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United States v. Phillips

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

April 30, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JAMES PHILLIPS a/k/a KALEEM MUSTAFAA

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

KAREN L. HAYES, Magistrate Judge.

Before the undersigned Magistrate Judge, on reference from the District Court, is a motion to suppress [doc. # 55] filed by defendant, James Phillips. For reasons stated below, it is recommended that the motion be DENIED.

Background

On the evening of Friday, August 16, 2013, law enforcement officers from Oak Grove, Louisiana were on the lookout for a "Freightliner Semi Truck" and a Timpte grain trailer which had been reported stolen from Tallulah and Delhi, Louisiana, respectively. Their efforts were rewarded when they spotted and stopped the vehicles and their driver, James Phillips a/k/a Mustafaa Kaleem. West Carroll Parish Sheriff deputies took Phillips into custody and transported him to the West Carroll Parish Sheriff Criminal Intelligence Division Building. After executing a West Carroll Sheriff's Office Statement of Miranda Rights form, Phillips admitted that he had stolen the truck. He also stated that he had a lot more information that he wished to discuss, but only if the FBI were present. Accordingly, the local law enforcement officers suspended the questioning for the evening.

The next day, Special Agent William Chesser arrived on scene and proceeded to question Phillips on seven out of the next ten days. During these sessions, Phillips made incriminating statements. On Tuesday, August 20, 2013, Allen Irby, Assistant Chief of the Oak Grove Police Department, applied for, and obtained an arrest warrant for Phillips on a state charge of illegal possession of stolen things worth more than $5, 000. On Monday and/or Tuesday August 26-27, 2013, a state court judge notified Phillips of the charge against him and appointed counsel to represent him on that charge.

Almost one year later, on July 23, 2014, a federal grand jury returned a six count indictment against James Phillips a/k/a Kaleem Mustafaa charging him and two others with a conspiracy to traffic in motor vehicles and property, along with five specific thefts, that resulted in the loss of approximately $800, 000 worth of vehicles and property in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยงยง 371, 2312, and/or 2314. See Indictment.

On July 29, 2014, pursuant to court order, the Clerk of Court for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana issued an arrest warrant for Phillips on the federal charges. [doc. #s 7-8]. On July 30, 2014, Special Agent Chesser executed the warrant by delivering it to the West Carroll Parish Sheriff, in whose custody Phillips still resided. [doc. # 16]. The government also applied for, and obtained a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum to secure Phillips for his August 5, 2014, initial appearance and arraignment before the undersigned. [doc. #s 11-14, 25].

On December 19, 2014, Phillips, via counsel, filed the instant motion to suppress all statements and associated evidence obtained by the government in violation of his rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Following delays for a March 25, 2015, hearing and submission of post-hearing memoranda, the matter is now before the court.

Relevant Testimony and Documentary Evidence

Twelve witnesses, including defendant, testified at the hearing. The government called one witness, Kenneth Green, Chief Criminal Deputy, West Carroll Parish Sheriff. Of the ten witnesses called by defendant (not including himself), five were local law enforcement officers, three were fellow inmates from the West Carroll Parish Jail, one was his court-appointed attorney on the state charge(s), and another was his girlfriend, Delia Sanchez.[1] The government introduced eleven of the thirteen exhibits that were accepted into evidence.

The court summarizes relevant testimony and evidence, as follows,

1. On the evening of Friday, August 16, 2013, officers with the Oak Grove Police Department and/or the West Carroll Parish Sheriff's Office arrested James Phillips on a charge of possession of a stolen vehicle.[2] The officers transported Phillips directly to the West Carroll Parish Sheriff Criminal Intelligence Division ("CID") Building, which is located in the City of Oak Grove directly across the street from the parish courthouse and jail.

2. At 11:41 p.m. on August 16, 2013, Phillips executed the West Carroll Sheriff's Office Statement of Miranda Rights form. (Gov.'t Exh. 1). The form advised Phillips of his Miranda rights, and included a clause waiving those rights.

3. After Phillips executed the form, he voluntarily agreed to talk to the officers. He told them that he had stolen the truck and that he had a lot more information that he wished to discuss, but only if the FBI were present. Accordingly, Deputies Green and Walker suspended further questioning. Jerry Philley, the West Carroll Parish Sheriff, telephoned Special Agent Chesser who stated that he would come over. At that point, at least from Philley's perspective, Agent Chesser became the lead investigator. Chesser arrived at Oak Grove the next day.

4. Phillips testified that he told Deputy Garland Walker that he had been headed to Mississippi with the truck and trailer. Deputy Walker then advised Phillips that, if true, then Phillips had committed a federal offense. Phillips replied, "yeah, I done federal time before." Walker remarked that doing federal time was better than state time. Phillips agreed. Walker then asked Phillips if he wanted the officers to call the FBI. Phillips replied, "yes, call the FBI."

5. According to Phillips, Deputy Walker, who (like Phillips) is African-American, told Phillips that Oak Grove was a "good ol' boy town, " and that things were not going to go favorably for an African-American. Walker explained to Phillips that he could help him out if Phillips would work with him. In fact, Phillips stated that Walker admitted to him that the other officers had sent him to talk to him because both of them were African-American.

6. Phillips testified that Deputy Walker asked him whether he was "on something, " to which Phillips replied, "yeah, I've been using drugs." Walker then asked Phillips what he was worried about. Phillips explained that he was worried about his girlfriend, Delia Sanchez. Phillips added that he had spent all of the couple's money, and that his girlfriend had nowhere to stay. Moreover, the rent was due the next day - Saturday. Thus, Delia was going to be put out on the street with nowhere to go and nothing to eat. Deputy Walker reassured Phillips, stating that he would take care of that. Phillips conceded that they really did not discuss any other crimes. Walker then let Phillips use his phone to call Delia.

7. Phillips testified that he had smoked more than $1, 000 worth of crack cocaine the day before his arrest, which caused him to suffer feelings of paranoia. Morever, he was going through the early stages of Alzheimers, which caused him to have trouble remembering things.

8. Phillips further testified that, on the night of his arrest, Deputy Walker promised him a two year deal. According to Phillips, Walker advised him that, depending on his criminal record, he probably would receive no more than two years, maybe even probation. Phillips informed Walker, however, that he had an extensive record - about 16-17 convictions, including one federal. Deputy Green testified that no promises were made to Phillips.

9. Phillips told Walker that he would prefer to be in the federal system rather than the state system. He explained that he favored the system that afforded him the opportunity for earliest release. Paradoxically, however, Phillips testified that two years in federal custody meant that he had to do twenty months of time, whereas two years in the state system meant that he only had to do eight months. Phillips later testified that he did not want two years in the federal pen; instead, he wanted two years in state custody.

10. Phillips testified that he believed that a deputy in West Carroll Parish could guarantee the sentence that a federal prosecutor was going to impose possibly because Walker had spoken to someone.

11. Phillips also testified that he signed the waiver of rights form because Deputy Walker told him that he would take care of Delia. Phillips stated that the primary reason that he spoke with the officers was so his girlfriend would be safe and not stranded in Mississippi,

12. Phillips later testified that he was not really looking for a two year deal. Rather, his sole purpose was to let the officers know what was going on in West Carroll Parish.

13. Deputy Green testified that Phillips was at the CID building for two to three hours the night of his arrest, but was not questioned for that long. Deputy Walker was in charge of questioning. Furthermore, Phillips' statements were not recorded.[3] In contravention of usual (but not uniform) practice, no written report was prepared of the initial interview.

14. The booking records from the West Carroll Parish jail indicate that Phillips was booked into the facility at 3:20 a.m. on August 17, 2013, on a charge of illegal possession of stolen things. Phillips stated that he was placed in cell 9, without booking or fingerprinting. He found this odd. Phillips later learned that cell 9 was the intoxication cell. Deputy Green ...


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