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United States v. Beaird

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

November 14, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
THOMAS RAY BEAIRD

          FOOTE MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Mark L. Hornsby U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Introduction

         Thomas Ray Beaird (“Defendant”) is charged with one count of making a false statement to a firearms dealer under 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6). Doc. 1. The charge arises out of Defendant's alleged attempted purchase of a handgun from a pawn shop in Shreveport. Id. When completing the ATF paperwork to purchase the gun, Defendant allegedly lied about whether he was subject to an order of protection, a fact that prohibited him from legally possessing a gun.

         ATF agents wanted to speak to Defendant about his attempted purchase. They found him at CCC, where he was in jail on unrelated charges. The agents interviewed Defendant, and he made incriminating statements. Before the court is Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 18) his statements on the grounds they were not made voluntarily pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that Defendant's motion to suppress be denied.

         Relevant Facts

         An evidentiary hearing was held on November 1, 2018. The evidence at the hearing, including an audio recording of the interview in question, establishes the following facts. Defendant attempted to purchase a Ruger .380 pistol from Max's Pawn Shop in Shreveport. As part of the purchase process, Defendant filled out ATF paperwork which required him to disclose whether he was subject to a restraining or protective order. Defendant represented that he was not subject to such an order, but his purchase was rejected by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”). NICS then sent a referral of the matter to the ATF office in Shreveport.

         ATF Special Agents Theresa Meza and Trenton Harper received the referral. They went to Caddo Correctional Center (“CCC”), where Defendant was detained on other charges, to serve Defendant with an ATF warning letter (Govt. Ex. 1). The letter advised Defendant why his purchase was denied, and it warned him against trying to buy other firearms. The agents testified that they attempt personal service of warning letters so that they can answer any questions the persons might have regarding why they are prohibited from purchasing a gun.

         The agents were escorted by CCC guards to the pod where Defendant was housed. The agents spoke with another guard, who called for Defendant to come down from his cell to the first floor of the pod. The agents greeted Defendant, identified themselves as federal agents with ATF, and asked Defendant if they could speak with him regarding the NICS denial. The agents did not tell Defendant that he had to speak with them.

         Defendant agreed to speak with the agents, and the three of them went into an attorney interview room for privacy. The room had glass windows all the way around it and a single door. Defendant was seated on the side of the table closest to the door and was not in handcuffs. Neither agent was armed during the interrogation; they surrendered their duty weapons when entering CCC.

         In the interview room, the agents reintroduced themselves, told Defendant why they were there, showed him a copy of the ATF warning letter, and asked him whether it was okay for them to talk to him. Defendant responded that it was. At that point, the agents began recording the interview. Agent Meza asked Defendant questions such as whether he visited the pawn shop, whether he intended to buy a gun, and whether he had any other firearms. Defendant provided incriminating answers to some of the questions.

         After three or so minutes, Agent Meza read Defendant his Miranda rights and gave him a statement of rights form and waiver. Govt. Ex. 2. Defendant paused to read and sign the waiver, and the interview continued. Agent Meza continued to ask Defendant questions regarding his attempted purchase of a firearm, and Defendant provided additional incriminating responses. None of the questions related to the reason for Defendant's existing and unrelated incarceration at CCC.

         Defendant was cooperative and non-combative throughout the interview. The entire recorded conversation lasted approximately eight minutes. After the interview ended, Defendant ...


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