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United States v. Parker

United States District Court, W.D. New York

July 8, 2015


Ordered Filed Date: May 29, 2015

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Ronnie Parker, Defendant: Steven G. Slawinski, LEAD ATTORNEY, Federal Public Defender, Rochester, NY.

For USA, Plaintiff: Craig R. Gestring, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Rochester, NY.

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ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD, United States District Judge.

This Court referred all pretrial matters in the case to United States Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 636(b)(1)(A)-(B). (Dkt. 12). On May 29, 2015, Magistrate Judge Payson issued a thorough Report and Recommendation, recommending that the Court deny Defendant's motion (Dkt. 37) to suppress statements and to dismiss the indictment. (Dkt. 51).

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Pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the parties had 14 days after being served a copy of the Report and Recommendation to file objections. No objections were filed.

The Court has reviewed the Report and Recommendation as well as the filings previously made in the case, and finds no reason to reject or modify the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Payson. Therefore, the Court accepts and adopts the Report and Recommendation. Defendant's motion to suppress statements and to dismiss the indictment (Dkt. 37) is denied.



MARIAN W. PAYSON, United States Magistrate Judge.


By Order of Hon. Elizabeth A. Wolford, United States District Judge, dated April 10, 2014, all pretrial matters in the above captioned case have been referred to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 636(b)(1)(A)-(B). (Docket # 12).

On April 10, 2014, the grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging defendant Ronnie Parker (" Parker" ) with making a threat against the President on February 7, 2014, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 871. (Docket # 11). Currently pending before the Court are motions by Parker to suppress statements and to dismiss the indictment, as to which evidentiary hearings were held. (Docket ## 37, 44, 45, 48).[1] For the reasons discussed below, I recommend that the district court deny Parker's motion to suppress statements. I further recommend that the district court deny Parker's motion to dismiss the indictment.


I. Agent Joel Blackerby's Testimony

Joel Blackerby testified that he had been employed as an agent with the United States Secret Service for approximately nineteen years. (Tr. 90).[2] Blackerby's responsibilities include investigating threats made against the President. ( Id. ).

Blackerby testified that in the late afternoon of February 6, 2014, he was contacted by Douglas Landy, MD, who reported that his patient Ronald Parker had sought treatment at the Clifton Springs Hospital (the " Hospital" ) because he was hearing voices directing him to kill the President, which were scaring him. (Tr. 91, 108, 113, 120, 125-26). In response to Blackerby's questions, Landy disclosed that Parker previously had been treated at the Hospital and that his prior medication regimen would be recommenced to address his current auditory hallucinations. (Tr. 111-12, 125-28). Based upon his conversation with Landy, Blackerby understood that Parker would be held at the Hospital for several days and assumed that he would not be permitted to leave the second floor psychiatric unit. (Tr. 110-11, 114). Blackerby told Landy that he was not permitted to obtain additional medical information about Parker unless Parker signed an authorization

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to release such information to Blackerby. (Tr. 141-42).

Blackerby testified that he told Landy he would like to interview Parker and asked Landy, " Can we set this time up?" Landy agreed, and Blackerby asked what the " best time" would be. (Tr. 126). Landy replied, " Not the 6th, because [Parker] was still a little upset and had been off his medication," but agreed that the following day would be more appropriate. (Tr. 126-27). Blackerby testified that he told Landy that the purpose of the interview was to determine the level of dangerousness posed by Parker's threats. (Tr. 128-30). He further advised Landy that he would discuss the results of his investigation with the United States Attorney's Office, which would make the determination whether to arrest Parker. ( Id. ). According to Blackerby, Landy did not ask any additional questions about the investigation or the possible consequences to Parker. (Tr. 128-31). Blackerby testified that he did not tell Landy that the investigation " probably won't turn out to be anything" or otherwise suggest that it was routine and would be unlikely to result in criminal charges. (Tr. 108-09).

On February 7, 2014, Blackerby traveled to the Hospital to interview Parker. (Tr. 92). He arrived at approximately 10:00 a.m. and met with Landy and Nurse Kimberly Dean outside Landy's second floor office. (Tr. 92-94). Blackerby was wearing khaki pants and a polo shirt and was not carrying a firearm. (Tr. 92). Blackerby reiterated that he was investigating Parker's threats against the President. (Tr. 93-94). According to Blackerby, he questioned Landy and Dean in order to ensure that Parker had " a clear mind and [was] okay with the interview." (Tr. 94). Blackerby testified that neither Landy nor Dean expressed reservations about Parker's ability or fitness to proceed with the interview. ( Id. ).

Blackerby and Landy entered a conference room near Landy's office. (Tr. 95). Blackerby described the room as approximately eight by twelve feet in size with a table and chairs. (Tr. 95-96; Government's Exhibits (" G. Exs." ) 1A--1E). Dean left and returned with Parker, who was not handcuffed or otherwise restrained. (Tr. 97-98). Blackerby introduced himself as a special agent with the Secret Service and asked Parker if he knew the purpose of Blackerby's visit. (Tr. 98). According to Blackerby, Parker responded, " yes." (Tr. 98, 131). Blackerby testified that he informed Parker that the interview was " totally voluntary." (Tr. 99).

Blackerby testified that he sat at the head of the conference table, and Landy and Parker sat next to him on opposite sides of the table. (Tr. 99-100; G. Ex. 1D). Dean sat next to Parker on his right side. ( Id. ). Parker sat in the chair closest to the door, with his back to the door. ( Id. ). During the interview, the conference room door was closed but not locked, and no security guards were present. (Tr. 99-100). Landy and Dean were present for the entirety of the interview, which lasted approximately one hour. (Tr. 101-02, 138).

After the participants were seated, Blackerby told Parker that he had been informed that Parker had come to the Hospital the previous evening and had told the staff that he had been hearing voices directing him to kill the President. (Tr. 101, 115). Blackerby advised Parker that he was there to investigate those threats. ( Id. ). Blackerby did not administer Miranda warnings to Parker. ( Id. ). According to Blackerby, he informed Parker that the interview was voluntary, that Parker was not required to talk to him and that Parker could leave at any time. ( Id. ).

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Blackerby asked Parker whether it was accurate that voices were telling Parker to kill the President, and Parker responded, " yes." (Tr. 132). Blackerby asked Parker if he had " ever thought about how [Parker] would . . . go about killing the President?" (Tr. 136, 139, 140-41). Blackerby testified that Parker provided a detailed explanation of his plan to kill the President. ( Id. ).

Blackerby characterized Parker's demeanor as calm and cooperative and his physical appearance as slightly disheveled and tired. (Tr. 106, 111). According to Blackerby, Parker did not fall asleep during the interview and did not appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of any drugs or medications. (Tr. 132). Blackerby testified that Parker did not raise his voice or appear angry during the interview, although his demeanor changed at one point towards the end of the interview and his eyes became fixated on Blackerby and his facial expression intensified. (Tr. 115-16, 119). At that point, Blackerby asked Parker whether the voices were speaking to him, and Parker responded, " yes." ( Id. ). Parker stated that the voices were telling him to " take [Blackerby's] gun, shoot [Blackerby] and everyone in the building." ( Id. ). Parker told Blackerby that he heard voices instructing him to kill the President, but that his " inner thoughts [were] that he should not." (Tr. 117-18). Blackerby testified that he believed that Parker was suffering from an auditory hallucination. ( Id. ).

Blackerby testified that he did not trick or mislead Parker, promise him anything, or threaten or make physical contact with him during the interview. (Tr. 106-08). Blackerby testified that Parker appeared to understand his questions, answered them and never requested to leave. ( Id. ). According to Blackerby, Parker was free to terminate and leave the interview at any time. (Tr. 107).

During the interview, Blackerby provided Parker a " SSF 1945" form authorizing Blackerby to review his medical files and to speak with his treating physicians. (Tr. 102-03; G. Ex. 2). Blackerby testified that he told Parker he was not required to sign the form, but if he did so, he would be authorizing Blackerby to review his medical files and to speak with Landy about the reported threats. (Tr. 104, 133). Parker appeared to read the form. (Tr. 104, 133-34). Blackerby asked Parker whether signing the form would be " something that you would be willing to do for me," and Parker responded affirmatively and signed the form. (Tr. 104; G. Ex. 2).

Blackerby also asked Parker if he could photograph Parker's face and scars. (Tr. 105). Blackerby testified that he told Parker that he did not have to agree, and Parker refused, stating that the voices would not permit the photographs. (Tr. 105, 121).

At the conclusion of the interview, Blackerby thanked Parker for his time, and Parker stood, opened the door and walked out of the room. (Tr. 106). After Parker left, Blackerby met with Landy and Dean to review Parker's medical files. (Tr. 138). During that meeting, Landy told Blackerby that Parker was capable of formulating a plan and that Parker tended to stop taking his medications when he was not hospitalized. (Tr. 143).

Blackerby testified that Landy subsequently contacted him to inform him that Parker would be discharged from the Hospital. (Tr. 122). Landy told Blackerby that he had arranged for Parker to enter outpatient, long-term care for continued treatment. (Tr. 123). Parker did not enter that treatment program, however, because he was arrested upon his discharge from the Hospital. ( Id. ).

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Parker's statements to Landy during the February 7 interview form the basis of the criminal charge against him.

II. Dr. Douglas Landy's Testimony

Dr. Landy testified that he has been a practicing psychiatrist for approximately twenty-eight years and has been a psychiatrist at Clifton Springs Hospital for approximately three years. (Tr. 5). Landy's responsibilities include providing inpatient psychiatric care, treating emergency room patients and conducting psychiatric consultations. ( Id. ).

Landy testified that Parker was hospitalized on two occasions for schizophrenia, the second of which was in February 2014. (Tr. 5-7). On that second occasion, Parker came to the emergency room complaining of increasing auditory and visual hallucinations that were scaring him. (Tr. 7). Parker reported seeing a person who told him to do " bad things." (Tr. 10-11). He also reported seeing snakes from time to time. ( Id. ).

Landy testified that Parker arrived at the Hospital on February 5, 2014, and was admitted for inpatient care. (Tr. 6, 8). Landy explained that Parker was admitted on an involuntary status and was not free to leave absent approved discharge or a court order. (Tr. 6-9).

Landy testified that Parker's hallucinations and apparent distress caused him to doubt the efficacy of Parker's current medication regimen. (Tr. 11-12). As a result, Landy increased the dosage of Prolixin based upon Parker's report that he previously had responded well to it and prescribed Ativan. (Tr. 12-13). Landy explained that both medications can cause feelings of " sluggish[ness]" or " fuzzy-mindedness," although impairment is not common. (Tr. 13-15). Landy opined that Parker's mental capacities were not impaired by the medications, although Parker did continue to experience hallucinations over the next several days. (Tr. 13, 37).

Landy testified that he called the Secret Service on February 6, 2014 to report that Parker had threatened to kill the President. (Tr. 16-17, 53). Landy spoke with Blackerby, who requested to interview Parker. (Tr. 53-55). Landy and Blackerby did not discuss the possibility of criminal charges. (Tr. 55). According to Landy, Blackerby ...

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