United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is the defendant James Eugene Rought's
(“Rought”) motion to suppress (Doc. 36). Rought
seeks to suppress statements that he made to law enforcement,
arguing that they were obtained illegally after he invoked
his right to counsel. Based on the following, Rought's
motion to suppress (Doc. 36) will be DENIED.
October 16, 2018, Rought was indicted with one count of
distribution and possession with the intent to distribute a
controlled substance that resulted in the serious bodily
injury of Cara Giberson and the death of Dana Carichner.
(Doc. 1). Rought pleaded not guilty to the indictment. (Doc.
October 19, 2018, FBI Special Agent Whitehead and Task Force
Officer Yelland interviewed Rought while he was in custody.
At the beginning of the interrogation, Agent Whitehead read
Rought his Miranda rights from a consent form,
stated, “If you decide to answer questions now without
a lawyer present, you have a right to stop answering
questions at any time. Do you understand what I read to
you?” (Doc. 44, Ex. A, at 2:39). Rought replied
affirmatively and, after allowing Rought to review the
consent form, Agent Whitehead asked, “Are you willing
to talk to us now?” (Id., at 2:58). Rought
responded, “I mean, to a point, yeah, ” and
signed the consent form. (Id., at 3:00).
approximately 24 minutes of questioning, Rought discussed his
relapse after a period of sobriety, stating that everyone
around him was “getting high” including Mr.
Carichner. (Id., at 23:57). Agent Whitehead asked
Rought to talk about what happened to Mr. Carichner. Rought
responded, “I mean, I don't really want to talk
about that aspect of it without my lawyer because, like,
that's a serious situation. I mean, they're trying to
roof me . . . .” (Id., at 24:13). Agent
Whitehead replied, “We get that . . . those are the
ground rules. . . . That's your right, and we respect
that, ” (Id., at 24:26), and immediately moved
onto questioning Rought about a drug dealer named
“L.B.” and “who's above you.”
(Id., at 24:38). Agent Whitehead stated, “You
mentioned before [that] Stan overdosed,
right?” and Rought discussed various acquaintances
of his that had recently died from drug overdoses.
(Id., 25:04). Agent Whitehead then stated,
I'm not judging you. It's not my job to judge you.
We're just trying to make sense of it and we're just
trying to put the pieces together, and we're trying to
follow . . . the logical chain as going up . . . the ladder,
if you will. Right? That's why I want to talk about this
L.B. I want to talk about who[m]ever else there is, too.
That's why I asked you earlier on, too, “Is L.B.
somebody that you might want to protect?” because, if
you do, then . . . that tells me that we probably
shouldn't talk about him.
(Id., at 27:13).
indicated he did not mind discussing L.B. and stated,
“[Drug dealers] are killing my friends just as much as,
right now, you're trying to say that I killed my
friend.” (Id., at 27:44). Agent Whitehead
replied, “Well, we're not saying you killed him,
um, James, but what we're saying is that, um, that you
had, you had a role.” (Id., at 27:50). Rought
subsequently went on to discuss the circumstances around Dana
13, 2019, Rought filed the present motion to suppress (Doc.
36) and a brief in support (Doc. 41). On June 25, 2019, a
superseding indictment was filed against Rought, charging him
with an additional count of possession with the intent to
distribute a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy
to possess with the intent to distribute a controlled
substance that resulted in the serious bodily injury of Ms.
Giberson and the death of Mr. Carichner. (Doc. 48). On June
28, 2019, Rought pleaded not guilty to the superseding
indictment. (Doc. 56). That same day the government filed a
brief in opposition to Rought's motion to suppress. (Doc.
55). On July 26, 2019, Rought filed a reply brief. (Doc. 62).
The motion is now ripe for disposition.
the outset, if a person in custody is to be subjected to
interrogation, he must first be informed in clear and
unequivocal terms that he has the right to remain
silent.” Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436,
to interrogation, police must first inform a suspect of his
right to remain silent, his right to have counsel present
during interrogation, and the possibility that his statements
may be used to secure a conviction. Miranda v.
Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 468-70 (1966). Police “must
cease the interrogation if at any point the suspect indicates
that he wishes to remain silent or that he wants an
attorney.” United States v. Velasquez, 885
F.2d 1076, 1084 (3d Cir. 1989).
suspect has expressed his desire to remain silent until he
has conferred with counsel, further interrogation may only
continue after counsel has been made available or “the
accused himself initiates further communication, exchanges,
or conversations with the police.” Edwards v.
Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 485 (1981). Two factors must be
present for interrogation to continue: “First, the
suspect must initiate the conversation with the authorities,
not vice versa. Second, after the suspect initiates the