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United States v. Roman-Rodriguez

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

December 22, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSE ALFREDO ROMAN-RODRIGUEZ, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DALE A. KIMBALL United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on Defendant Jose Alfredo Roman-Rodriguez's Motion to Suppress statements he made during a custodial interrogation following his arrest on June 8, 2016. The court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion to suppress on October 17, 2016, and closing arguments on December 14, 2016. At the hearings, Defendant was present and represented by Walter F. Bugden, and Plaintiff was represented by Aaron B. Clark. The court has carefully considered the evidence and testimony presented at the evidentiary hearing, the parties' memoranda, and the law and facts relating to this motion. Now being fully advised, the court issues the following Memorandum Decision and Order.

         Findings of Fact

         Defendant is from Sinaloa, Mexico, and arrived in Utah on or about June 1, 2016. Defendant was staying with an acquaintance and intending to attend a school located in Salt Lake City. On June 8, 2016, agents served a federal search warrant at the residence where Defendant was staying based on an ongoing narcotics trafficking investigation. Defendant was arrested during the service of the warrant at the residence.

         After Defendant was arrested, the agents transported Defendant to the Salt Lake City District Office (“SLCDO”) of the DEA. At the SLCDO, agents Mark Bacon, Manuel Scott, and Tim Sorenson interviewed Defendant. Defendant does not speak English so Scott, who was the only agent fluent in Spanish, conducted the interview and acted as a Spanish language interpreter. Spanish was Scott's first language and he spoke it while he was growing up. Scott testified that they did not have any problem understanding each other.

         Prior to the recorded interview, Scott spoke to Defendant while he was taking him from the holding room to the interview room. Scott testified that he told Defendant that there was a bathroom available and he could use it any time he needed it. Defendant testified that Scott also told him that if he answered their questions, he would be able to go home in a week. Scott denies making such a statement and testified that such a promise would have been improper. Defendant acknowledged that neither he nor Scott ever mentioned this alleged promise during the entire recorded interview that followed.

         The three agents were in the interview room with Defendant. The room was approximately eight feet by ten feet. The agents did not handcuff Defendant, provided him with water, and kept their firearms out of sight. There is no evidence that there were any threats or intimidation. The agents were professional and courteous in their communications with Defendant.

         After obtaining some basic background information from Defendant, Scott told Defendant he had a form he was going to ask him to sign. The interview proceeded as follows:

Scott: I have a form here that I am going to ask you to sign.
Defendant: Uh huh.
Scott: If you'd like. I don't know. Umm, they are warnings of rights. I am going to read it to you. (UN) Bacon: (UN)
Scott: I am going to ask you if you understand. Yes or no.
Defendant: If I understand?
Scott: Uh huh. I am going to ask you some questions. They are the right warning. Defendant: Uh huh.
Scott: Before you are asked any questions, you have to understand your rights.
Defendant: Uh huh.
Scott: You have the right to remain silent.
Defendant: Yes. Yes.
Scott: Anything you say can be used in court ...

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