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United States v. Seppala

United States District Court, S.D. New York

November 22, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
GERALD SEPPALA, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          KIMBA M. WOOD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Gerald Seppala ("Seppala") is charged with wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1342-43 and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349.

         Seppala moves to suppress his post-arrest statements to law enforcement officers on the grounds that admitting such statements would violate his rights under the Sixth Amendment and Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).[1] Seppala's motion is GRANTED because Seppala unambiguously invoked his right to counsel when he asked, "Do I have an opportunity to call an attorney?"

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 22, 2016, Seppala was indicted by a Grand Jury sitting in this District. (Indictment, ECF No. 1.) Six days later, at around 7:00 a.m., a team of Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") agents led by Special Agent Matthew Vogel ("SA Vogel") arrived at Seppala's home to execute a search warrant. (Gov't Opp'n, ECF No. 70, at 2.) The agents arrested Seppala, who had never been arrested before. (Def's Aff, ECF No. 69, ¶16.)

         While agents began searching his home, Seppala was led in handcuffs to a table where the agents had set up a video camera. Moments after Seppala sat down, the following initial exchange took place:

Seppala: Do I have an opportunity to call an attorney?
SA Vogel: Uh, you will.
Seppala: Okay.
SA Vogel: Let's, um, let's go through what's going on so that you make informed decisions today.

         (Video A at 8:58-9:14.[2]) Immediately after this exchange, SA Vogel advised Seppala of his Miranda rights, including the right to counsel. (Video A at 9:44-10:08.) Vogel then uncuffed Seppala, and Seppala signed a form that further advised him of his Miranda rights (the "advice- of-rights form"). (Opp'n, Ex. 1, ECF No. 70-1).

         After signing this form, FBI agents began to interview Seppala, who was visibly bewildered. Fifteen minutes into the interview, the following exchange occurred:

Seppala: When can I call a lawyer, because we're not making progress?
SA Vogel: I- -I . . . you-you can, like we said before and on-and on that form, you can stop-you can answer any, as many, or none ...

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