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United States v. Huggins-McLean

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

January 28, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
EAN HUGGINS-McLEAN, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

G.R. SMITH, Magistrate Judge.

Indicted on drug conspiracy charges, defendant Ean Huggins-McLean challenges the voluntariness of the statements he made while detained and questioned by federal agents. Doc. 29. The sole witness at the evidentiary hearing on defendant's motion, Chatham County Sheriff's Deputy Herbert Eugene Harley, Jr. (then serving as an FBI Task Force Officer), provided convincing testimony establishing that defendant made a knowing and voluntary waiver of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination prior to his interrogation. Accordingly, defendant's motion must be DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

In the Spring of 2014, federal task force agents arrested Mr. Mark Redman on marijuana distribution charges. Suppression Hearing Transcript (hereinafter "Tr.") at 6-7. Redman, who agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the agents, identified Ean Huggins-McLean as his main source of supply for marijuana that was being shipped through the mail from California to Redman's business in Savannah, Georgia. Id. at 7. Redman made consensually monitored phone calls to defendant and arranged to finance a new marijuana shipment by depositing funds (furnished by the government) into defendant's checking account. Id. at 8-9. After receiving the funds, defendant purchased the marijuana in California and mailed it to Redman. Id. at 9. Using the postal tracking number furnished by defendant, the agents intercepted the package, which was found to contain four pounds of marijuana. Id.

Defendant then made plans to fly to Savannah to obtain his cut of the marijuana and discuss with Redman future marijuana transactions. Id. at 10. Defendant landed at the Savannah International Airport on April 10, 2014, at around 11:00 to 11:30 p.m. Id. When he disembarked, he was met by three FBI agents and Task Force Officer ("TFO") Harley, who were all in plain clothing, and a uniformed airport police officer. Id. One of the agents approached defendant, produced his FBI credentials, and asked defendant to step to the side. Id. at 11. TFO Harley introduced himself, stated that the agents needed to talk to him about his trip to Savannah, and explained that they would wait for the other deplaning passengers to disperse so as "to not cause a scene." Id. Defendant cooperated with this request and then walked with the agents to a conference room at the front of the airport.[1] The conference room was spacious, with a large table in the middle and multiple chairs around it. Id. at 13. Only defendant, TFO Harley, and FBI Special Agent Adam Rogalski entered the room and had a seat at the table. Id. (noting that the rest of agents remained outside the conference room, although that would not have been visible to defendant).

After "some general conversation, " defendant stated that he was hungry, as he had only eaten a cinnamon bun all day. Id. at 13-14. Harley said that if the agents "had an opportunity, " they would get him something to eat. Id. at 14. When defendant indicated that his phone battery needed recharging, the agents allowed him to plug his phone into a nearby outlet. Id. at 31. Defendant then expressed concern about a person who was waiting to pick him up outside the airport. Id. The agents, believing that defendant was referring to Redman (who was not waiting outside as defendant assumed), indicated they would have someone try to make contact with him. Id. at 14, 30. When defendant asked if he could "at least [call] my mom and let her know... I made it here, " Harley said "Well, we'll do that later on. We don't need to do that right now." Id. at 32.

TFO Harley then redirected the conversation to the issue of why defendant had come to Savannah, whereupon defendant asked whether he was going to jail. Id. at 14. Harley replied that he "wasn't sure, " but that he needed to advise defendant of his rights before proceeding with an interview. Id. Harley read defendant his rights using a standard FBI advice-of-rights form. Id. at 15-17. Harley noted on the form that defendant had 17 years of education. Id. at 16. Harley testified that he found defendant "to be very clear and alert" and concluded that "he understood very much who I was, what was going on." Id. at 17. Following the advice of rights, but before executing a waiver of his rights, defendant stated that either his mother or father was an attorney, id. at 17, and expressed some uncertainty about whether to speak with agents. Id. at 17, 32, 34. Harley assured defendant that "the decision was his." Id. at 46. Defendant signed the waiver form and agreed to submit to an interview at 11:47 p.m. At no point prior to or during the interview did defendant ever indicate that he wanted to consult with an attorney. Id. at 46-47.

At the outset of the interview defendant consented to a search of a book bag that he had carried off the airplane. Id. at 19, 38, 40. Inside the bag were some cookies which Harley invited defendant to eat if he wished. Id. at 19, 40. During the course of the 30 to 60 minute interview, TFO Harley and Agent Rogalski would sometimes leave the room and converse outside with other agents. On these occasions defendant would get up and begin to do yoga or some form of meditation. Id. at 22. Defendant gave a detailed account of his marijuana dealings with Redman. Id. at 19-21. At the conclusion of the interview, the agents informed defendant that he was under arrest. Id. at 23.

TFO Harley conceded on cross examination that when defendant expressed reservations about talking to the agents if he was going to jail, Harley indicated that "things would go better for him" if he cooperated, or words "to that effect." Id. at 40-41. Follow-up questioning by the Court led to the following exchange:

Q. What precisely did you say regarding some promise of benefit or favorable treatment if he agreed to speak?
A. As I recall, I was simply trying to tell him that I knew a lot more than probably what he thought I knew and that, you know, if he was going to - it would be better for him to speak and -
Q. This is before or after the advice-of-rights and the waiver?
A. I believe this was ...

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