearm was traced back to its purchaser, Douglas Freeman, who, on March 9, 2006, told the investigators that defendant had stolen it from his residence along with his vehicle and some clothing. Mr. Freeman also told the investigators that "he had heard that Mr. Drayton had disposed of that firearm to two black males who resided in the McKees Rocks area." NT (Doc. No. 80) at 6-7.

After determining from his criminal history that Mr. Drayton was a potential felon in possession and tracking down his whereabouts, SA Ferentino and Detective Hitchings drove east to SCI-Graterford. Defendant was never a suspect in the homicide, because he had been incarcerated before and at the time of the murder. SA Ferentino testified that they met defendant in a small interview room containing only a table and two chairs, somewhere at SCI-Graterford SCI. At the commencement of the interview, which was not recorded, SA Ferentino showed defendant his identification and read the standard Miranda warnings to defendant from a card that SA Ferentino always carried. SA Ferentino stated that he read the Miranda rights to defendant only because he was incarcerated, not because he was a suspect in the homicide investigation.

Defendant did not sign any written waiver of his Miranda rights. Defendant indicated he had been expecting to hear from investigators because Mr. Freeman told him about the homicide investigation and his connection with the murder weapon. SA Ferentino explained to defendant that they "weren't there to get him into any further trouble," only to get information about the homicide. Id. at 27-29.

The investigators laid out two photo arrays of suspects on the table for defendant to examine. Defendant refused to cooperate and refused to name the person to whom he had given or disposed of the gun; however, "he was cooperative in the fact that he admitted to his . . . association with Mr. Freeman, admitted to possession of the firearm, and admitted to getting rid of it sometime prior to his incarceration prior to, to August of 2005." Id. at 33.

On cross-examination, the following exchange took place: [BY DEFENSE COUNSEL]

Q: And when you got there, did you . . . and Detective Hitchings both introduce yourself to Mr. Drayton? [SA FERENTINO]

A: Yes.

Q: And you informed him you were investigating a homicide?

A: Yes. In fact, your client had advised that he knew what we were investigating because he had spoken with Mr. Freeman prior to our arrival.

Q: Did you inform him that he was not a suspect in the homicide?

A: Yes.

Q: Was that before or after you read the Miranda rights?

A: After.

Q: So, you, initially, read the Miranda rights to him; correct?

A: Yes.

Q: Is that what was -- was that the first thing you did when you walked in the room?

A: No. We introduced ourselves to him and then, after we told him who we were, I showed him identification. Then, I read him his Miranda rights from the card.

Then, at that point, he was asking questions as to why we were there. We said we would explain that to him once we got into the room and sat down.

Once we got into the room, sat down, then we explained exactly why we wanted to talk to him. We explained to him he was not a suspect in the homicide.

We further explained to him that we weren't there to get him into any further trouble. Although, he was a convicted felon and possession of a gun is a serious crime when you are a felon.

Q: But you told him you were not there to get him into any trouble?

A: Any additional trouble. We were looking for his help as a witness in a homicide case.

Q: Did you use the term, any additional trouble?

A: I don't know exactly what term we used. He was in trouble, obviously. He was in ...

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