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United States v. Korbe

June 9, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
CHRISTINA MARIE KORBE, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Pending now before the Court is DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS NOVEMBER 19, 2008 STATEMENT TO LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS WHILE DETAINED AT HER RESIDENCE (Document No. 92), and DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS NOVEMBER 25, 2008 STATEMENT TO AGENT OF OFFICE OF CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES WHILE IN ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL (Document No. 93). Also before the Court is the GOVERNMENT'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS NOVEMBER 19, 2008 STATEMENT TO LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS WHILE DETAINED AT HER RESIDENCE (Document No. 160), and GOVERNMENT'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS NOVEMBER 25, 2008 STATEMENT TO AGENT OF OFFICE OF CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES WHILE IN ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL (Document No. 161). On April 14, 2010, an evidentiary hearing was ordered to consider the 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 motions are now ripe for disposition.

Prior to the evidentiary hearing, the Court was provided with an update by the Government with respect to the evidence challenged in the motion to suppress filed at docket entry number 92, namely the statements allegedly made by the accused while detained in her residence on November 19, 2008. This update was provided subsequent to the Government's brief in opposition to the motion itself, which is contained in the record at docket entry 160.

More particularly, the Government informed the Defendant and the Court that it did not intend to offer into evidence the subject of that motion in its case in chief. The Government reiterated this position in open court on the record during the May 4, 2010 hearing, noting that the motion to suppress those statements was moot. The Defendant agreed. The Court concurs. In light of the Government's stated intention not to introduce the evidence challenged by Document No. 92, the Court will acknowledge that the motion and the need for an evidentiary hearing regarding the motion is moot.

The Court turns to the motion to suppress filed at Document No 93. Defendant moves to suppress the statements made by her to Ms. Joey Manual, a caseworker at the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families ("CYF"), because, as a "state actor", Ms. Manuel violated her rights under the Fifth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment. 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.

FINDINGS OF FACT

This criminal case arose out of the tragic shooting of FBI Special Agent Samuel Hicks 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. Defendant's motion to suppress statements made in the Allegheny County Jail on November 25, 2008, involves statements made by the Defendant to Ms. Joey Manuel, a CYF intake caseworker. Upon consideration of the evidence presented during the evidentiary hearing, the Court makes the following findings of fact:

1. Among other things, CYF is a child protection agency that is responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of children under the age of eighteen (18) in those cases that are reported to the agency.

2. Reports concerning the welfare of children are received by a call screening department within CYF, and the cases are then randomly assigned to a caseworker within the geographic region corresponding to the location of the children.

3. The identity of those who make reports to CYF regarding the welfare of children, referred to as a "reporting source", is kept confidential and not made known to the parents of the children.*fn1

3. Ms. Joey Manuel has been employed with CYF as an intake caseworker for eleven (11) years.

4. As an intake caseworker, Ms. Manuel's responsibilities in reported cases generally involve taking steps to assess the safety and well-being of a child in a given living arrangement, including making visits to a home in order to assess the child's environment, meeting with care-givers and parents, and participating in juvenile court proceedings.

5. CYF intake caseworkers who meet with people in the course of making assessments are required to report to law enforcement any disclosures made to them about any criminal act or event that involves the safety and well being of children.

6. CYF intake caseworkers who meet with people in the course of making assessments are not required to report to law enforcement any disclosures of criminal events or acts that do not implicate the safety and well being of children.

7. Several days prior to November 25, 2008, CYF apparently received a report which expressed concern over the living environment of Defendant's two young children.

8. At the time, Defendant's children were being cared for by Defendant's parents within the region covered by Ms. Manuel.

9. Ms. Manuel was assigned to the case of the Defendant's children.

10. Ms. Manuel visited the home of Defendant's parents in order to conduct an assessment prior to her November 25, 2008 meeting with Defendant at the Allegheny County Jail ("ACJ").

11. Ms. Manuel met with Defendant in the ACJ on November 25, 2008.

12. After entering the facility, Ms. Manuel was escorted to a visiting room on one of the upper floors of the jail, where she met with Defendant.

13. No corrections officer was present during the meeting, nor was Defendant in restraints during the meeting.

14. Both Defendant and Ms. Manuel were seated at the same round table during the meeting, with a chair between them.

15. After Defendant entered the visiting room, Ms. Manuel introduced herself and explained the purpose of her visit, which was to discuss the living arrangement of Defendant's two children.

16. More particularly, regarding the purpose of her visit and scope of what she was there to discuss, Ms. Manuel testified as such, "I made it clear to her that I was only there to discuss her children and their living environment, [and] not any of her pending charges or any of the incidents that had occurred."

17. Ms. Manuel asked Defendant if she was willing to discuss her children, to which Defendant acknowledged that Ms. Manuel was there to discuss Defendant's children, and agreed to talk with her.

18. Given the circumstances regarding the interview, namely that Defendant was incarcerated, currently confined to the Jail, and facing charges, Ms. Manuel further advised Defendant of her rights using form OCYF201A, "Individual Rights", a form that CYF employees refer to as the Miranda form.

19. Specifically, Defendant was advised of the following rights:

a. You have the right to remain silent.

b. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

c. You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have him/her present with you while you are being questioned.

d. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed you represent you free of charge before ...


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