United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
O'GRADY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
memorandum opinion is issued in support of the Court's
previous orders on Defendant's Motion to Suppress
Statements Obtained in Violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments and Defendant's Motion for a Franks
Hearing and to Suppress Evidence Seized from His Home.
See Dkt. 60; Dkt. 62.
2010, the Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI")
office in Dallas, Texas, initiated an investigation into
sexual abuse of children in the Philippines. The
investigation identified several people in the Dallas area
who sent money to individuals in the Philippines as payment
for viewing online live sexual abuse of children. The Dallas
office identified 40 individuals in the Philippines who
received such payments, and obtained payment records related
to those individuals. From these records, HSI was able to
identify several thousand individuals who had paid money to
the Philippine accounts. Among these was Defendant. The
Dallas office sent a detailed report regarding Defendant to
the Washington, D.C. office of HSI. The report explained that
from 2008 to 2010, Defendant made approximately $1, 796.50 in
payments via Xoom to individuals associated with online
sexual abuse of children in the Philippines.
March 13, 2012, at approximately 8:00 P.M., HSI Special Agent
("SA") K. Eyler, HSI SA C. Moldowan, and Prince
William County Detective T. Abdallah visited Defendant's
home in Manassas, Virginia. Defendant's wife answered the
door, and SA Eyler asked to speak to Defendant. Dkt. 48. Ex.
1 at 2:6-17. When Defendant came to the door, SA Eyler said.
"We're doing an investigation and your name came up
and I was wondering if we can talk to you about it, maybe you
can help us figure this out." Id. at 3:4-8.
Defendant said, "Okay. Can I ask what it's about? I
mean I'm just curious." Id. at 3:9-10. SA
Eyler responded, "Yeah. It's a child exploitation
case." Id. at 3:11-12. Defendant said,
"Okay. Child exploitation case?" SA Eyler replied,
"Yes. It's a little sensitive. I don't know if
you wanted your family to hear about it or not."
Id. at 3:13-16. Defendant then asked if they could
go outside. Id. at 3:17. The agents accommodated his
desire to continue the conversation outside of the hearing of
his family, and spoke with Defendant on the front porch of
his home. Id. at 3:18-22.
Eyler explained that Defendant's credit card information
had been connected with Xoom. Id. at 4:1-10.
Defendant acknowledged that the payments were to "get
girls in the Philippines that, you know, dance, you know, for
you, you know, play like that stuff. You know."
Id. at 4:11-14. He initially denied that the videos
involved sexual exploitation of children, and stated that the
individuals were "[r]oughly, you know, from about maybe
20 to, you know, 40s ... They say they're at least 18 or
older." Id. at 4:16-18; 5:19-6:3. SA Eyler
informed Defendant that the women to whom Defendant had made
payments were involved in sexual exploitation of children.
Id. at 6:4-14. Defendant declined SA Eyler's
request to look through his computer. Id. at
appeared that Defendant had chosen to conclude the interview,
and SA Eyler turned off the audio recording. Id. at
9:2. Defendant then reengaged the agents, and the continued
conversation was recorded. See Dkt. 48, Ex. 2;
see also Dkt. 56 at 21:1-13. In this portion of the
conversation, Defendant stated "I do think some of those
girls on there were underage." Dkt. 48, Ex. 2 at 2:2-4.
Defendant discussed certain payments he had made on Xoom, and
stated that the varying prices were based on "how many
girls are there." Id. at 3:9-20. Defendant
further stated that he viewed "moms and daughters,
" and that the individuals were "I mean from
various ages. You know, from teenage to on up."
Id. at 4:15-18.
the interview, Det. Abdallah sought and obtained a search
warrant for Defendant's home from a Prince William County
magistrate judge. See Dkt. 44, Ex. 1. Because
Defendant was now aware of the nature of the investigation,
and thus had the opportunity and incentive to destroy
evidence, the search warrant was executed that same night, at
approximately 10:30 P.M. See Dkt. 48 at 4. During
the execution of the search warrant, Defendant made certain
statements to law enforcement. Those statements were also
24, 2017, Defendant was arrested. See Dkt. 8.
Defendant was charged with five counts of sexual exploitation
of children in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251 (a).
See Dkt. 31. By motions filed on January 5, 2018,
Defendant sought suppression of the statements he made to law
enforcement during the execution of the search warrant,
requested a Franks hearing as to the affidavit
offered in support of the search warrant, and moved to
suppress all evidence seized from his home during the search
of March 13, 2012. See Dkt. 43; Dkt. 44.
Motion to Suppress Statements
Fifth Amendment provides that "No person ... shall be
compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against
himself." U.S. Const, amend. V. To safeguard this
constitutional guarantee, the Supreme Court has required law
enforcement to inform individuals who are in custody of their
Fifth Amendment rights prior to interrogation. United
Slates v. Hashime, 734 F.3d 278, 282 (4th Cir. 2013)
(citing Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444
person is "in custody" for purposes of
Miranda if the person has been arrested or if his
freedom of action has been curtailed to a degree associated
with arrest. Burket v. Angelone, 208 F.3d 172, 196
(4th Cir. 2000). The Court must consider whether a reasonable
person in the individual's position would have understood
his situation as the functional equivalent of a formal
arrest. Id. To determine whether an individual was
in custody, a court must objectively view the totality of the
circumstances surrounding the interrogation. See United
States v. Freeman, 61 F.Supp.3d 534, 536 (E.D. Va.
2014). Facts relevant to this inquiry include, but are not
limited to, the time, place, and purpose of the encounter,
the words used by the officers, the officers' tone of
voice and general demeanor, the presence of multiple
officers, the potential display of a weapon by the officers,
and whether there was physical contact between the officers
and the defendant. Id. at 536-37 (citing
Hashime, 734 F.3d at 283).
asserts that he was in custody and was being interrogated by
law enforcement officers when he made certain statements to
them during the execution of the search warrant in his home.
Specifically, Defendant claims he was in custody because (1)
a contingent of at least 13 officers entered Defendant's
home to execute the search warrant; (2) many of the officers
were in uniform, and armed; (3) the officers controlled
Defendant's family members' movements, including by
detaining them all in the living room; and, according to
Defendant, (4) the officers occasionally pointed guns at
Defendant and his family. See Dkt. 43 at 3-4.
Defendant suggests that he was restricted to the basement
bedroom during the course of the interview, and places great
importance on the fact that the officers never advised him of
his Miranda rights or explicitly told him that he
was free to leave. Id. at 4-5.
interview at issue, as explained above, was conducted during
the execution of the search warrant on March 13, at
approximately 10:30 P.M. The encounter began when the agents
entered the residence with guns unholstered, in accordance
with protocol. See Dkt. 56 at 27:16-31:11. The guns
were holstered once the scene was secured. Id.
(explaining that residents of the home stay outside during
the security sweep, which takes approximately five minutes).
While other officers executed the search warrant, SA Eyler
and Det. Abdallah asked Defendant if he would be willing to
speak to them again. Id. at 34:6-12. He agreed.
Id. The interview took place in a basement bedroom,
away from the noise of the ongoing house search, and away
from Defendant's family in accordance with the preference
he had expressed during the earlier interview. See
Id. at 34:13-18. The door was shut, but it was not
locked or obstructed. Id. at 35:24-37:3. SA Eyler
confirmed that Defendant had read the warrant, and asked
whether he had any questions. See Dkt. 48, Ex. 3 at
3:6-16. She then said, "Okay. You understand you are not
under arrest. This is just a search warrant for items,
specific items in your home ... Okay. You understand
that?" Id. Defendant replied, "Yes."
Id. Shortly afterwards, SA Eyler reiterated,
"Like I said, you're not under arrest."
Id. at 4:3. The interview lasted for approximately
one hour and fifteen minutes. Dkt. 48 at 6. The interview
concluded at approximately 12:10 A.M. on March 14.
Id. at 7. Defendant was not arrested at that time.
review of the evidence, the pleadings, and the parties'
arguments at the March 1 and March 8, 2018 hearing,
Court found that the interview was not custodial, and that
Miranda warnings were not necessary. The Court
therefore denied Defendant's motion to suppress. Several
reasons supported the Court's decision, and they are
addressed in turn below.
there is absolutely no evidence other than the testimony of
Defendant, his wife, and his son to support the claim that
the officers executing the search warrant pointed their
weapons at Defendant and his family or that any residents of
the household were handcuffed. Instead, there is ample
evidence to the contrary. Government Exhibit 8, a photo taken
by law enforcement during the execution of the search
warrant, shows Defendant's family sitting placidly on the
living room couch, without handcuffs. This photo is the best
evidence of what occurred that day, and it corroborates the
law enforcement officers' version of events, not the
frankly incredible version related by Defendant, his wife,
and his son. For example, Mrs. Stinson's claim that law
enforcement officers put herself, her 19 year old daughter,
and her 13 year old son in handcuffs (see Dkt. 56 at