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United States v. Ramos

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

November 6, 2017

DANIEL RAMOS, Defendant.




         A grand jury returned an indictment alleging defendant Daniel Ramos committed sexual abuse of a minor. (Docket 1). Defendant filed a motion to suppress statements. (Docket 15). The suppression motion was referred to the magistrate judge for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and the standing order dated March 9, 2015. Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollmann conducted a hearing on the motion and issued a report and recommendation concluding defendant's motion should be denied. (Dockets 34 & 38). Defendant filed objections to the report and recommendation. (Docket 42).

         Under the Federal Magistrate Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), if a party files written objections to the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations, the district court is required to “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” Id. The court may “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Id. After establishing the background facts, the court addresses defendant's objections in turn.


         On November 3, 2016, Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) Special Agent Jeffrey Youngblood (“SA Youngblood” or “the agent”) interviewed defendant. (Docket 38 at p. 2). The interview occurred because SA Youngblood contacted defendant and asked him to meet. Id. The agent reached out to defendant as part of his investigation into a report that defendant engaged in a sexual act with a 15-year-old female in September 2016. Id. Defendant agreed to a meeting, suggesting it take place in the parking lot of an ice cream store in Rapid City, South Dakota. Id.

         When SA Youngblood arrived in his non-marked vehicle at the parking lot, he parked next to defendant's car. Id. Defendant entered SA Youngblood's vehicle, and the agent showed his FBI credentials. Id. Within approximately 30 seconds of starting the interview, SA Youngblood stated: “Before we get started Daniel, I just need you to understand you are not under arrest, okay. I'm not going to arrest you during or after this conversation. The doors are unlocked. You are free to go anytime you want. You understand that?” Id. at p. 3; (Exhibit 1). Defendant stated he understood. (Docket 38 at p. 3). No Miranda[1] warnings were given. Id. In a general manner the agent asked whether defendant knew what they were there to discuss, and defendant indicated he did know. Id. at p. 2. SA Youngblood notified defendant he was going to record their conversation. Id. at p. 3.

         The interview lasted approximately 10 minutes. Id. at p. 4. Defendant made statements about the sexual encounter the agent was investigating. Id. SA Youngblood testified defendant comprehended the questions asked. Id. at p. 3. The magistrate judge concluded the “tape recorded interview establishes that Mr. Ramos was articulate and gave appropriate answers to the questions being asked of him.” Id. The agent was armed during the interview, but it was not visible to defendant. Id. at p. 3. Defendant was 29 years old at the time. Id. Defendant left the agent's vehicle when the interview ended and was not arrested until February 10, 2017. Id. at pp. 4-5.

         Defendant's medical history is extensive, and he has suffered many injuries in his life. (Dockets 38 at p. 4 & 42 at pp. 2-3). He submitted documentation of several serious head wounds. (Dockets 38 at p. 4 & 42 at pp. 2-3). In November 1994, defendant was evaluated for ADHD behaviors, his IQ testing put him in a borderline range and he received a Ritalin prescription.[2](Dockets 29-11 at p. 1 & 42 at p. 2). The magistrate judge determined these records did not show “whether Mr. Ramos suffered any long term effects as a result of [his] injuries.” (Docket 38 at p. 4).


         I. Custody

         The magistrate judge found defendant was not in custody during his interview, so the absence of Miranda warnings did not violate his rights. (Docket 38 at pp. 5-8). Defendant objects to this determination. (Docket 42 at p. 4).

         “The rule in Miranda requires that any time a person is taken into custody for questioning, a law enforcement officer must, prior to questioning, advise the individual of his right to be free from compulsory self-incrimination and his right to the assistance of counsel.” United States v. Axsom, 289 F.3d 496, 500 (8th Cir. 2002) (citing Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444); see also United States v. Laurita, 821 F.3d 1020, 1023 (8th Cir. 2016) (“The rule under Miranda prevents the government from using statements ‘stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant, ' unless the government has used ‘procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination.' ”) (quoting Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444). “Although the circumstances of each case must certainly influence a determination of whether a suspect is in custody for purposes of receiving Miranda protection, the ultimate inquiry is simply whether there is a formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest.” Laurita, 821 F.3d at 1023-24 (internal quotation marks omitted). If a person is in custody, law enforcement must read him his Miranda rights; if not in custody, Miranda's protections do not apply. See id.

         “To determine whether a suspect was in custody, [courts] ask ‘whether, given the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person would have felt at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave or cause the agents to leave.' ” Id. (quoting United States v. Vinton, 631 F.3d 476, 481 (8th Cir. 2011)). The ...

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