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United States v. Vue

July 1, 2010


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



Introduction 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 "on or about July 30, 2008, in the Western District of Pennsylvania," defendant, "after having been convicted on or about February 19, 1998 in the United States Court for the District of Minnesota, of the crime of conspiracy to manufacture a firearm, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, did knowingly possess in and affecting interstate commerce a Model 500C, 20 gauge, Mossberg shotgun." Doc. no. 1.

Before the Court is defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements (doc. no. 52) he made on July 30, 2008, February 13, 2009, and May 13, 2009, on the grounds that those statements were obtained in violation of Mr. Vue's rights guaranteed by the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Defendant filed a response to said Motion (doc. no. 62). After carefully considering both submissions, this Court held a suppression hearing on June 30, 2010. Doc. no. 85.

Suppression Hearing

At the start of the suppression hearing, counsel for the Government informed the Court that it would not seek to use the July 30, 2008 and February 13, 2009 statements except for impeachment purposes. See Notes of Testimony ("NT") at doc. no. 86 p. 3. However, because the Government did intend to use the third statement, the one made on May 13, 2009, it presented evidence with respect to the May 13, 2009 statement. Id. Defense counsel had no objection but reserved the right to object should the Government attempt to use the July 30, 2008 and February 13, 2009 statements during trial. Id., p. 4. Accordingly, this Court denied defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements as moot as to the first two statements (i.e. the July 30, 2008 and February 13, 2009 statements) but granted defendant the right to renew their Motion to Suppress these two statements should the Government choose to use either or both of those statements at trial. Id.

Testimony Taken during the Suppression Hearing

After dispensing with preliminary matters, this Court conducted a suppression hearing on defendant's Motion to Suppress (doc no. 52 ) on the sole remaining statements -- those uttered by defendant on May 13, 2009. Id. The statements defendant made on that date were expressed in the presence of Derek Berger, a Deputy United States Marshal and member of the Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force, who testified at the hearing. Id., pp. 8-35. Importantly, Deputy Berger's sole function was to arrest and transport the defendant -- not investigate any crimes.

As explained by Deputy Berger, the Fugitive Task Force is comprised of ten or eleven members, six of which normally are Deputy United States Marshals, and is run by the United States Marshals Service. County sheriffs, city police, a state parole agent and a state trooper comprise the remainder of the task force. Id., p. 8. The purpose of the Task Force is to look for fugitives in city cases as well as federal cases.*fn1 Id., pp. 8-9.

Deputy Berger described his overall interaction with defendant as follows:


Q: Can you explain for us what occurred after you arrived with the Fugitive Task Force at 52 McKnight Street on May 13th.


A: We arrived there -- I guess it was roughly eight in the morning. It was my case. I went to the door with the members of the task force surrounding the house, the perimeter of the house. I went to the door and knocked.

A man answered the door. I believed it to be Vue's brother. I asked for Youa Vue, and he said he wasn't there.

I said we had reason to believe he was in there, could we search. He said come on in.

So as we went in the house, standard procedure, it being my case, I actually stayed with him and was questioning him because he told us he wasn't there -- Mr. Vue wasn't there. And the rest of the task force started to search. Roughly three to five minutes later I could hear the task force guys that were on the second floor calling him out, and then they -- they got Mr. Vue in custody.

Q: Okay. Explain for us, then, what happened after Mr. Vue was taken into custody -- I assume on the second floor of the residence.

A: They got him in custody, he comes down the stairs --they escort him down the stairs. We go outside; and also kind of standard procedure, as they put him in custody, he's handcuffed behind his back. When we go to transport him, we will switch him out with the belly chain, put his hands in front of him; so we did that, put him in the car to transport back here for processing and initial appearance.

Id., pp. 9-10.

According to Deputy Berger's testimony, the defendant's statements took place during the transport.


Q: Let me begin to -- again, I want to focus in on what we're, you know, essentially here for today. Did you participate in the transport of Mr. Vue from the location where he was arrested to some other location?

A: Yes. From -- from the West End, from 53 McKnight Street, when we were bringing him here to the courthouse for processing.

Q: And how long, based upon your knowledge of the area, would it take to drive from that location to the courthouse?

A: Roughly ten minutes.

Q: Okay. And how was he transported from that location to the courthouse?

A: It was in -- I was driving a Chevy Astro van, a caged vehicle. He was put in the back; and then as we were driving, he -- he made this statement.

Q: Okay. Let me -- prior to asking you what statement he made, explain for us whether there was anyone else in the vehicle during the transport.

A: Deputy Moorehead was with me in the passenger seat.

Q: Okay. And while you were transporting Mr. Vue, were you or Deputy Moorehead having any conversation with him or was he making, you know, any statements back to you or anything of that nature?

A: No. There was no conversation. I know I was -- I didn't -- I wasn't talking. I didn't want to say anything. I had an informant in this case, which I was, I don't know, being extra quiet because I didn't want to bring up any knowledge -- usually when we arrest people, they are usually saying: How did you get me? How did you know I was here? How did you know I was in Pittsburgh.

But none of that was said, and I wasn't -- I don't believe me and Joe or Deputy Moorehead were even talking to each other.

Q: Okay. Did Mr. Vue make a statement at any point during the transport to the courthouse?

A: Yes. He said: You guys didn't give me enough time to get to my AK.

Q: Okay. And what was your response to that?

A: I just said: What do you mean by that?

Q: And what was his response to your question?

A: He said: I have guns all over the place.

Q: Okay. Up until the point that he made the first statement about the AK, was that -- I want to make sure we are clear on this. Was that preceded by any question or statement whatsoever by yourself or Mr. Moorehead?

A: Not at all. Not at all.

Q: And when the statement was made about the AK, did you know specifically to what Mr. Vue was referring to?

A: I did not.

Q: Why did you ask him the question of what did he mean?

A: I mean it was -- it was -- there was not a conversation going on, and he just; he threw that out there. I just simply asked him what he meant by that.

Q: Because at that point you didn't know what he meant by it.

A: I didn't know what he meant.

Q: Okay. After he made the response then about having guns all over the place, did you continue then to speak with ...

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