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United States of America v. Mikel D. Jones

September 8, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MIKEL D. JONES



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schiller, J.

MEMORANDUM

In a ten-count superseding indictment, Mikel Jones is charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. The Government contends that Jones misused loan proceeds intended to help expand his law firm by utilizing the money for personal use, including buying sports tickets and paying his personal credit card bills. As part of the investigation into these allegations, FBI agents executed a search warrant at Jones's Florida residence on January 19, 2011. On that day, FBI agents also spoke with Jones and wife. Jones claims that he was in custody when he was interrogated, and because he was never informed of his Miranda rights, his statements to agents must be suppressed. The Court holds that Jones was not subjected to a custodial interrogation on January 19, 2011, and therefore denies his motion to suppress.

I. BACKGROUND

On January 19, 2011, federal agents executed a search warrant on the home of Mikel Jones. As to what happened on that day, the parties agree on few details; in addition to the search of his home, agents either had a voluntary discussion with Jones and his wife about the loan Jones received for his law firm or they improperly violated his Miranda right when they interrogated him.

FBI agent Richard J. Haag testified for the Government at the suppression hearing. On the day in question, Agent Haag arrived with Agent John Maser at approximately 7:15 a.m., while Jones was at home with his wife and daughter. Jones's daughter answered the door, and after the agents identified themselves, Jones's daughter informed her father of the agents' presence. When Jones came to the door, the agents identified themselves and asked if they could speak with him about a loan he received from the Philadelphia Commercial Development Corporation. Jones invited them in and the three men went into the living room. At this time, the Jones's home security camera was on and captured the dining and living rooms. Jones asked if the agents would wait to question him until his daughter left the home. The agents honored the request. The video showed Jones's wife in the living room for a period of time before she left the area. Additionally, Jones was seen leaving the living room unescorted on two occasions, once to get his reading glasses.

The interview of Jones began at approximately 7:45 a.m. Agents talked with Jones for approximately one and one half hours before informing him that they had a search warrant for the premises. When agents informed Jones of the warrant, Jones asked agents if he could speak with his wife, which he did. A few moments later, Jones and his wife asked for privacy so they could pray. The agents agreed. Although the interview began with only Agents Haag and Maser in the home, additional agents -- approximately ten in total -- came on the scene to conduct the search.

At some point, agents learned that their encounter with Jones was being videotaped. They instructed Jones to shut off the surveillance camera, purportedly because there were undercover agents in the home. Although Jones was reluctant to turn off the security camera, he complied when agents insisted and informed him that if he did not shut off the camera, an agent would.

Jones was defensive at various points in the interview, but Agent Haag described the tenor of the questioning as calm until Jones became agitated when Agent Haag told him that they had a search warrant. Jones asked agents if he was in trouble, to which Agent Haag responded that the search warrant was an investigative tool to prove or to disprove the belief that a crime had been committed. When Jones asked if he should get an attorney, Agent Haag informed him that he could not offer legal advice, but that Jones could get an attorney if he wanted one, and the questioning could be delayed while Jones sought an attorney. Jones did not say that he wanted an attorney or end the questioning. During the search, agents discovered that Jones had some storage units located in Lake Worth, Florida. He gave his consent to agents to search those storage units.

On two occasions, Agent Haag offered Jones the chance to get dressed, but Jones remained in his pajamas throughout the day. Agent Haag was unsure if Jones ate anything during the day, but he testified that Jones was given the opportunity to eat and that Jones offered Agent Haag a drink at some point when they were in the kitchen. Although no agent demanded Jones admit his guilt, Agent Haag told Jones that he could help himself by cooperating with the investigation, perhaps by recording conversations. Jones declined.

At approximately 1 p.m., Mrs. Jones joined her husband in the kitchen for additional questioning, which lasted until agents left the home around 5 p.m. At 4:30 p.m., agents provided Jones and his wife with grand jury subpoenas requiring them to turn over essentially the same documents as those sought in the search.

Jones was never provided his Miranda rights at any point in the day, but he believed that he was under arrest.

Jones also took the stand at the suppression hearing and disputed a number of points to which Agent Haag testified. According to Jones, an agent approached him in a threatening manner when Jones objected to shutting off his surveillance camera, forcing Jones to tell the agents to calm down.

Jones also testified that he asked the agents if he and his wife together could discuss the investigation with the agents, but the agents refused. According to Jones, agents refused to allow him to wash up and get dressed. He was also not offered anything to eat. Jones also testified that Agent Maser said to him, "We got you. Why don't you just admit you have problems, just confess." Furthermore, ...


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