United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
R. Hornak United States District Judge.
Michael David Woodson is charged with making a false
statement in the purchase of a firearm in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 922(a)(6), sale of a firearm to a convicted
felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(1), and making
a false statement to the government in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 1001(a)(2). Woodson filed a Motion to Suppress
Testimonial Evidence, ECF No. 56, in which he moved to
suppress oral statements he made to two Pittsburgh Police
officers, Detective Joseph L. Bielevicz and Officer Brett
Novak (collectively, the "Officers"), on May 20,
2014-statements Woodson anticipates the United States will
offer as evidence against him at trial. Woodson also filed a
Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence, ECF No. 57, a Motion
for a Pretrial Hearing on the Admissibility of
Co-Conspirators' Statements, ECF No. 49, and a Motion to
Compel Disclosure of Plea Bargains, Preferential Treatment,
and Promises to Government Witnesses, ECF No. 42. The Court
held a suppression hearing on October 14, 2016.
Motions will be denied.
suppression hearing, the Court heard testimony from Detective
Bielevicz, Officer Novak, and Defendant Woodson.
Notwithstanding the attacks each side launched on the
credibility of the other side's witnesses, what we know
from the uncontradicted, material testimony follows.
the course of their investigation into Woodson and certain
firearms, the Officers called Woodson's grandmother
looking for him, and, since he was not at home, they left
their phone number. Woodson called back and voluntarily
agreed to meet with the Officers, believing the purpose of
the meeting was for the Officers to return certain of
Woodson's firearms to him. The Officers let Woodson
choose the location of the meeting. The location Woodson
chose was an open, public area with which he was well
familiar: a park bench on a sidewalk on a public street
outside of the Rankin, PA police station, just a few hundred
yards from the apartment where his girlfriend lived with
their new baby.
the meeting, Detective Bielevicz and Woodson sat on the park
bench, while Officer Novak stood near the car. The Officers
inquired about a pistol registered in Woodson's name.
Woodson responded that he kept the pistol at the apartment.
The Officers asked Woodson to show them the pistol, and
Woodson agreed to take the Officers to the apartment to show
it to them. The Officers were not familiar with the
neighborhood, so Woodson led them to the apartment on foot.
He then invited them inside. Once there, the questioning
continued, and Woodson honored the Officers' request to
show them the pistol. The questioning ended when Woodson, in
his words, decided to "shut down" and "stop
talking." ECF No. 84 at 84-5.
Woodson's Motion to Suppress Testimonial
heart of Woodson's argument is that he gave statements
during the course of a custodial interrogation, that the
Officers gave him no Miranda warnings, and/or that
the statements were otherwise involuntary. Miranda
warnings are required when an individual is subject to a
custodial interrogation. Miranda v. Arizona, 384
U.S. 436, 477-79, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). In
other words, a defendant's Miranda rights attach
to statements made while "in custody" and under
"interrogation." Illinois v. Perkins, 496
U.S. 292, 297, 110 S.Ct. 2394, 2397, 110 L.Ed.2d 243 (1990).
"A person is in custody when he either is arrested
formally or his freedom of movement is restricted to 'the
degree associated with a formal arrest.'" United
States v. Willaman, 437 F.3d 354, 359 (3d Cir. 2006).
"Not all restraints on freedom of movement amount to
custody for purposes of Miranda." Howes v. Fields,
___U.S.___, 132 S.Ct. 1181, 1189, 182 L.Ed.2d 17 (2012).
A court must ask "the additional question whether the
relevant environment presents the same inherently coercive
pressures as the type of station house questioning at issue
in Miranda" Id. at 1190.
suppression hearing, the court, as the finder of fact,
determines the credibility of witnesses and may accept or
reject any or all of a witness' testimony. United
States v. Howard, 787 F.Supp.2d 330, 331-32 (D.N.J.
2011). The court judges credibility by considering a number
of factors, including the witness' demeanor and manner on
the stand, his ability to accurately recollect the matters at
hand, the manner in which he may be affected by the outcome,
the extent to which his testimony is either supported or
contradicted by other evidence and testimony in the case, and
whether his testimony withstands the "common sense test
of reason and logic." Id; see also United States v.
Murphy, 402 F.Supp.2d 561, 569 (W.D. Pa. 2005). A
witness should not be found more or less credible simply
because he is a law enforcement officer. 787 F.Supp.2d at
case, after a review of the record, including all of
counsels' filings, and after hearing testimony from
Detective Bielevicz, Officer Novak, and Woodson, the Court
concludes that none of Woodson's interactions with the
Officers on May 20, 2014 constituted custodial interrogations
that trigger Woodson's rights under Miranda v.
Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694
time was Woodson placed under arrest or physically restrained
in any way, and at no time was Woodson threatened by the
Officers in any way. Although Woodson testified that, based
on his life experience, one could not refuse to talk with the
police, he also testified that he did just that: he
voluntarily "shut down" the conversation with no
repercussions by telling the Officers "I don't
know" and "I'll see about it." ECF No. 84
at 84-5. When asked what he meant by "shut down, "
Woodson explained that he "stopped talking." ECF
No. 84 at 84-5. Moreover, the Officers' questioning of
Woodson occurred in two places that Woodson himself selected:
a public, open-air setting on a park bench outside of a
police station; and the apartment a few hundred yards away
where Woodson led the Officers after agreeing to show them
there is nothing in the record from which the Court could
properly conclude that the Officers placed Woodson in custody
physically or psychologically. There is nothing in the record
from which the Court could conclude that Woodson's will
was overcome by the Officers' questioning or any
environmental factor surrounding that questioning, whether
viewed through the lens of this Defendant or through the lens
of any reasonable defendant. Simply put, under either a
subjective or an objective test, Woodson was not in custody
at all on the day in question, nor is there any basis in the
record to conclude that Woodson's ...