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United States v. Santiago

May 24, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JUAN DEJESUS SANTIAGO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Court Judge

CORRECTED DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

The defendant, Juan DeJesus Santiago, stands accused of five counts in a multi-defendant indictment relating to drug trafficking and money laundering. The defendant has moved to suppress statements he purportedly made to the police on July 25, 2007, and on October 8, 2008.

In regard to the defendant's application, a hearing was held on March 22, 2010. Officers Garth Mitchell ("Mitchell"),Hermino Santos ("Santos"), and Eden Torres ("Torres") all of the Rochester Police Department, testified at the hearing.

The Court, having considered the testimony presented and exhibits received into evidence at the hearing, and having made evaluations regarding credibility, makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

FINDINGS OF FACT

Mitchell is employed as a police officer with the Rochester Police Department, and has been so employed since 1989. On July 25, 2007, at approximately 9:00 a.m., pursuant to his duties as a police officer with the Rochester Police Department, Mitchell had occasion to respond to 355 Averill Avenue in the City of Rochester for a report of a vehicle parked across the sidewalk, blocking it. When Mitchell responded he was in uniform and driving a marked patrol car. Upon arriving at 355 Averill Street, Mitchell observed a gold colored Chevrolet Impala four-door sedan with a New Jersey dealer plate parked across the sidewalk. At roll call on July 25, 2007, Mitchell had received information concerning a different vehicle at 355 Averill Street that had possibly been involved in a shooting that had occurred the night before.

Mitchell knocked on the door of 355 Averill Street, and the defendant, who, according to Mitchell, identified himself as Juan Santiago DeJesus, exited the residence. Then, while outside of 355 Averill Street, Mitchell spoke with the defendant, and called the East Side Division Office of the Rochester Police Department, at which time he was told to bring the defendant in for questioning. While Mitchell indicated at the hearing that he asked the defendant to accompany him to the East Division Side Office and that the defendant agreed, he initially testified as follows:

A: I asked Mr. Santiago if he was willing to go to the east division office and we ended up going there.

Q: What was Mr. Santiago's response to that question?

A: I guess he was willing to go to the east division (Hearing Transcript ("H.T."), March 22, 2010, at 62:24-25, 63:2-4 (emphasis added).) Mitchell, who does not speak Spanish, spoke to the defendant only in English. In any event, after being with the defendant for only a few minutes outside of 355 Averill Avenue, Mitchell transported him to the East Side Division Office located at 630 North Clinton Avenue. The defendant was not handcuffed and rode in the front seat. When Mitchell arrived with the defendant at the East Side Division Office, he and the defendant were met by Investigator Paul Walther ("Walther") and Santos near Walther's work area in the division office, and then all went to an interview room, which had a table and chairs. From that point, Mitchell had no further contact with the defendant.

Santos is employed as a police officer with the City of Rochester Police Department, and has been so employed for over thirty years. Santos was born in Puerto Rico and has spoken Spanish since his childhood. He can not only speak and understand Spanish without any difficulty, but can read and write Spanish as well. He resided in Puerto Rico for seven years and attended school there for a couple of years. To this day, he continues to speak Spanish in his home every other day or so.

On July 25, 2007, in connection with his duties as a police officer with the City of Rochester Police Department, Santos had occasion to participate in an interview of the defendant that occurred at the East Side Division Office of the Rochester Police Department. Walther had requested Santos, and he told Santos that the reason he wanted him was because the defendant spoke only Spanish. The interview occurred in an interview room at the division office, which was approximately 10 x 10 feet. Walther was in the interview room with Santos and the defendant. Walther asked questions in English, which Santos translated for the defendant into Spanish. Santos only spoke Spanish to the defendant. The interview with the defendant lasted about thirty to thirty-five minutes, and at no time on July 25, 2007, was the defendant advised of his Miranda warnings. During the course of the interview, the defendant never spoke English. In fact, at one point when asked by Santos if he was unable to understand questions in English, the defendant replied in Spanish, "Yes," that he "spoke Spanish and felt more comfortable speaking Spanish." H.T., March 22, 2010, at 93:24-25, 94:2-3.

Torres is employed as a police officer with the City of Rochester Police Department, and has been so employed for approximately twenty-three years. On October 9, 2008, about 11:00 a.m., pursuant to his duties with the Rochester Police Department, he became involved in the execution of a search warrant at 41 Roser Street in the City of Rochester. In connection with his participation in the execution of the warrant, he had occasion to observe the defendant being taken into custody outside of 41 Roser Street as the defendant exited the front of the residence. Subsequently, at about 4:45 to 4:50 p.m., Torres had contact with the defendant in an interview room on the third floor of the Rochester Public Safety Building ("PSB"). Torres was asked to come into the PSB because someone conversant in Spanish was needed to speak to the defendant. More specifically, Special Agent James Schmitz of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency ("Schmitz") explained to Torres that he needed his assistance to speak with the defendant, since the defendant did not speak English. In that regard, Spanish was Torres' first language, and he grew up speaking it in his home in Puerto Rico. He attended school in Puerto Rico through fifth grade, at which ...


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