United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
Michael L. Brown United States District Judge
United States charged Defendant Fernando Crawford with
embezzling funds from Flood Brothers, Inc., his wife's
former employer. As the FBI arrested Defendant for this
embezzlement, he gave a statement to two FBI agents.
Defendant now moves to suppress that statement. (Dkt. 78.)
The Magistrate Judge recommends denying Defendant's
motion to suppress. (Dkt. 106.)
wife, Leena Awad, worked for Flood Brothers as a payroll and
Human Resources specialist. (Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 2-4.) She
allegedly added Defendant to Flood Brothers' payroll,
which led him to receive checks, even though Flood Brothers
never employed him. (Id. ¶¶ 7-9.)
Defendant also allegedly completed an affidavit in support of
an immigration application Ms. Awad submitted, in which he
represented that Flood Brothers employed him as a Senior
Project Manager. (Id. ¶ 16.) A grand jury
indicted Defendant for wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire
fraud, and false swearing in an immigration matter. (See
hearing before the Magistrate Judge, FBI Special Agent Paul
Fike testified about arresting, Mirandizing, and
interviewing Defendant in August 2018. (Dkt. 100 at 4-5.) He
explained that after placing Defendant under arrest and
handcuffing him, he and another agent placed Defendant in the
back seat of their car and put on his seatbelt. (Id.
at 6-7.) Special Agent Pike sat with Defendant in the back of
the car while the other agent drove. (Id. at 8-9.)
The agents interviewed Defendant while driving to the federal
courthouse for processing. (Id. at 7-8.) Before
interviewing him, Special Agent Pike read Defendant his
Miranda rights from a script prepared by the FBI.
(Id. at 10-12.) Defendant orally confirmed that he
understood and waived his Miranda rights.
(Id. at 10.) The agents asked him about supporting
his wife's immigration application and showed him an
immigration form that he signed. (Dkt. 109 at 2.)
the interview, the agents were calm and professional - their
tone was conversational, they did not threaten Defendant,
they did not show their weapons, and they did not promise him
any benefit for answering questions. (Dkts. 100 at 12, 15;
95.) After around ten minutes, Defendant stated he no longer
wanted to answer questions. (Id. at 10.) The
interview resumed a few minutes later, but the government
does not seek to use that part of the interview.
(Id. at 13; Dkt. 106 at 6.)
conducting a careful and complete review of the findings and
recommendations, a district judge may accept, reject, or
modify a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Crim. P. 59; Williams v.
Wainwright, 681 F.2d 732, 732 (11th Cir. 1982) (per
curiam). A district judge “shall make a de novo
determination of those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is
made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). A district judge
should consider those issues to which a party makes specific
objections. Jeffrey S. v. State Bd. of Educ., 896
F.2d 507, 512 (11th Cir. 1990). For those findings and
recommendations to which a party has not asserted objections,
the court must conduct a plain error review of the record.
See United States v. Slay, 714 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th
The Magistrate Judge's Findings
Magistrate Judge first outlined the admissibility standard
for in-custody statements. For an in-custody statement to be
admissible, the suspect must have “ ‘in fact
knowingly and voluntarily waived [his Miranda]
rights' when making the statement.” Berghuis v.
Thompkins, 560 U.S. 370, 382 (2010) (quoting North
Carolina v. Butler, 441 U.S. 369, 373 (1979)).
rights include the right to remain silent and the right to an
attorney. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436,
444-45 (1966). There are two elements of a Miranda
First, the relinquishment of the right must have been
voluntary in the sense that it was the product of a free and
deliberate choice rather than intimidation, coercion, or
deception. Second, the waiver must have been made with a full
awareness of both the nature of the right being abandoned and
the consequences of the decision to abandon it.
Morgan v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 421 (1986). Along
with a proper waiver, the suspect must voluntarily give the
in-custody statement. United States v.
Jones, 32 F.3d 1512, 1516 (11th Cir. 1994)
(“Determining the admissibility of a postarrest
confession requires a two-part inquiry. We first decide
whether the law enforcement officers complies with the
requirements of Miranda v. Arizona; if so, we then
determine if the confession was voluntary.” (internal
citation omitted)). “Voluntariness of statements is
analyzed similarly to voluntariness of the Miranda
waiver.” United States v. Byrd, No.
1:16-cr-315, 2017 WL 3821696, at *5 (N.D.Ga. Aug. 7, 2017).
Magistrate Judge first found Defendant's waiver of
Miranda rights knowing and voluntary. The Magistrate
Judge reasoned the agents read from a script, Defendant said
he understood his rights, and there is no indication or
argument he did not understand the waiver of his
Miranda rights. (Dkt. 106 at 8-9.) Then, finding the
waiver voluntary, the Magistrate Judge noted the FBI agents
made no threats or promises to elicit the confession.