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United States v. Korbe

June 9, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge


Pending now before the Court is DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS NOVEMBER 19, 2008 STATEMENT TO LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS WHILE DETAINED AT THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT (Doc. # 91), the government's brief in opposition (Document No. 159), Defendant's brief in support to the motion to suppress (Document No. 189), the governments's response to Defendant's brief in support (Document No. 192), and the government's notice regarding a recent Supreme Court decision with supplemental authority in support of its response (Document No. 195). On April 15, 2010, an evidentiary hearing was ordered to consider Defendant's motion, and the hearing was conducted on May 4, 2010. All parties were represented by counsel who presented and argued the issues skillfully and effectively. The motion is now ripe for disposition.

Defendant moves to suppress the statements made by her while being interviewed by detectives from the Allegheny County Police Department homicide unit because, as she avers, her constitutional rights against self-incrimination and to counsel, as protected under the Fifth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, were violated. More particularly, Defendant argues that the law enforcement officers who conducted the interview did not honor her request for counsel, and further that any statement(s) provided were involuntary as a result of the conditions of her confinement before and during the course of her interview. (Document No. 91 at 3 - 4).


This criminal case arose out of the tragic shooting of Special Agent Samuel Hicks of the Federal Bureau of Investigation("FBI") shortly after 6:00 a.m. on November 19, 2008. On that date, Hicks and other law enforcement officers were attempting to execute an arrest warrant for Robert Ralph Korbe at the family home, which he shared with his wife, Christina Korbe ("Defendant") and their two young children. On November 19, 2008, at approximately 7:00 a.m., Defendant was taken into custody and transported to the Indiana Township Police Department in Allegheny County. At approximately 9:06 a.m., Defendant was transported to the Allegheny County Police Department for questioning. After being interviewed by officers, Defendant was arrested at approximately 11:25 a.m.

During the evidentiary hearing, testimony was received from FBI Special Agent Patrick McGlennon, Allegheny County Detectives Greg Matthews and Michael Garlicki, Officers Daniel Nudi and Mark Myers of the Indiana Township Police Department, and Officer Amanda Duncan of the Harmar Township Police Department. The Court also received stipulations of expected testimony from Special Agent Vijay Nemani with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Depul Garg, M.D., and Michaelene Forrester, R.N. The Court admitted into evidence the following exhibits: government exhibits A (a video recording of Defendant as she was held at the Indiana Township Police Department) and B (a copy of the Allegheny County Police form R12 executed on November 19, 2008), and Defendant's exhibits 1 (a copy of Defendant's arrest report), 2 (a copy of Special Agent McGlennon's handwritten notes taken during Defendant's interview), 3 (diagram drawn by hand during Defendant's interview), 4 (Allegheny County police report authored by Detective Miller), and 5 (photograph of the Korbe residence). Based upon the testimony and evidence presented during the suppression hearing and applicable law, the Court issues the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(d). For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the Defendant's motion.

1. On November 19, 2008, Defendant was interviewed by Allegheny County Detectives Matthews and Miller and FBI Special Agent Patrick McGlennon at the Allegheny County Police Headquarters.*fn1

2. Defendant arrived at the Allegheny County Police Department headquarters at approximately 9:00 a.m.

3. The interview of Defendant began at approximately 10:07 a.m.

4. During the time between her arrival at the headquarters and the start of the interview, Defendant was afforded the opportunity to use the restroom, and the clothes she was wearing were exchanged for a jumpsuit.

5. Shortly after shooting Special Agent Hicks, but before being taken into custody by the police that morning, Defendant telephoned the Allegheny County 911 Center and gave a description of what was occurring. That call was recorded.

6. Prior to interviewing Defendant at the Allegheny County Police headquarters, Detective Matthews and Special Agent McGlennon listened to the 911 recording. The Allegheny County 911 Center is located in the same complex as the Allegheny County Police Department.

7. The interview of Defendant occurred in Interview Room No. 2, a room approximately ten feet by ten feet in dimension, well lighted, and was furnished with a grey metal grey desk in the center and several chairs.

8. Four people were present during the course of the interview, Defendant, Detectives Matthews and Miller, and Special Agent Patrick McGlennon.

9. Defendant was seated at the desk with her back to the door.

10. The temperature in the interview room was comfortable and was consistent with the temperature throughout the police headquarters.

11. The three officers were seated across from Defendant, with Detective Matthews sitting at the desk directly across from her, Special Agent McGlennon behind and to the right of Detective Matthews, and Detective Miller seated to the left of Detective Matthews at the corner of the table.

12. Defendant wore no handcuffs during the interview, but one leg was shackled to a spot on the floor in front of the desk.

13. Prior to the start of the interview, Defendant was offered food, drink, and facial tissues. Defendant declined the offer of food, but accepted a cup of water and tissues.

14. Prior to the start of the interview, Defendant was advised that a restroom was available for her use if she so requested. Defendant did not request to use the restroom at that point, nor did she request to use the restroom during the course of the interview.

15. Before taking a seat at the start of the interview, Defendant advised the officers that she had a "prior back problem", and asked to be seated for the interview in a chair that supported her back. A chair with a cushioned seat and a cushioned back was provided, and Defendant made no further reference to her back problem or the type of chair in which she was seated. Defendant did not indicate that she was suffering from back pain at the start of, or during, the interview. Defendant's reference to this condition was expressed in a context that it was one that she incurred at some undefined point prior to the day's events.*fn2

16. Prior to the start of the interview, Defendant was advised of her constitutional rights as those rights were iterated by the Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)(Defendant's "Miranda rights") through Allegheny County Police Department form R12, a single page, written form.

17. Paragraphs 1 through 4 on the upper portion of the form provides the following advisements: that Defendant had the right to remain silent; Defendant was informed that anything she said can and would be used against her in a court of law; that she had the right to have an attorney present; and that an attorney would be appointed for her in the event that she could not afford one. These advisements were read aloud to Defendant.

18. Paragraph 5 of the form was a question "Do you understand each of these rights I've explained to you? Yes or no."

19. That question was read aloud to Defendant, who responded in the affirmative that she did understand each of the rights listed in paragraphs 1 through 4.

20. Paragraph 6 read, "Having these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me now? Yes or no."

21. That question was read aloud to Defendant, who responded in the affirmative that she was willing ...

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