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United States v. Blaine

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

February 13, 2019




         Pending before the Court is Defendant Anthony Blaine's Motion to Suppress Statements from Interview in which he seeks to suppress statements he made to law enforcement following his arrest on November 5, 2018. [Doc. 2097.] For the following reasons, it is RECOMMENDED that the motion be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 24, 2018, a federal grand jury seated in the Northern District of Georgia returned a second superseding indictment in this case charging Blaine with a single count of RICO conspiracy. [Doc. 1750.] The indictment alleges that Blaine was a member of the Gangster Disciples, which the government alleges operated as a racketeering enterprise as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 1961(4). [Id. at 6-8.] It is further alleged that during the time period relevant to this case Blaine served in various leadership roles within the organization, including First Coordinator for the Northside Count, Region for the state of Georgia, Assistant Governor of Georgia, and Governor of Georgia.[1] [Id. at 14.] The indictment alleges in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy, Blaine and co-defendant Mangwiro Sadiki-Yisrael caused fraudulent transactions to occur that resulted in more than $77, 805 being deposited into at least six accounts controlled by Blaine and held in his name and the names of others. [Id. at 20-21 (Overt Act 15).]

         According to Blaine, after he learned about the second superseding indictment, he contacted the U.S. Marshals Service at least four times on November 1 and November 2, 2018 in an effort to obtain information about the arrest warrant and the procedure for self-surrendering. [Doc. 2097 at 2-4.] He was repeatedly placed on hold “until he disconnected the calls due to extreme wait-time.” [Id. at 3.] Apparently, on November 2, 2018, he managed to speak to someone at the U.S. Marshals Service in the Northern District of Georgia, to whom he conveyed “information regarding self-surrender.” [Id. at 3-4.] Then, according to Blaine, the U.S. Marshals Service “advertently or inadvertently” shared the information to the agents in charge of the investigation, who arrested Blaine on November 5, 2018.[2][Id. at 4.]

         After his arrest, agents transported Blaine to a “federal office” and interviewed him before his initial appearance and appointment of counsel. [Doc. 2097 at 4.] Unaccompanied by a lawyer, Blaine was provided Miranda[3] warnings. Blaine does not contest that he voluntarily and knowingly waived his rights. [Id. at 5, 7; see also Doc. 2154 at 8-9 (recognizing that the issue before the Court is the adequacy of Blaine's waiver, but instead the purported effort by the government to arrest Blaine knowing his desire to self-surrender and thereby deny him his right to counsel).] Blaine had no counsel at the time of his arrest. [See Doc. 2154 at 3-4.]

         On January 22, 2019, Blaine moved to suppress his post-arrest statements. [Doc. 2097.] He argues that his statements should be suppressed because the government violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by arresting and interrogating him, knowing full well that he wished to self-surrender. [Id. at 4-5.] The assumptions underlying Blaine's argument are that law enforcement knew he would “immediately” have counsel appointed if he self-surrendered, but the agents felt they would have a better opportunity to secure his cooperation without the interference of his defense attorney. [Id. at 5-6.] So, they arrested him-rather than directing him to self-surrender-in order to interview him before he had the assistance of counsel. [Id.] As Blaine puts it:

[T]he sequence of events dictated by the agents and methods used by them were calculated to isolate Mr. Blaine from both counsel and the Court in order to more easily pursue cooperation, in violation of his right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

[Id. at 7.]

         The government responds that, even accepting as true Blaine's version of the facts, Blaine's arrest and subsequent interrogation did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. [Doc. 2148 at 2-3.] The government contends that arresting a defendant instead of allowing him to self-surrender does not implicate the Sixth Amendment and points out that there is no authority supporting Blaine's contention that the arrest was so compulsive or coercive that it negated Blaine's otherwise valid Miranda waiver. [Id. at 2148 at 4-5.]

         In his reply, Blaine argues that the Sixth Amendment violation occurred before the Miranda warning and was “irrevocably complete the moment Miranda warnings were given and custodial interrogation began.” [Doc. 2154 at 2.] Blaine further argues that since agents knew that he wished to self-surrender, they should have taken him to a magistrate judge immediately where counsel would be appointed. [Id. at 3.] Blaine maintains the Miranda warning could not cure the purported constitutional violation because by seeking to surrender, he “indicated that he desired to face the charges and we know that assistance of counsel would have been provided at his initial appearance, precluding a counsel-less interrogation.” [Id. at 4.]


         The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” The right to counsel attaches when a prosecution is commenced by the initiation of adversary judicial criminal proceedings, “whether by way of formal charge, preliminary hearing, indictment, information, or arraignment.” Rothgery v. Gillespie Cty., Tex., 554 U.S. 191, 198 (2008) (citation omitted); United States v. Dixon, 901 F.3d 1322, 1340 (11th Cir. 2018), cert. denied sub nom. Portela v. United States, No. 18-6917, 2019 WL 113506 (U.S. Jan. 7, 2019). The second superseding indictment charging Blaine was returned on October 24, 2018; thus, both at the time Blaine attempted to self-surrender and at the time of his arrest, Blaine had the right to counsel. He also had a Sixth Amendment right to counsel at any post-indictment interrogation. Montejo v. Louisiana, 556 U.S. 787, 786 (2009)

         It is “beyond doubt that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel may be waived by a defendant, so long as relinquishment of the right is voluntary, knowing, and intelligent.” Montejo, 556 at 786 (citing Patterson v. Illinois, 487 U.S. 285, 292 n.4 (1988); Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387, 404 (1977); Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 464 (1938)). Critically, for purposes of the present analysis, a “defendant may waive the right whether or not he is already represented by counsel; the decision to waive need not itself be counseled.” Id. Typically, the waiver of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is sufficient if the “defendant is read his Miranda rights (which include the right to have counsel present during interrogation) and agrees to waive those rights . . . even though the Miranda rights purportedly have their source in the Fifth Amendment[.]” Id.; see also Patterson, 487 U.S. at 296 (stating that, in general, “an accused who is admonished with the warnings prescribed by this Court in Miranda has been sufficiently apprised of the nature of his Sixth Amendment rights, and of the consequences of abandoning those rights, so that his waiver on this basis will be considered a knowing and intelligent one” (citation omitted)). But “once a defendant clearly invokes his right to counsel, authorities may not interrogate him (1) until counsel is made available, or (2) unless the defendant initiates the contact; any waiver obtained prior to the occurrence of ...

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