United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
For Edgar Javier Bello Murillo, also known as Payaso, Defendant: John C. Kiyonaga, LEAD ATTORNEY, The Law Office of John C Kiyonaga, Alexandria, VA.
For USA, Plaintiff: Michael Ben'Ary, Stacey K. Luck, LEAD ATTORNEYS, U.S. Attorney's Office, Alexandria, VA.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Gerald Bruce Lee, United States District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Defendant Edgar Javier Bello-Murillo's Motion to Suppress Statements (" Motion to Suppress" ) (Doc. 105). On July 18, 2013, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Defendant Bello-Murillo and five of his co-defendants with (1) murder of an internationally protected person and aiding and abetting that murder in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 2, 1116(a), (c); (2) conspiracy to kidnap an internationally protected person in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201(c); and (3) kidnapping an internationally protected person and aiding and abetting that kidnapping in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 2, 1201. A seventh codefendant was charged with obstructing an official proceeding in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c). See Doc. 15.
Defendant seeks to suppress all of his statements made in connection with this case following his initial contact with investigators (Doc. 105). Defendant claims that he was subject to verbal and physical coercion which rendered the waiver of his Miranda rights involuntary. Id. Defendant also argues that coercive government tactics during his custodial interview should result in the suppression of his subsequent voluntary statements to Colombian media outlets. Id.
The first issue before the Court is whether Defendant made a knowing, voluntary and intelligent waiver of his Miranda rights where he signed the Spanish language Miranda rights waiver forms. The second issue is whether the exclusionary rule applies to voluntary statements made by Defendant to Colombian media outlets.
The Court denies Defendant's Motion to Suppress because the Government has demonstrated, by a preponderance of evidence, that Defendant's post-arrest statements were made voluntarily, after a knowing and intelligent waiver of his Miranda rights. Furthermore, Defendant's statements to Colombian media outlets were not only voluntary, they were made to non-government actors. Therefore, the Fifth Amendment's exclusionary rule does not apply to Defendant's non-custodial statements to Colombian media outlets, and thus, these statements are admissible
As alleged in the indictment, Defendant along with five of his co-defendants were involved in a scheme to commit " millionaire's rides" in Bogota, Colombia. On June 20, 2013, defendants targeted DEA Special Agent James Terry Watson (" SA Watson" ).
At approximately 11:00 p.m., SA Watson left a restaurant in Bogota, where he had been dining with Drug Enforcement Agency (" DEA" ) and international law enforcement colleagues. SA Watson hailed a taxi (" Taxi #1" ) in the Parque 93 area of Bogota, a popular and affluent neighborhood known for high-end dining and shopping establishments. Defendant Garcia Ramirez drove Taxi #1. Once SA Watson entered Taxi #1, Garcia Ramirez engaged SA Watson in conversation in Spanish and determined that SA Watson was seeking a ride to the Marriott Hotel in Bogota. As soon as Taxi #1 began to travel, a second taxi (" Taxi #2" ), driven by Defendant Lopez, pulled up behind Taxi #1. Defendants Figueroa Sepulveda, Bello-Murillo, and Gualtero were riding in Taxi #2. A third taxi driver (" Taxi #3" ) was originally part of the robbery crew, but the taxi encountered mechanical problems shortly before Taxi #1 picked up SA Watson. The defendants intended for the driver of Taxi #3 to obtain the victim's automatic teller machine (" ATM" ) and credit cards, and take them to the ATM to withdraw cash from the victim's bank accounts using Personal Identification Numbers (PINs).
After a short drive, Defendant Garcia Ramirez alerted the other defendants that SA Watson would their next robbery victim. Using a previously agreed upon signal, Defendant Garcia Ramirez alerted his co-defendants by pumping the brakes of his taxi to act as if it were experiencing engine trouble. Defendant Lopez confirmed his understanding of the plan by flashing the headlights of his car. Taxi #1 then came to a stop, and Taxi #2 pulled up directly behind it. Defendants Figueroa Sepulveda and Bello-Murillo got out of the back seat of Taxi #2 and got into the back seat of Taxi #1, one on each side of SA Watson. Defendant Figueroa Sepulveda used a stun gun in an attempt to incapacitate SA Watson, and SA Watson struggled. During the fracas, Defendant Bello-Murillo stabbed SA Watson several times with a knife.
SA Watson was able to break free but collapsed a short distance later. Colombian National Police officers arrived soon thereafter and placed SA Watson in their vehicle. They took him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. The cause of SA Watson's death was blood loss as a result of multiple stab wounds.
Defendant argues that the manner in which the DEA agents secured the first Miranda waiver on June 25, 2013 " completely overbore [his] life, his ability to decide for himself because he was scared for his life." Defendant claims that he cooperated by signing the statement of rights form because he was in fear for his life. Defendant contends, because his first Miranda waiver is invalid, all statements he made to law enforcement and the Colombian media outlet should be suppressed.
The Government argues that Defendant's statements were made voluntarily as Defendant was informed of his Miranda rights in English, Spanish, and in writing at each interview with United States law enforcement agents on June 25, 2013 and June 27, 2013. The Government attacks Defendant's claims that his statements were verbally and physically coerced because the interviews were conducted in rooms with glass walls and doors. Finally, the Government argues that there is no legal precedent that supports the exclusion of statements Defendant made to Colombian media outlets.
II. Standard of Review
The legal standards governing a motion to suppress are clear. The burden of proof is ...