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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville

May 3, 2017




         When Darryl Williams caught word that he was under investigation for drug trafficking, he tried to stave off what he thought was an inevitable arrest by attempting to cooperate with local and federal law enforcement officers. Williams, with encouragement from his brother and friend, met with law enforcement on several occasions, hoping to avoid being charged in state court. Those attempts turned out to be for naught. After a few months, law enforcement became uninterested in Williams' help, and months later, a federal grand jury indicted Williams on charges of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone. Williams now seeks to exclude from evidence the statements he made in those meetings. Because the statements in question were made in a non-custodial setting, and thus without the need for Miranda warnings, Williams' motion to suppress (DE 67) is DENIED.


         The Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on April 4, 2017. At the hearing, the United States called two witnesses: Kentucky State Police Trooper Zach Bryson and DEA Special Agent Ian Dalrymple. The defense called two witnesses: Pike County Jailer Freddie Lewis and defendant Darryl Williams.


         Williams was at home when his brother, Mike, contacted him with information that Kentucky State Police Trooper Zach Bryson had received complaints that Williams was selling prescription medications. The information came from a good family friend, Pike County Jailer Freddie Lewis, with whom Trooper Bryson had discussed Williams' potential criminal activity. Although the stories are conflicting regarding events leading up to meetings between Williams and law enforcement, Williams met with Trooper Bryson at the Kentucky State Police (“KSP”) Post 9 in Pikeville, Kentucky.

         Jailer Lewis drove Williams to the Post because Williams had taken too much Oxycodone that day. On the way, Lewis told Williams that he needed to tell the truth. In Lewis' mind, the whole purpose of the meeting was for Williams to cooperate with Trooper Bryson. And that is what Williams did.

         At the Post, Williams and Trooper Bryson spoke at length. Williams did not ask for an attorney, nor did anyone prevent him from contacting one. Trooper Bryson assured Williams that he was doing the right thing by talking. Trooper Bryson testified that at no point in the meeting did he threaten Williams with arrest, but he did tell Williams that it was in his best interest for him to tell the truth. In contrast, Williams testified that Trooper Bryson yelled at him about his alleged activities, but Trooper Bryson denies that any sort of tiff occurred between the two men.

         Nevertheless, Williams provided Trooper Bryson with information related to a drug conspiracy and even touted his previous experience as a confidential informant. Williams expressed a desire to do the same kind of work for the KSP. To demonstrate his value as an informant, Williams showed Trooper Bryson a video on his phone of Williams making a controlled purchase when he was allegedly working at the direction of another officer. According to Williams, Bryson promised that he would face only state charges if he cooperated. Trooper Bryson testified that he did not remember if he made such a promise, but recalls telling Williams that he would be serving as a cooperating witness to buy off major sources in the drug trafficking scheme Williams described. Trooper Bryson told Williams that he would reach back out to Williams. The meeting then ended and Williams left with Lewis.

         Trooper Bryson was new to complex drug investigations, so he reached out to DEA Special Agent Gregory Bunch for help, relaying what he had learned from Williams at the meeting. Trooper Bryson then contacted Williams to set up a meeting with federal agents. Williams testified that he was reluctant at first, but agreed to meet, thinking that he had no choice to avoid arrest.

         A few days later, on June 17, 2016, Williams, admittedly high on Oxycodone, went back to the KSP Post 9 to talk to law enforcement. There he met Trooper Bryson, and two other officers, DEA Special Agent Dalrymple and DEA Task Force Officer Brian Metzger.

         At the hearing, there was some contention as to whether, upon his arrival, Williams was met outside by Trooper Bryson. Williams testified that Trooper Bryson met him outside of the police post and told Williams that he needed to tell the truth or risk being arrested. Trooper Bryson did not remember if he met Williams outside and walked with him into the office or if Williams walked in by himself. Trooper Bryson was certain, however, that he never told Williams that he would go to jail if he did not cooperate. SA Dalrymple testified that Williams met them at the door of the office and was invited in to talk. SA Dalrymple also testified that Williams was not searched, patted down or placed in handcuffs.

         The June 17th meeting took place in Trooper Bryson's office, a small room inside a cinderblock building located behind the main KSP Post. The room, according to SA Dalrymple, was no bigger than thirty square feet with a few desks spread throughout, one of which was facing the door. Williams testified that the room was warm, but had a window air-conditioning unit. Trooper Bryson testified that the door to the outside was open for the duration of the meeting. Trooper Bryson could not recall exactly what he was wearing that day, but recalled that no weapons were brandished at any point while he was present during the meeting. SA Dalrymple and TFO Metzger, who were working under cover, wore plain clothes and no indicia that they were law enforcement officers. They were armed, but their weapons were not visible. SA Dalrymple's badge was tucked into his wallet.

         No Miranda warnings were read at the beginning of the meeting. SA Dalrymple testified unequivocally that Williams was not under arrest. SA Dalrymple stated that he informed Williams that he was free to leave at any time and that Williams was under no obligation to talk. SA Dalrymple testified that it was his practice to give those warnings at the outset of every meeting where a suspect is not under arrest and that he does so at the outset to specify the purpose of the interview. Trooper Bryson corroborated that SA Dalrymple informed Williams that he was free to leave at any time and was under no obligation to talk. Williams denies that he was given that instruction.

         During the meeting, Williams laid out a great detail of information related to a drug trafficking operation. SA Dalrymple observed that Williams was open, honest, and engaged during the interviews, and was very confident about his ability to cooperate in the investigation. SA Dalrymple testified that Williams also described his past work as a paid confidential informant.

         There is no evidence that voices were raised or that Williams felt uncomfortable during the meetings or that law enforcement officers controlled Williams in any way. Williams took smoke breaks during the meeting. Williams testified that he was permitted to go outside and smoke, but that he did not walk out of the sight of the law enforcement officers. There is no indication that the officers followed Williams outside or told him that he could not get up to go outside.

         Williams was permitted to use his cell phone during the meeting. Although Williams testified that his cell phone was taken from him during the meeting, he admitted to using the phone openly during the interview. At one point, Williams made plans to meet someone at the local McDonalds for a meal afterward. Williams testified that SA Dalrymple urged him to eat because Dalrymple thought Williams was high. Although Williams testified that officers kept control of his cell phone during the interview, he admitted that he used it to make a call. SA Dalrymple testified to having no interest in Williams' phone at that time and that Williams' phone was never taken from him.

         At some point, Trooper Bryson left the meeting, leaving the federal officers alone with Williams. During the entire meeting, Williams remained unrestrained, and after two to three hours, the meeting ended. SA Dalrymple testified that it was never his intention to effect an arrest that day. Williams left on his own with all of his personal belongings.

         Several days later on June 24, 2016, Williams agreed to meet with SA Dalrymple again, this time at the DEA Office in London, Kentucky, a two hour drive from Williams' home in Pikeville. Because authorities were interested in using Williams as an informant, SA Dalrymple reached out to various DEA offices in different areas, indicating that Williams had information about a large scale drug trafficking scheme that reached into different states. Accordingly, other officers attended the meeting.

         Williams arrived at the DEA office in London and was admitted to the premises through a large pressure sensitive security gate. Officers escorted him in through the back of the facility. Williams walked with officers through the secured facility, passing a few holding cells on his way to the interview room where several DEA officers, including SA Dalrymple, were waiting for him. Williams was patted down at some point before the meeting began, all in accordance with DEA policy. The interview room was small and cramped with people. The door to the outside hallway was open and remained open throughout the interview. Williams was unrestrained, and none of the officers brandished weapons.

         The interview began without Williams being read Miranda warnings. Like before, SA Dalrymple testified that Williams was told that he was free to leave at any time and under no obligation to talk. According to SA Dalrymple, Williams was not threatened with arrest if he did not talk, but Williams was told that it was important that he tell the truth because what was said during the interviews would be provided to the prosecuting attorney in the investigation. Williams proceeded to talk with law enforcement. During the interview, Williams' fingerprints were taken as part of the process to vet him as a potential confidential informant.

         Williams testified that during the meeting, his phones were taken from him. SA Dalrymple did not take them himself, but stated instead that Williams' phones may have been searched. Williams later admitted that he signed various papers during the meeting and testified that he gave the officers permission to take the phones to download certain information, including certain ...

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