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United States v. Rezac

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Central Division

June 9, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MARTIN REZAC, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND DENYING MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          ROBERTO A. LANGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Martin Rezac moved to suppress a statement he gave on November 27, 2015, to two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Doc. 24, After holding an evidentiary hearing, Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno issued a Report and Recommendation for disposition of Motion to Suppress Statements, recommending that Rezac's motion be denied in its entirety. Doc. 54. Rezac filed objections to that Report and Recommendation, contending: 1) that Rezac's oral waiver of his Miranda rights was not knowing, voluntary, and intelligent; and 2) that Rezac's statements were not voluntary because he was misled about why the FBI wanted to interview him. Doc. 55 at 2-3. This Court has conducted a de novo review of the record, overrules Rezac's objections, adopts the Report and Recommendation, and denies the Motion to Suppress.

         I. Facts

         In late November of 2015, Rezac suffered serious injuries in an explosion at his home in South Dakota. Due to the extent of the injuries, Rezac was transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ex. 1 at 4:10.. The medical records state that Rezac sustained a "blast injury while making flash paper for amateur magic, " Doc. 46 at 84, [1]and this is what Rezac initially maintained during the interview, Ex. 1 at 1:34.

         On November 27, 2015, around 6:00 p.m., FBI agents Bradley Murkins and Gina Palokangas interviewed Rezac in his hospital room at Regions Hospital. See Ex. 1. South Dakota authorities suspected that Rezac was involved with explosives and requested that Special Agent Murkins, who had a background as a bomb technician, interview Rezac. Tr.[2] at 6-7. The FBI agents spoke with the charge nurse to ask if they Could speak to Rezac, and she told them that they could. Tr. at 7. Rezac was on a hospital bed, reclined, and on some pain medication. Tr. at 7. Nearly all of the FBI agents' conversation with Rezac is recorded, Ex. 1, with the recording beginning at 6:18 p.m. and lasting until 6:59 p.m, Tr. at 17.- All but a brief introduction is captured on the recording. Tr. at 10.

         After introducing themselves and showing their FBI credentials, Tr. at 8, Special Agent Murkins read Rezac his Miranda rights off of the FC-395 card, Tr. at 8-9; Ex. 1 at:3O. Rezac nodded his understanding after hearing each right read to him. Tr. at 9. Rezac's primary injuries were to his hands, and his hand was sufficiently injured that the FBI agents did not ask him to sign a waiver of rights form. Tr. at 9. Special Agent Murkins asked if Rezac was willing to waive his rights, and Rezac responded "yeah." Tr. at 18; Ex. 1 at 1:03. Rezac then said "to a certain extent" and something like "until I feel uncomfortable" as Special Agent Murkins was announcing the time to be 6:18 p.m. Tr. at 18; Ex. 1 at 1:19.

         The FBI agents questioned Rezac about various matters, and Rezac spoke extensively about chemicals used to make explosive devices and the source of his information on that subject. Ex. 1 at 5:00-11:35. Initially, Rezac stated he was making flash powder for magic, that he had made it only a few times before, and that he placed in it paper tubes or pill bottles that he threw down prairie dog holes. Ex.. 1 at 24:05-27:14. Rezac eventually admitted making hexamethylene triperoxide (HMTD), but said he intended to use the HMTD to shoot rockets into the air. Ex. 1 at 29:29, 33:45. Rezac repeatedly denied having additional explosives in his home or anything else that would be injurious to anyone visiting his home. Ex. 1 at 20:47, 22:53, 24:55, 30:30, 36:00. Rezac also repeatedly denied making any threats to the Veterans Administration (VA), including specifically to the Hot Springs campus, because "no, we can't hurt people." Ex. 1 at 16:21, 35:23.

         At one point, Rezac asked if the FBI agents would hand him a drink, and Special Agent Murkins immediately responded "yea, sure, " at which point Agent Palokangas seems to have helped Rezac drink because of his hand injuries. Ex. 1 at 14:05. Rezac then began coughing about midway through the interview, and Special Agent Murkins asked if Rezac was alright and if he wanted something to drink. Ex. 1 at 21:31. Special Agent Murkins offered to stop for awhile after Rezac said he needed to use his nebulizer. Ex. 1 at 21:38. As Special Agent Murkins was announcing that he was going to stop the interview for a break, Rezac interrupted and said, "no, I ain't planning on blowing nothing up or making nothing like that, " continuing the interview. Ex. 1 at 21:45. About twenty minutes later, at 6:59 p.m., the interview ended and the FBI agents left, after informing Rezac that they may be back for further questioning, but he would have his Miranda rights read to him again, and he could choose whether or not to speak to the agents. Ex. 1 at 41:15.

         Rezac was indicted on three counts on April 13, 2016. Doc. 1. Count I alleges that on December 11, 2014, Rezac used a telephone to willfully threaten to damage and destroy a building on the Hot Springs Campus of the VA Black Hills Health Care System by means of an explosive device in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(e). Doc. 1 at 1. Count II alleges that between June 1, 2015, and November 26, 2015, Rezac used a telephone to threaten to kill, injure, and intimidate a registered nurse at the VA Medical Center in Sioux Falls, and to damage and destroy a building on the Sioux Falls Campus of the VA Sioux Falls Health Care System by means of an explosive device in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(e). Doc. 1 at 1-2. Count III alleges that on November 27, 2015, Rezac made false statements and representations to FBI Special Agents Murkins and Palokangas regarding the nature of explosive and dangerous items at his residence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1101. Doc. 1 at 2.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         This Court reviews a report and recommendation pursuant to the statutory standards found in 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), which provides that "[a] judge of the [district] court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In particular, a district court can "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id. Rezac objects to the Report and Recommendation because he believes that his waiver of Miranda rights was invalid and his statements were not voluntary.

         B. Miranda Rights and Waiver Thereof

         The Fifth Amendment provides that "[n]o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. . . ." U.S. Const, amend. V. In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that the government cannot use statements of the defendant that derive "from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination." 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966). The Supreme Court explained that custodial interrogation means "questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or. otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way." Id. Thus, there are two predicates that need to be satisfied in order for Miranda warnings to apply: 1) the suspect must be in custody or otherwise deprived of freedom of action; and 2) there must be an interrogation. SeeId. If both custody and interrogation ...


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