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United States v. Jones

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Elkins

March 20, 2018


          BAILEY, JUDGE



         I. Introduction

         Defendant Carla Denise Jones was indicted by a grand jury attending the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia on September 6, 2017, charging her with conspiracy to possess stolen firearms, possession of stolen firearm-aiding and abetting, and unlawful possession of a firearm. Defendant was subsequently arraigned and released on certain conditions pending trial.

         On January 16, 2018, Defendant Carla Denise Jones, by and through her counsel, Robert E. Barrat, filed a motion to suppress statements Defendant made during the execution of a search warrant of her home on February 2, 2017. (ECF No. 267). On the same date, the United States Attorney through Assistant United States Attorney, Stephen D. Warner, filed a response to Defendant's motion. (ECF No. 269).

         On January 26, 2018, the parties appeared before the undersigned for a hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress. Both parties filed supplemental memoranda in support of their positions on February 2, 2018. (ECF Nos. 313, 314).

         Statement of Facts

         During the January 26, 2018, suppression hearing, the sworn testimony of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent Steve Worthy, Resident Agent in Charge (RAC) Dewayne Haddix, and Special Agent Heather Kozik was received along with Defendant Exhibit 1 (a copy of the Advice of Right and Waiver form for co-defendant Aaron McClain), Government Exhibit 1, (a copy of the Consent to Search form signed by Defendant), Government Exhibit 2 (a copy of the Report of Investigation by Steve Worthy), and Government Exhibit 3 (a copy of the search warrant, attachments A and B, and affidavit of Special Agent Worthy, which was used to obtain the search warrant used to search Defendant's home). Finding the testimony of the Government witnesses credible, the undersigned deduced the following facts after considering the parties' motions and responses and all the evidence and testimony that was provided to the Court during the suppression hearing.

         On the morning of February 2, 2017, authorities executed a search warrant to search Defendant's residence for stolen firearms. The authorities arrived in six large vehicles comprised of thirteen armed officers in two teams; one team to secure the premises and another to search the Defendant's home. Upon exiting their vehicles, the authorities who were wearing vests and carrying rifles, approached the home with their rifles drawn. Agent Gregory Perry knocked on the door. Shortly thereafter, while still in her nightgown, Defendant opened the door and was directed by Agent Perry to exit the residence so officers could execute the search warrant. Defendant complied. Officers entered the home and announced their presence loud enough for someone at the rear of the home to be aware of their presence. Within approximately fifteen minutes the house was confirmed to be clear of any other occupants. Thereafter, the agents holstered their weapons and returned their vests and rifles to their vehicles. Defendant was permitted back into the residence but was accompanied by an officer while in the home.[1] Officer Kazi (a female ATF agent) escorted Defendant to her bedroom and then into the bathroom while Defendant changed her clothes and then “handed [Defendant] off” to another officer who escorted her to the porch at the rear of the house where the interview in question took place. Both Defendant and co-Defendant McLain (Defendant's boyfriend and co-occupant of the home) were required to remain on the rear porch. After a period of time, McLain was taken to another room where he was Mirandized and questioned. During the execution of the search warrant, neither Defendant nor co-defendant McLain were allowed to wonder freely about the home without police supervision, apart from using the restroom after the restroom had been searched.

         The Defendant remained on the rear porch for several hours with RAC Haddix while the authorities completed their search, during which drug paraphernalia was found. RAC Haddix testified that he and Defendant conversed while on the porch. He further testified that in accordance with standard operating procedure, he believed he told Defendant Jones that she “was free to leave” and “not under arrest” but “if she chose to stay that they [the officers] would like to talk to her.” Defendant admitted, in her “Motion to Suppress” that the officers told her that “she was free to go to do what she wanted” (ECF N0. 267 at 2). RAC Haddix stated that the conversation was amicable and involved a discussion of Defendant's businesses and general small talk. Later, Special Agent Worthy joined them on the porch and the conversation became “more formal.” At some point during the conversation, whether during small talk or the more formal interview, Defendant was asked to sign a “Consent to Search” another building and garage located on Defendant's property. See Government Exhibit 1 (ECF No. 291-1). Among other things, the consent form informed Defendant of her right to refuse to give consent to the search, her right to consult with an attorney prior to the search, and her right to withdraw consent with respect to the search. The Government concedes that at no point in time was Defendant Mirandized. However, she was questioned about her drug usage and made incriminating statements thereto.

         Contention of the Parties

         In her motion, Defendant seeks an from the Court suppressing statements she made to law enforcement on February 2, 2017, arguing the officers failed to administer the required Miranda warning prior to interrogating Defendant. Defendant asserts that on that date, officers rushed into her home, yelled and screamed at her and co-defendant Aaron McLain. (ECF No. 267 at 1). Officers were armed with shotguns, handguns, helmets and shields. Id. Officers repeatedly questioned her and called her a liar, and questioned her and co-defendant McLain both together and separately. Id. at 1, 2. Defendant further stated that the officers told her “she was free to go to do what she wanted, ” but accompanied her at all times and restricted her movements to her home. Id. at 2.

         In response, the Government contends Defendant was never in custody, and although she was followed while inside her home, the purpose for doing so was to “protect the integrity of the search warrant execution.” ECF No. 269 at 1. The Government further noted that Defendant signed a consent to search her business property where she was advised of her right to consult with an attorney. Id. At the January 26, 2018, suppression hearing, the Government asserted that when RAC Haddix and Defendant conversed, Defendant Jones was not a suspect in the crime and was considered to be only a witness in the ...

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