United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
Ellis, III, United States District Judge
issue pretrial in this prosecution for interstate stalking
and domestic violence is whether defendant's statements
during a video-recorded, custodial interview with law
enforcement must be suppressed on the ground that defendant,
despite initially waiving his Miranda rights,
adequately invoked his right to remain silent sometime after
his waiver and the commencement of the interview.
Eastern District of Virginia grand jury has indicted
defendant Nam Quoc Hoang on the following eight counts: (1)
transmitting communications with the intent to extort, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875; (2) cyberstalking, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2261A(2)(B); (3) stalking, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2261A(1); (4) conspiracy to
commit stalking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; (5)
interstate domestic violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 2261; (6) using and carrying a firearm during and in
relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 924(c); (7) possessing a firearm as a felon, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); and (8) possessing
ammunition as a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
29, 2016, law enforcement officers arrested defendant and
conducted a recorded, custodial interview that lasted
approximately three and a half hours. Although defendant
explicitly concedes that he knowingly, intelligently, and
voluntarily waived his Miranda rights at the
beginning of the interview, he contends that approximately 20
minutes into the interview he unambiguously and unequivocally
invoked his right to remain silent. Accordingly, defendant
has moved to suppress any statements he made in the course of
that custodial interview following his invocation of the
right to silence. In response, the government contends that
defendant's invocation was ambiguous and equivocal, and
that therefore the motion to suppress must be denied.
the question presented is whether defendant unambiguously and
unequivocally invoked his right to remain silent following
his initial waiver of his Miranda rights. As the
matter has been fully briefed and argued orally, it is now
ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow,
defendant's motion to suppress must be granted.
2013, defendant, a resident of Fairfax County, Virginia,
began dating a woman (“the Victim”) who lives in
Montgomery County, Maryland. During their relationship, which
progressed to intimacy, defendant allegedly took sexually
explicit photos of the Victim with his cellphone. Defendant
and the Victim also allegedly used crack cocaine together. In
December 2013, defendant and the Victim ended their
relationship, and shortly thereafter defendant began
harassing the Victim. As part of this harassment, defendant
and his alleged co-conspirator, Khoa, drove to the
Victim's house to stalk her. The Victim also allegedly
talked to co-conspirator Khoa and stated that she was afraid
of defendant. In late December 2013, defendant threatened the
Victim that he would publish the sexually explicit photos of
her on the internet unless she paid him money.
January 2014, defendant drove with co-conspirator Khoa to the
Victim's house to stalk the Victim. After they determined
that the Victim was not at home, defendant broke into her
home and stole some of the Victim's personal belongings.
Thereafter, on January 25, 2014, defendant published the
sexually explicit photos of the Victim on defendant's
Facebook page, which a number of people viewed.
same day, the Victim posted on her Facebook page that she
planned to accompany her friends that night to a club in the
District of Columbia. Defendant saw the Victim's Facebook
post and, together with co-conspirator Khoa, drove to the
club to stalk the Victim. In the course of stalking the
Victim, Defendant and co-conspirator Khoa parked outside the
club and waited for the Victim to emerge from the club. When
the Victim left the club and retrieved her valet-parked car,
defendant instructed co-conspirator Khoa to follow the
Victim, and Khoa did so. Thereafter, the Victim stopped her
car at a traffic light and defendant and co-conspirator Khoa
stopped their car immediately behind her. Defendant then left
co-conspirator Khoa's car, walked to the Victim's
car, displayed a handgun to the Victim, and demanded that she
let him into her car. She complied. Defendant then entered
the Victim's car, struck her in the face, and forced her
at gunpoint to drive to Maryland. While defendant was in the
Victim's car, defendant maintained contact with
co-conspirator Khoa via cellphone. Defendant directed
co-conspirator Khoa to follow the Victim to Maryland, and
Khoa did so. Defendant released the Victim in Maryland.
a 41 year-old Vietnamese citizen with permanent legal status
in the United States, was arrested on June 29, 2016 by
Fairfax County Police officers. Defendant was transported to
the Franconia District Police Station where two
detectives-Detective Sergeant Robert Grims and Detective
Joseph Pittman-and FBI Special Agent Joseph Hoang, a
fluent and FBI-certified Vietnamese speaker, interviewed
defendant for approximately three and a half hours. As
reflected in the video recording, no more than two officers
were in the room with defendant at any one time during the
course of the interview. Indeed, for substantial portions of
the interview, defendant and Special Agent Hoang were alone
in the interview room.
communications with the detectives were in English, whereas
defendant's conversation with Special Agent Hoang was
predominantly in Vietnamese. Although defendant is not a
native English-speaker, he has lived in the United States for
the past 25 years and appeared capable of speaking and
understanding English, albeit with occasional grammatical
errors. Notably, during the custodial interview, defendant
represented to Sergeant Grims that defendant could understand
the Sergeant's statements. Furthermore, when Sergeant
Grims informed defendant of his Miranda rights and
explained those rights in English, defendant confirmed that
he understood his rights, and thereafter defendant knowingly,
intelligently, and voluntarily waived those rights, signing a
waiver form and agreeing to speak with the
detectives. See United States v. Hoang, No.
1:16-cr-193 (E.D. Va. Feb. 17, 2017) (Gov't Ex. 2B)
(Interview Tr.) at 6.
after defendant waived his rights, Sergeant Grims left the
interview room and Detective Pittman engaged in small talk
with defendant, in English, for approximately five minutes.
Sergeant Grims then returned and began to read
English-translated transcripts of incriminating statements
defendant had made in jail telephone calls. Sergeant Grims
informed defendant that the jail calls reflected that
defendant had admitted to a crime, at which point defendant
and Sergeant Grims engaged in the following exchange:
Defendant: Whatever if you think that I did, [sic] you arrest
me.” Sergeant Grims: That's what, that's what
Defendant: Yeah, and nothing to talk about.
Sergeant Grims: What's that?
Defendant: There's nothing to talk about.
Sergeant Grims: There's another guy involved in it.
Defendant: I have no idea, like I said, nothing involve
[sic]. I don't steal, I don't go to [the
Victim's] house, that's all I say. Whatever you
… ah… CD whatever ah… in here… If
you already got everything, don't need nothing to talk
about [sic]. But for me, I know I don't do nothing.
Interview Tr. at 20. Thereafter, Sergeant Grims stated,
“I'm going to read you some of the calls ok,
” and defendant responded, “I am gonna listen,
sir.” Id. at 22. After Sergeant Grims read
another call transcript, defendant laughed and explained what
he meant by some of his statements in the phone calls.
Id. at 23-24. At that point, the following exchange
Sergeant Grims: Let me show you what…there's a
couple of calls that you said that aren't very good,