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United States v. Mack

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 7, 2016



Michael P. Shea United, States District Judge

A federal grand jury has indicted Dominique Mack for witness tampering/homicide offenses as well as offenses charging the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. These charges stem from Mack’s alleged efforts to avoid apprehension on earlier drug trafficking charges on which he was indicted in September 2010.

Mack has filed a motion in limine (ECF No. 281) seeking to suppress his post-arrest statement that he had seen his “wanted” poster distributed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”). Mack argues that he made the statement in response to custodial interrogation and before being advised of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The Court held an evidentiary hearing on March 28, 2016, at which the sole witness was Special Agent Ryan James (“SA James”) of the FBI. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Mack’s motion.


In September 2010, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging approximately thirty-three people-including Mack-with drug trafficking and firearms violations. The Government arrested most of those indicted, but some of the defendants, including Mack, remained at large, and efforts to locate them were ongoing. On June 15, 2011, after receiving no answer to a knock, several FBI agents used a ram to enter an apartment at 36 Vine Street. They were looking for Mack-who until then had eluded arrest-and they entered the apartment with their weapons drawn. SA James said that the agents found Mack standing in the doorway of the master bedroom; he was alone in the apartment. The agents approached Mack, and told him to get down. Mack complied, and they handcuffed him. One of the agents asked Mack for his name. Mack responded, “you know my name.” The agent asked again for his name and Mack responded, “Dominique Mack.” The agents brought Mack into the living room, and while they searched him, Mack said, “all this over a phone count and marijuana?” Mack’s utterance was not in response to a question by the agents. The agents said nothing else to Mack and he made no further statements while they were in the apartment.

The agents then transported Mack to the U.S. Marshal’s office for processing. SA James was not in the same vehicle as Mack, but when they arrived at the federal building, SA James took Mack upstairs to the U.S. Marshal’s office. In the presence of Deputy U.S. Marshal Matt Duffy, who was processing Mack, SA James asked Mack if he had seen his FBI “wanted” poster. Mack responded that he had seen the poster online.

At the hearing, SA James testified that he had asked Mack whether he had seen the poster out of professional curiosity: “We publish those posters months prior and we posted that poster all along the north end of Hartford and in particular lower Vine Street so I was curious to see if he saw it.” The “wanted” posters are also published on the FBI’s main website and the FBI’s New Haven website. On the day of the arrest, June 15, 2011, SA James had no reason to believe that Mack was involved in the murder of Ian Francis, for which he is charged in this case.

On cross examination and in response to questions from the Court, SA James confirmed that he was not conducting a formal interrogation of Mack by asking specific questions about the narcotics trafficking conspiracy for which Mack was arrested. Mack was handcuffed and sitting in a chair, and SA James was standing about five to six feet in front of Mack when he asked the question regarding the “wanted” poster. SA James agreed that agents ask and defendants respond to questions during the normal course of processing, but he did not remember those “booking” questions and answers on that day.


At the hearing, defense counsel confirmed that Mack makes no Sixth Amendment claims with respect to the statement about the “wanted” poster, and makes no Fifth Amendment claim with respect to the statements Mack made in the apartment. Therefore, the only issue is whether the admission in evidence of Mack’s statement that he had seen the “wanted” poster online would violate his rights under the Fifth Amendment, as construed under Miranda and its progeny.

“An interaction between law enforcement officials and an individual generally triggers Miranda’s prophylactic warnings when the interaction becomes a ‘custodial interrogation.’ This determination has two parts: (a) there must be an interrogation of the defendant, and (b) it must be while []he is in ‘custody.’” United States v. FNU LNU, 653 F.3d 144, 148 (2d Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). There is no dispute that Mack was in custody and had neither been read-nor waived-his rights under Miranda at the time he made the statement at issue. Therefore, the sole issue is whether SA James’s question about the “wanted” poster constituted “interrogation” within the meaning of Miranda.

Interrogation “must reflect a measure of compulsion above and beyond that inherent in custody itself.” Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 300 (1980).

Miranda safeguards come into play whenever a person in custody is subjected to either express questioning or its functional equivalent. That is to say, the term “interrogation” under Miranda refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect.

Id. at 300-01. I find that SA James’s question was one that he should have known was reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from Mack, ...

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