United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. Mariani United States District Judge
Omar Santiago-Muniz, is charged with sexual exploitation and
attempted sexual exploitation of a child, 18 U.S.C.
§§ 2251(a) and (e), enticement of a minor to engage
in sexual activity for which any person could be charged with
a crime, 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b), and the transfer of
obscene material to minors, 18 U.S.C. § 1470. (Doc. 1).
Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to
Suppress Statements. (Doc. 34). Through this Motion,
Defendant seeks to suppress statements he made to
Pennsylvania State Troopers on July 21, 2017, on the basis
that the statements were obtained in violation of
Defendant's Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. The Court
held an evidentiary hearing on June 28, 2018. For the reasons
that follow, the Court will deny Defendant's Motion.
Finding of Facts
approximately 10:30 a.m. on July 21, 2017, Pennsylvania State
Police executed a search warrant on Defendant's second
floor apartment in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. (June 28, 2018,
Hr'g Tr., Doc. 46 at 4-6, 29). At that time, Defendant
was in the apartment with his girlfriend, Jennifer Quach, and
her brother, Stephen Quach. (Id. at 6). After the
Troopers knocked on the front door and announced their
presence, either Defendant or Ms. Quach answered the door.
(Id. at 31). Six or seven Troopers then entered the
apartment, at least some of whom had their guns drawn.
(Id. at 5, 7, 32-33, 59, 64). The three individuals
in the house were frisked. (Id. at 33). After the
Troopers were satisfied that the apartment was secure, they
holstered their weapons. (Id. at 7, 65).
Anthony Reppert then approached Defendant, Ms. Quach, and Mr.
Quach, who were seated on the living room sofa. (Id.
at 7). After obtaining some basic biographical data from the
three and informing them that the Troopers were conducting a
computer-related investigation into crime committed over the
internet, Trooper Reppert asked if Defendant would be willing
to speak with the Trooper at the dining room table.
(Id. at 8, 11). Defendant agreed and walked over to
the dining room table with Trooper Reppert and Corporal
Michael Fegley. (Id. at 8). The dining room was
adjacent to the living room and Defendant sat down in a seat
that had a view of the living room. (Id. at 9-10,
34-35). Trooper Reppert told Defendant that he was not under
arrest, that he was free to leave, and that he was not
required to speak to the Troopers. (Id. at 9, 39,
56, 66). Defendant agreed to answer questions and assist in
the investigation. (Id. at 9-10). Defendant was not
advised of his Miranda rights. (Id. at 39).
Reppert began asking Defendant some questions while four
other Troopers searched the apartment. (Id. at 9).
Trooper Reppert described the tone of the questioning as
calm, respectful, and serious. (Id. at 10, 17).
Similarly, Sergeant John O'Neill described the tone as
non-hostile and Corporal Fegley stated that the questioning
was serious, calm, and direct. (Id. at 55, 68).
During the course of the questioning, no one shouted or
screamed at Defendant, no one told Defendant he could not
leave, and no one handcuffed or physically restrained
Defendant in any way. (Id. at 10, 13, 20, 55,
68-69). Up until the end of the interview, Defendant never
asked to stop answering questions. (Id. at 15, 20,
57). Defendant took two different breaks, once to use the
bathroom and once for water. (Id. at 13). During the
first break, a Trooper escorted Defendant to the bathroom and
remained outside the partially open door. (Id. at
the questioning started, Ms. Quach and Mr. Quach remained
seated in the living room. (Id. at 14). Sometime
within the first hour after the Troopers arrived, Ms. Quach
asked if she and her brother could leave the apartment and
were told they were free to do so. (Id. at 15, 42,
66-67). They then went outside. (Id. at 15, 66-67). At
some point Defendant's father, Luis Santiago, arrived at
the house, brought groceries into the kitchen, put them away,
and was then told he could leave or step out onto the
balcony. (Id. at 16-17, 45, 78, 80). He asked if he
could speak with his son, but was told that he could not
until the interview was over. (Id. at 78, 80, 82).
Luis Santiago remained out on the balcony with a Trooper
until the end of the questioning. (Id. at 17, 76).
first hour and ten minutes of questioning, Defendant talked
with Trooper Reppert and Corporal Fegley. (Id. at
10). Defendant denied using any Facebook accounts and offered
some explanations of who might have used his internet
account. (Id. at 11-12, 20). Sergeant O'Neill
then joined the interview after he received some information
from the Kentucky State Police about an investigation they
were conducting that implicated Defendant. (Id. at
15-16, 67-68). Sergeant O'Neil produced a picture of
Defendant that the Kentucky State Police had provided and
which had been sent to a minor in Kentucky. (Id. at
17, 49). Defendant then gradually began to admit using
Facebook accounts, including the accounts that the Troopers
believed were used to contact minors. (Id. at 18,
52). Defendant also admitted that he had online conversations
with minors that were sexual in nature, (/of. at 52).
Reppert eventually asked Defendant to write out a written
statement concerning what they had talked about.
(Id. at 19). Defendant then asked to see the search
warrant and asked if the crime the Troopers were
investigating was a felony. (Id.). After he was
shown the front page of the warrant and told that the
investigation involved a felony, Defendant stated that he did
not want to fill out a written statement and that he wanted
to talk with an attorney. (Id. at 19-20, 58). After
that point, no more questions were asked and Defendant was
placed under arrest. (Id. at 20, 40, 57). The entire
period of questioning lasted approximately two hours and
forty minutes. (Id. at 13).
argues that the statements he made to the Pennsylvania State
Troopers at his house on July 21, 2017, should be suppressed
pursuant to the Fifth Amendment because the Troopers
subjected Defendant to a custodial interrogation without
first advising him of his Miranda rights and
obtaining a waiver. The Government's position is that
Defendant was not in police custody at the time of
questioning and thus the Troopers were not required to advise
Defendant of his Miranda rights.
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides
that "[n]o person ... shall be compelled in any criminal
case to be a witness against himself." U.S. Const.
amend. V. "[T]he privilege against self-incrimination
protects individuals not only from legal compulsion to
testify in a criminal courtroom but also from 'informal
compulsion exerted by law-enforcement officers during
in-custody questioning.'" Pennsylvania v.
Muniz, 496 U.S. 582, 589, 110 S.Ct. 2638, 110 L.Ed.2d
528 (1990) (quoting Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S.
436, 461, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966)). In an effort
to ensure these rights are protected, the United States
Supreme Court has held that the Government "may not use
statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from
custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it
demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to
secure the privilege against self-incrimination."
Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444. Commonly known as
"Miranda rights" or "Miranda
warnings," a defendant in police custody
must be warned prior to any questioning that he has the right
to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against
him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence
of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one
will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so
Id. at 479.
in the above is that "police officers are not required
to administer Miranda warnings to everyone whom they
question." Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492,
495, 97 S.Ct. 711, 50 L.Ed.2d 714 (1977). Instead,
"Miranda... requires warnings only when the
person the police are questioning is in custody."
United States v. Wiliaman, 437 F.3d 354, 359 (3d
Cir. 2006). Stated otherwise, "[n]o Miranda
warning is required absent a 'custodial
interrogation.'" United States v. Savage,
677 F.Supp.2d 756, 763 (E.D. Pa. 2009); see also
Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444. "Because the presence of
both a custodial setting and official interrogation
is required to trigger the Miranda right-to-counsel
prophylactic, absent one or the other, Miranda is
not implicated." Alston v. Redman, 34 F.3d
1237, 1244 (3d Cir. 1994) (emphasis in original).
term 'interrogation' under Miranda refers
not only to express questioning, but also to any words or
actions on the part of the police (other than those normally
attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know
are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response
from the suspect." Rhode Island v. Innis, 446
U.S. 291, 301, 100 S.Ct. 1682, 64 L.Ed.2d 297 (1980)
(footnote omitted). Here, the parties do not dispute that the
interview that took place between the State Troopers and
Defendant satisfied the interrogation prong of the custodial
interrogation analysis. Thus, the only question before the
Court is whether Defendant was in custody when he was
interrogated by the State Police.
used in ... Miranda case law, 'custody' is a
term of art that specifies circumstances that are thought
generally to present a serious danger of coercion."
Howes v. Fields, 565 U.S. 499, 508-09, 132 S.Ct.
1181, 182 L.Ed.2d 17 (2012). A person is in custody for
purposes of Miranda when "there is a
'formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement'
of the degree associated with a formal arrest."
California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125, 103
S.Ct. 3517, 77 L.Ed.2d 1275 (1983) (quoting
Mathiason, 429 U.S. at 495); see also
Willaman, 437 F.3d at 359. "Two discrete inquiries
are essential to the determination: first, what were the
circumstances surrounding the interrogation; and second,
given those circumstances, would a reasonable person have
felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the
interrogation and leave." Thompson v. Keohane,
516 U.S. 99, 112, 116 S.Ct. 457, 133 L.Ed.2d 383 (1995)
(footnote omitted). Further, "the initial determination
of custody depends on the objective circumstances of the
interrogation, not on the subjective views harbored by either
the interrogating officers or the person being
questioned." Stansbury v. California, 511 U.S.
318, 323, 114 S.Ct. 1526, 128 L.Ed.2d 293 (1994).
the absence of actual arrest something must be said or done
by the authorities, either in their manner of approach or in
the tone or extent of their questioning, which indicates that
they would not have heeded a request to depart or to allow
the suspect to do so." Steigler v. Anderson,496 F.2d 793, 799 (3d Cir. 1974); see also Willaman,
437 F.3d at 359; United States v. Leese, 176 F.3d
740, 743 (3d Cir. 1999). Nevertheless, while the term
"'custody' must not be read too broadly,"
it is ...