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United States v. Edrington

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

March 21, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF
v.
CORNELIUS FABIAN EDRINGTON, DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAVID L. BUNNING UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is currently before the Court upon Defendant Edrington's Motion to Suppress Statements to Law Enforcement Officers on May 31, 2018 (Doc. # 65). The Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on February 13, 2019. (Doc. # 78). Defendant was present for the hearing and was represented by Attorney David Dudley. The Government was represented by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Bracke. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court took the motion under submission. For the reasons set forth herein, and because the Court concludes Defendant was not subjected to a custodial interrogation on May 31, 2018, Defendant's Motion to Suppress is denied.

         I. FINDINGS OF FACT

         During the February 13, 2019 evidentiary hearing held, the Court heard testimony from three witnesses. The Government called DEA Task Force Agent (TFA) Ken Baker and U.S. Probation Officer Jennifer Huber (Doc. # 79). Defendant testified on his own behalf (id.). Weighing the credibility of the witnesses, the Court makes the following factual findings:

1. During 2018, Defendant was on federal supervised release from a felony drug conviction he had obtained in the Southern District of Ohio. U.S. Probation Officer (USPO) Jennifer Huber was his supervision officer with U.S. Probation in Cincinnati, Ohio and had been so for several years. As a condition of his supervised release, Defendant was required to report as directed by USPO Huber and to truthfully answer all inquiries by the probation officer.
2. Prior to May 31, 2018, Defendant had regularly reported to USPO Huber's office as directed by her. On those prior occasions, USPO Huber would either meet him in the lobby or in an interior conference room inside the probation office. Defendant would occasionally have his infant son with him when he reported to USPO Huber's office.
3. Because Defendant had been identified as a participant in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana, and information obtained by law enforcement suggested that he may have relevant information relating to the distribution of heroin and fentanyl in the Cincinnati area, TFA Baker asked USPO Huber to have Defendant report to the probation office for a meeting. TFA Baker was hoping to speak to Defendant to see if he would be willing to cooperate regarding opioid distribution. Because meeting with Defendant in Avondale was impossible without possible suspects of the opioid investigation noticing the presence of law enforcement, TFA Baker asked USPO Huber to have him come into her office for the meeting.
4. On May 30, 2018, USPO Huber sent Defendant a text message to see if he could report to turn in monthly supervision reports that she was missing. Because their regular method of communication was via text message, receiving a text message to report the following day was not unusual and raised no red flags whatsoever. However, USPO Huber did not tell Defendant that TFA Baker would be present to speak with him on May 31, 2018.
5. On May 31, 2018, Defendant reported to USPO Huber's office as directed. As was the case on previous occasions, Defendant had his infant son with him. Upon his arrival, USPO Huber directed him to an interior conference room. Defendant entered the room and picked his own seat, the one closest to the door.
6. Shortly after Defendant sat down, TFA Baker and Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") Special Agent ("SA") Jeff McKinley entered the room. USPO Huber also entered the room but did not speak during the meeting. Both officers were in plain clothes and sat down with the Defendant. No. one blocked Defendant's access to the door and no weapons or handcuffs were displayed by either officer. Defendant was not restrained in any way during the brief meeting and held his infant son during the entire interview.
7. At the inception of the meeting, TFA Baker introduced himself and SA McKinley and specifically told Defendant he was not under arrest and was free to go.[1] TFA Baker asked him if he was willing to speak to them and Defendant agreed. However, TFA Baker did not tell him he did not have to participate in the interview. TFA Baker told Defendant that his name had come up in an ongoing opioid investigation and that they wanted to speak to him about possibly obtaining his cooperation in that investigation. TFA Baker also explained that they arranged to speak to him at the probation officer to preserve his privacy since the agents were concerned that approaching him at his Avondale residence would have tipped off neighbors and associates. TFA Baker asked if he was willing to hear them out and Defendant agreed.
8. After Defendant agreed to listen to their proposal, the officers discussed how the marijuana conspiracy led them to the Defendant. Defendant briefly discussed his involvement in that offense. At the conclusion of the interview, TFA Baker asked Defendant to consider cooperating, gave him his card, and requested that he let them know by June 4, 2018 one way or the other. Defendant agreed to do so and exited the probation office with his son.
9. The entire meeting at the probation office lasted approximately fifteen (15) to twenty (20) minutes. No. one told the Defendant that he was going to be indicted in connection with the marijuana case or threatened him in any way during the May 31 meeting.[2] Nor was he restrained or blocked from leaving during the meeting, and no one made any threats or engaged in any coercive tactics with the Defendant during the brief meeting.

         II. ...


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