Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Schaffer

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

March 15, 2017

United States of America, Appellee,
v.
Gregory John Schaffer, AKA John Archambeault, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: September 27, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

          Allegra Glashausser, Federal Defenders of New York, Inc., Appeals Bureau, New York, NY for Defendant-Appellant.

          Peter W. Baldwin, Assistant United States Attorney (Amy Busa, Assistant United States Attorney, on the brief) for Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn, NY, for Appellee.

          Before: Walker, Cabranes, Circuit Judges, and Berman, Judge. [*]

          Gregory John Schaffer appeals from a judgment of conviction entered on July 24, 2015, following a trial in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Allyne R. Ross, Judge). A jury convicted Schaffer of, among other crimes, coercing and enticing a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b).

         Prior to trial, Schaffer moved to suppress incriminating statements he made to law enforcement on the ground that they were made during a custodial interrogation without the benefit of a Miranda warning. The District Court denied Schaffer's motion, holding that Schaffer was not in "custody" for purposes of Miranda. Schaffer also opposed the government's introduction at trial of portions of four videos that showed him committing prior sexual assaults on two minor girls. He asserted that the admission of these videos would violate his right to due process. The District Court permitted the government to introduce the videos after concluding that they were admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 413 and were not unfairly prejudicial under Federal Rule of Evidence 403. On appeal, Schaffer challenges both of the District Court's rulings, arguing, most notably, that Rule 413 violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

         We hold that the District Court did not err in denying Schaffer's motion to suppress, because Schaffer was not in custody at the time he made his incriminating statements. We further hold that Rule 413 does not violate the Due Process Clause, and that the

          District Court did not err by permitting the government to introduce at trial portions of the four videos.

         Accordingly, we AFFIRM the District Court's judgment of conviction.

          José A. Cabranes, Circuit Judge

         Defendant-Appellant Gregory John Schaffer appeals from a judgment of conviction entered on July 24, 2015, following a trial in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Allyne R. Ross, Judge). A jury convicted Schaffer of, among other crimes, coercing and enticing a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b).

         Prior to trial, Schaffer moved to suppress incriminating statements he made to Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI") agents on the ground that they were made during a custodial interrogation without the benefit of a Miranda warning. The District Court denied Schaffer's motion, holding that the interview with Schaffer was not a custodial interrogation.[1]

         Schaffer also opposed the government's introduction at trial of portions of four videos that showed him committing prior sexual assaults on two minor girls. The government asserted that the videos were admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 413[2] and were not unfairly prejudicial under Federal Rule of Evidence 403.[3] In opposition, Schaffer argued that Rule 413 violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and that the videos were unfairly prejudicial. The District Court did not explicitly rule on Schaffer's constitutional challenge, but permitted the government to introduce limited portions of the videos pursuant to Rule 413 after concluding that they were not precluded by Rule 403.

          On appeal, Schaffer seeks to overturn his conviction on grounds that the District Court should have: (1) suppressed his incriminating statements to HSI agents because he was in custody during the interview within the meaning of Miranda v. Arizona[4] and its progeny; (2) excluded the four videos showing prior sexual assaults because Rule 413 violates the Due Process Clause; and (3) excluded the four videos because they were unfairly prejudicial.

         We hold that the District Court did not err in denying Schaffer's motion to suppress, because Schaffer was not in custody at the time he made his incriminating statements. We further hold that Rule 413 does not violate the Due Process Clause and that the District Court did not err by permitting the government to introduce portions of the four videos at trial.

         Accordingly, we AFFIRM the District Court's judgment of conviction.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Overview

         We set forth the facts necessary to decide the claims addressed in this opinion, and we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the government.[5]

          In March 2012, fifteen-year-old Strasia Sierra[6] posted an advertisement on the website Craigslist seeking a weekend or after- school job. Schaffer, then thirty-three years old, responded to Sierra's online ad with an email seeking part-time help at a retail store he owned in Jersey City, New Jersey. After exchanging several emails, including one in which Sierra informed Schaffer that she was fifteen years old, Sierra agreed to travel from Brooklyn, New York to Schaffer's office in New Jersey for an in-person job interview.

         At the conclusion of her initial interview, during which Schaffer asked Sierra numerous sexually suggestive questions, Schaffer offered Sierra a job and directed her to return alone to his office the following day. Because Sierra needed money to help her family pays its bills, she accepted the position and returned to Schaffer's office as directed. During her second visit, Schaffer sexually assaulted Sierra.

         First, Schaffer instructed Sierra to try on several different swimsuits and "adjusted" each new swimsuit she put on. These "adjustments" entailed Schaffer touching the area around her breasts, buttocks, and groin. Then, Schaffer put on his own swimsuit, posed with Sierra for photographs, and placed her hands over his groin. Finally, Schaffer forced Sierra to have sex with him on his desk.

          Several days after the sexual assault occurred, a counselor from Sierra's school notified the New York City Police Department about the incident. As part of the ensuing investigation, law enforcement used Sierra's email account to arrange for another meeting between her and Schaffer. On the day that that meeting was scheduled to occur, nine HSI agents arrived at Schaffer's office building to conduct a search of the premises.

         When law enforcement first entered the building to serve Schaffer with a warrant, some of the agents held Schaffer inside the doorway while other agents conducted a security sweep of the area. At no point did any of the agents handcuff Schaffer or draw their firearms. When the approximately one-minute-long sweep was over, Schaffer agreed to speak with Special Agents Robert Mancene and Megan Buckley in an area of the building adjacent to his office.

         At the outset of the interview, the two agents notified Schaffer that he was not under arrest. They also did not handcuff or otherwise restrain him at any time during the interview. Instead, they permitted Schaffer to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes freely. At one point, Schaffer asked the agents whether he should have an attorney present. Agent Mancene informed Schaffer that he had a right to have an attorney present, but told him that he would have to decide for himself whether or not to exercise that right. At no point thereafter did Schaffer request an attorney.

         Schaffer did, however, ask Agent Mancene twice during the interview if he could leave to collect money from an attorney located down the street. Schaffer claimed that he needed the money to purchase medication, but never asserted that there was a medical emergency necessitating his purchase of the medication. He also never claimed that the attorney was his attorney. Agent Mancene denied both of Schaffer's requests on the ground that it would create a "security issue" and threaten the integrity of the search because the agents had placed boxes of evidence "all over the floor by the threshold of the doorway."[7] Ultimately, over the course of an approximately one-hour interview, Schaffer made several incriminating statements to Agents Mancene and Buckley, including admitting that he owned the email account used to communicate with Sierra.

         At the conclusion of the interview, and after the agents reviewed the evidence collected during the search, Agent Mancene called the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York and arrested Schaffer. Then, only after handcuffing Schaffer, Agent Mancene read him a Miranda warning.

         During a subsequent forensic search of his office computer, law enforcement agents discovered, among other things, four videos showing Schaffer committing sexual assaults on two other minor girls. The first two videos showed Schaffer with a girl around the age of eight or nine years old. The girl was trying on swimsuits and Schaffer was fondling her body while "adjusting" the suits. One of the videos showed the girl performing oral sex on Schaffer while the other video showed Schaffer either having sex with, or masturbating on top of, the girl. Both videos were approximately six minutes long and neither of them included sound.

         The third and fourth videos showed Schaffer interacting with a different minor girl inside of a hotel room. This girl was approximately twelve or thirteen years old. Both of these videos included sound and they had a combined length of eighty-seven minutes. They showed Schaffer telling the girl he was an FBI agent, offering her gifts, making her try on swimsuits, making her sit on the bed naked, and taking her into the bathroom.

         In July 2012, a federal grand jury filed a four-count indictment against Schaffer charging him with, among other crimes, one count of coercing and enticing a minor to travel in interstate commerce to engage in illegal sexual activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b), [8] and one count of attempting to commit a violation of Section 2422(b). Two years later, a jury convicted Schaffer on all four counts of the indictment. The District Court sentenced Schaffer to 300 months' imprisonment.

         II. Schaffer's Pretrial Motion to Suppress

         Prior to trial, Schaffer moved to suppress the statements he made during the interview with Agents Mancene and Buckley. He claimed that the District Court should exclude his statements because he made them during a custodial interrogation without having first received a Miranda warning. More specifically, he argued that he was in "custody" within the meaning of Miranda because the agents prevented him from leaving the interview, denied him access to an attorney, and denied him access to medication. The government opposed Schaffer's motion.

         In order to resolve the motion, the District Court held a suppression hearing, at which Agent Mancene testified. Agent Mancene attested to the facts described above and the District Court found his testimony credible.[9] Relying on that testimony, the District Court denied Schaffer's motion to suppress, holding that no reasonable person in Schaffer's position would "have understood that his interrogation was being conducted pursuant to arrest-like restraints."[10]

          The District Court identified several factors leading to its conclusion that Schaffer was not in custody.[11] For example, the District Court noted that the agents informed Schaffer he was not under arrest, that Schaffer voluntarily agreed to speak with the agents, and that the agents did not restrain Schaffer during the interview.[12] While the District Court also recognized that Agent Mancene prevented Schaffer from leaving the interview, it concluded that such a limited restriction on Schaffer's freedom of action was not indicative of "custody" under the circumstances presented.[13] It also found no credible evidence supporting Schaffer's claim that agents denied him an attorney or medication.[14]

         III. The Government's Motion In Limine Seeking Admission of the Four Videos

         The government moved in limine to admit as evidence at trial fifteen minutes' worth of clips from the four videos showing Schaffer's prior sexual assaults.[15] Schaffer opposed the admission of the videos on grounds that (1) they were unfairly prejudicial under Rule 403, and that (2) Rule 413, which permits a court to admit evidence of a defendant's prior sexual assaults, violated the Due Process Clause.

         After viewing the selected excerpts in camera, [16] the District Court permitted the government to introduce the edited videos at trial.[17] In its order granting the motion in limine, the District Court stated three supporting conclusions. First, the District Court agreed that the videos showed conduct qualifying as "sexual assault" within the meaning of Rule 413.[18] Second, it concluded that the videos were "highly relevant to the charges against Schaffer" because his intent to commit sexual acts with minors was at issue, and the videos showed that Schaffer had a pattern of "enticing girls into situations in which they are alone with him and making them try on swimsuits before forcing them to engage in sexual conduct."[19]Third, it concluded that the videos were not unfairly prejudicial because they did not show conduct more inflammatory than the conduct alleged in the indictment and because the jury could not discern that the other girls were significantly younger than Sierra.[20]

         DISCUSSION

         I. Schaffer's Challenge to the District Court's Denial of his Motion to Suppress

         a. Standard of Review

         In an appeal of an order denying a motion to suppress, we review a district court's legal conclusions de novo and its factual findings for clear error, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government.[21] We will not overrule the credibility findings of a district court unless they are clearly erroneous.[22]

         b. The Principles Governing the Application of Miranda

         Pursuant to the Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v. Arizona, the prosecution is prohibited from using at trial a defendant's statements made during a "custodial interrogation" unless "it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination."[23] There is no dispute that Agent Mancene did not advise Schaffer of his Miranda rights until after Schaffer had made his incriminating statements. Accordingly, the only relevant issue on appeal is whether Schaffer was in "custody" for purposes of Miranda when he spoke with law enforcement agents.

         As we have had occasion to observe, "'[c]ustody' for Miranda purposes is not coterminous with . . . the colloquial understanding of custody."[24] Instead, an individual is in "custody" only if two conditions are met: (1) "a reasonable person would have thought he was [not] free to leave the police encounter at issue" and (2) "a reasonable person would have understood his freedom of action to have been curtailed to a degree associated with formal arrest."[25]

          While the first condition-a seizure-is necessary for concluding that a suspect was in custody, "not every seizure constitutes custody for purposes of Miranda."[26] Thus, the "ultimate inquiry" is whether a reasonable person would have understood the law enforcement agents' restraint on his freedom to equal "the degree associated with a formal arrest."[27]

         To determine whether a suspect's freedom of movement was "curtailed to a degree associated with formal arrest, " courts are required to conduct an objective examination of "all the surrounding circumstances."[28] Because our case law requires an objective inquiry, "[a]n individual's subjective belief about his or her status generally does not bear on the custody analysis."[29] Rather, a court should consider a variety of factors including:

(1) the interrogation's duration; (2) its location (e.g., at the suspect's home, in public, in a police station, or at the border); (3) whether the suspect volunteered for the interview; (4) whether the officers used restraints; (5) whether weapons were present and especially whether they were drawn; and (6) whether officers told the suspect he was free to leave or under suspicion.[30]

         Ultimately, if a court determines that it was reasonable for the individual being interrogated to conclude that his detention was "not likely to be temporary and brief" and to feel that he was "completely at the mercy of [the] police, " then the individual was in "custody" and Miranda's protections apply.[31]

         c. Schaffer Was Not in "Custody" during the Interview

         Schaffer argues that the District Court erred by denying his motion to suppress because he was in "custody" during his interview with Agents Mancene and Buckley. Specifically, Schaffer contends that his interview was "custodial" because Agent Mancene twice denied his request to leave the office. The District Court examined all of the surrounding circumstances, including the denial of Schaffer's two requests to leave, and concluded that a reasonable person in Schaffer's position would not have considered himself subject to arrest-like constraints and, thus, Schaffer was not in "custody."[32] We agree. Under the circumstances presented here, a reasonable person would not believe that his freedom of movement was "curtailed to a degree associated with formal arrest."[33] The fact that law enforcement agents denied Schaffer's requests to leave his office would not cause a reasonable person to think otherwise, because a reasonable person would have viewed the agents' limited restriction on his freedom of movement as necessary to protect the integrity of the ongoing search.

         As an initial matter, the District Court held an evidentiary hearing on Schaffer's motion to suppress, at which it found the testimony of Agent Mancene to be credible, "particularly in light of the fact that it [was] controverted only by Schaffer's own self-serving declaration."[34] On appeal, Schaffer does not contest the District Court's credibility finding or its resulting factual findings. Accordingly, we adopt the findings of the District Court and review only its legal conclusion that Schaffer was not in "custody."

         In holding that Schaffer was not in "custody, " the District Court considered the following facts: (1) Schaffer was not handcuffed or otherwise physically restrained during his interview; (2) at no point did any of the agents have their weapons drawn; (3) the agents interviewed Schaffer in the familiar surroundings of his office and permitted him to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes; (4) the agents informed Schaffer that he was not under arrest; (5) Schaffer voluntarily agreed to speak with the agents; (6) the interview lasted only about an hour; and, (7) there was no evidence that Schaffer asked for an attorney or that the agents denied a request for an attorney.[35] The District Court concluded that each of those facts cut against holding that Schaffer was in custody.[36] It also considered the fact that Agent Mancene denied Schaffer's two requests to leave, understanding that fact to suggest that Schaffer's freedom of movement was indeed curtailed, but it declined to treat that fact as decisive because it reflected only a limited restriction on Schaffer's freedom of movement.[37]

         Because "not every seizure constitutes custody for purposes of Miranda, "[38] a custodial interrogation will be found only where a reasonable person would have understood the restraint on his freedom of movement to be "of the degree associated with a formal arrest."[39] Where there is evidence that an individual's freedom to move was limited, courts should consider whether "the relevant environment presents the same inherently coercive pressures as the type of station house questioning at issue in Miranda."[40] Based on the uncontested factual findings of the District Court, it is clear that Schaffer's interview did not constitute a coercive environment tantamount to a formal arrest.[41]

         The fact that there were nine agents in the office during the interview and that Agent Mancene denied Schaffer the ability to leave the interview while the search of his office continued do not compel a different conclusion. First, as we have explained before, "the number of officers is typically not dispositive" of custody.[42]Moreover, while there were nine agents inside Schaffer's office during the search, only Agents Mancene and Buckley conducted the interview, which took place in a separate part of the office away from the other seven agents. A reasonable person would not have felt "completely at the mercy of [the] police"[43] simply because he knew seven other agents were searching his office.

         Second, a reasonable person in Schaffer's position would not have concluded that being prohibited from leaving his office during an ongoing search was equivalent to a formal arrest. Instead, he would have considered the restriction on his freedom of movement to be a "sensible precaution" designed to protect the integrity of an ongoing search.[44] Agent Mancene testified that he instructed Schaffer that leaving the office would present a "security issue" because the "agents had set up . . . the boxes [of evidence] and the chains of custody, and they were all over the floor by the threshold of the doorway . . . ."[45] Considering the other conditions present during Schaffer's interview, no reasonable person in his position would have interpreted Agent Mancene's explanation as pretextual. Rather, his explanation that the exit was blocked by agents collecting and cataloguing evidence reasonably suggests that Schaffer's detention would be "temporary and brief."[46] A reasonable person in Schaffer's position would have assumed that law enforcement would permit him to leave the office once they had completed their search.

         The reasonableness of Agent Mancene's precautionary denial is underscored by the triviality of Schaffer's request to leave. Schaffer asked to leave the office because he wanted to collect money from an acquaintance. A reasonable person would not have expected law enforcement to permit him to leave the site of an ongoing search for such an inconsequential purpose. In contrast, if Schaffer had requested permission to depart the interview because he needed to address some timely emergency, and if law enforcement agents had denied such a request, it might be reasonable for Schaffer to have felt more "completely at the mercy of [the] police."[47] No such exigency, however, was mentioned here. Consequently, while ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.