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United States of America v. Robert Steven Brodie Williams

May 17, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLANT-CROSS-APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT STEVEN BRODIE WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE-CROSS-APPELLANT.



Appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Gardaphe, J.)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barrington D. Parker, Circuit Judge:

11-324-cr

United States v. Williams

Argued: March 5, 2012

Before: MCLAUGHLIN, B.D. PARKER, WESLEY, Circuit Judges.

suppressing defendant's station house confession to unlawful dealings in 29 firearms, following waiver of his Miranda rights. A Government agent had questioned 30 defendant two hours earlier in the apartment where he was arrested without first issuing Miranda 31 warnings.

The district court suppressed the subsequent confession as the product of a deliberate, 32 two-stage interrogation technique barred by Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004).

REVERSED and REMANDED.

This appeal arises out of the suppression of defendant Robert Williams's station house 14 confession to unlawful dealings in firearms.*fn1 That confession followed an incriminating 15 statement made in response to brief questioning at the apartment where he was arrested earlier 16 that day. The confession followed Miranda warnings; the earlier incriminating statement did 17 not. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Gardaphe, J.)

18 suppressed the station house confession as the product of a deliberate, two-stage interrogation 19 strategy barred by Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004). Relying on this Court's decision in 20 United States v. Capers, 627 F.3d 470 (2d Cir. 2010), the district court reasoned that the 21 admissibility of defendant's station house confession turned on whether the decision to forego 22 Miranda warnings at the apartment was "legally justifiable." United States v. Williams, 758 F. 23 Supp. 2d 287, 310 (S.D.N.Y. 2010). Finding that it was not, the district court suppressed the 24 station house confession. We conclude that the district court's determination rested on a 25 misapplication of Capers. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

In October 2009 Williams, along with his cousin Forenzo Walker, was arrested in a 4 Bronx, New York, apartment following the execution of a search warrant that led to the recovery 5 of four firearms.

According to Williams's subsequent confession, he, Walker, and a man named 6 Charles Smith had arrived in New York City the previous morning from Birmingham, Alabama. 7 Williams and Smith planned to sell thirteen guns they had procured in Alabama. 8 Williams was not the primary target of the search warrant; Smith was. For a year and a 9 half, officers of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF") and the New 10 York City Police Department ("NYPD") had, based on the report of a confidential informant, 11 been investigating a man known to the informant as "Alabama" whom they suspected of buying 12 firearms in Alabama for resale in New York. J.A. at 135. On the day of defendant's arrest, the 13 informant spotted "Alabama" and two other men selling firearms at the Bronx apartment, and 14 notified an NYPD detective. At the detective's instruction, the informant returned to the 15 apartment and purchased a firearm from "Alabama" in the presence of the two other men. He 16 then reported to the detective that multiple firearms were being sold by the three men at the 17 apartment.

18 The detective relayed the information to ATF Special Agent Peter D'Antonio, who 19 prepared an application for a search warrant that was issued around 8:30 p.m. that evening. 20 D'Antonio, whom the district court found credible, testified at a suppression hearing that it was 21 important to obtain the search warrant promptly because 22 we had information that there was multiple firearms at the location being 23 sold by two or three of those individuals. And there were totaling over 10 24 firearms . . . . At that point, we wanted to get the firearms off the street.

We did not want them to get out of the apartment . . . [and] sold and used for illegal purposes up there.

Id. at 239-240.

Law enforcement officers executed the search warrant at approximately 10:30 p.m. 6 NYPD personnel entered the apartment first and secured its four occupants: Williams, Walker, 7 and two women. Five ATF agents, including D'Antonio and Special Agent Thomas Kelly, and 8 several more NYPD police officers, including Detective Hector Santiago, then entered the 9 apartment. They found Williams and Walker seated and handcuffed on the floor of the living 10 room. Four semi-automatic handguns and ammunition lay beside them. They also observed one 11 of the women "afraid" and "shaking" in the kitchen. Id. at 243.

12 On entering the apartment and observing the guns, D'Antonio asked Williams "whose 13 firearms they were?" Id. at 244. Williams responded "that the firearms were all his" and "that 14 he didn't want to get his cousin [ - Walker - ] involved." Id. Expecting to find closer to ten 15 firearms in the apartment, D'Antonio also asked where the other firearms were, and where the 16 third gun trafficker was. The record indicates no response from Williams to these latter two 17 questions.

Following this brief questioning of Williams, D'Antonio, who is an ATF medic, turned 19 his attention to the frightened woman, whom he "saw was progressively getting a little worse." 20 Id. at 245. After checking her vital signals, he requested an ambulance. Approximately an hour 21 later, following a search ...


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