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United States v. Mattox

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 30, 2018




         I. Introduction

         Presently before the Court is Defendant's Amended Motion to Suppress Statements. Doc. 33. Defendant Jeffrey Lynn Mattox is charged with a single count of assault resulting in serious injury in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 113(a). The present motion seeks to suppress Defendant's statements during an interrogation conducted in the Special Housing Unit of the United States Penitentiary Canaan, where Defendant was serving a term of imprisonment at the time of the alleged assault. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion to Suppress.

         II. Background

         On October 4, 2016, Mattox was serving a term of imprisonment at the United States Penitentiary at Canaan ("Canaan"). On that day, Mattox and co-Defendant Clayton John Shinn were involved in an altercation with another inmate, James Arthur. The altercation led to charges of intentional assault against Mattox and Shinn. On July 14, 2017, Mattox filed a motion to suppress statements he made during an interview regarding the altercation. Doc. 33. According to the government, the interview was conducted pursuant to an administrative policy from the Bureau of Prison ("BOP"), which "requires that interviews be conducted, or at least attempted, of all inmates involved in inmate on inmate assaults, and that a written administrative report be generated regardless of whether the incident is pending criminal prosecution or not." Doc. 41 at 3.

         According to the administrative report regarding the altercation, Lieutenant Wladimir Vizcaino conducted interviews of Arthur, Mattox, and Shinn and created a written report from these interviews. Doc. 34-1. The report summarizes the October 4, 2016 altercation as follows:

On October 4, 2016, at approximately 7:22 p.m., the Unit F-1 Officer observed inmates Shinn, Clayton, #27365-064, and Mattox, Jeffrey, #13372-032, striking inmate inmates [sic] Arthur, James, #14153-088, in the head and upper body with closed fists in Unit F-1, Cell #115. Staff ordered the inmates to cease their [fighting] and to submit to restraints. The inmates complied and were escorted from the area. Inmates Shinn and Mattox were medically assessed and placed in the Special Housing Unit without further incident. Inmate Arthur was medically assessed and transported to an outside hospital for additional evaluation and treatment.

Id. at 2. The report states that all three men were interviewed in the Lieutenant's Office on October 18, 2016. Id. at 3. Arthur purportedly stated that Mattox and Shinn told him that he needed to provide his legal paperwork to prove that he is not a sex offender. Id. Arthur told Mattox and Shinn that he could not show them his paperwork, and Shinn and Mattox repeatedly kicked him and struck him with closed fists. Id. Arthur also stated that if he returned to the General Population of Canaan, he would likely be assaulted again. Id. According to the report, Mattox stated during his interview that Arthur is a sex offender and that "anyone that has children would have reacted the same way." Id. He also stated that Arthur will be assaulted again if he is returned to General Population. Id. According to the report, Arthur "sustained a laceration to his right eyebrow, a hematoma to his right eye and multiple abrasions to the right side of his head and face." Id. at 4.

         Mattox was interviewed in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") for his October 18, 2016 interview. According to the government, he had been "serving disciplinary segregation" at SHU at the time, presumably since the assault occurred on October 4, 2016. Doc. 41 at 4. The government states that Mattox was not given Miranda warnings prior to his interview "because these types of interviews are considered voluntary under BOP policy, and any inmate is free to decline to answer any or all questions." Id. The government argues that Mattox "is familiar with his rights inside the BOP because he has been the subject of multiple disciplinary reports." Id. At an evidentiary hearing held on June 13, 2018, Lieutenant Vizcaino testified that he was required to investigate all inmate altercations in order to determine whether to take disciplinary action against the inmate, including interviewing anyone involved in the incident and documenting those interviews in a written report. On October 18, 2016, Lieutenant Vizcaino arranged to interview Mattox in an office located inside SHU. Mattox was escorted from his cell to the interview room.

         During the interview, Lieutenant Vizcaino was not armed, nor was he in uniform. He had a radio and a set of restraints with him. Mattox was handcuffed behind his back pursuant to BOP policy, which dictates that all inmates moving from their cell need to be restrained. No. one else was inside the interview room. Lieutenant Vizcaino testified that the entire interview lasted about two minutes, during which he asked Mattox what happened and whether Arthur can return to General Population without being assaulted again. He did not provide Mattox Miranda warnings during the interview, nor did Mattox affirmatively state that he did not wish to be questioned. Lieutenant Vizcaino testified that in his experience, he has come across inmates who stated that they do not wish to be interviewed, but it is not required for the officers conducting the interview to specifically tell each inmate that they do not have to respond to questioning. He is not aware if anyone told Mattox that he was not required to answer questions during the interview. Finally, Lieutenant Vizcaino testified that Mattox had been placed in SHU since October 4, 2016, and that he was not placed there for the purposes of questioning, but for disciplinary purposes. Thus, Mattox was not free to leave SHU from the time of the altercation to the time of the interview. On November 9, 2016, FBI opened a case against Mattox and Shinn for intentional assault, after the case had been referred to them by officials at Canaan.

         III. Discussion

         The issue before the Court is whether Mattox, an inmate at the time of the investigation relating to the charges against him, was subject to custodial interrogation without being informed of his Miranda rights during his interview with Canaan officials on October 18, 2016. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that no 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)). 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 the "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 ...

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