111 F.3d 1135 (4th Cir. 1997), 96-4638, United States v. Elie

Docket Nº:96-4638.
Citation:111 F.3d 1135
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Patrick ELIE a/k/a Patrick Gerald Elie, a/k/a Marie Patrick Elie, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:April 24, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 1135

111 F.3d 1135 (4th Cir. 1997)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Patrick ELIE a/k/a Patrick Gerald Elie, a/k/a Marie Patrick

Elie, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 96-4638.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

April 24, 1997

Argued Jan. 28, 1997.

Page 1136

ARGUED: Marcus John Davis, Assistant United States Attorney, Alexandria, VA, for Appellant. Blair Gerard Brown, Zuckerman, Spaeder, Goldstein, Taylor & Kolker, L.L.P., Washington, D.C., for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Helen F. Fahey, United States Attorney, Vincent L. Gambale, Assistant United States Attorney, Alexandria, VA, for Appellant. Jonathan H. Levy, Zuckerman, Spaeder, Goldstein, Taylor & Kolker, L.L.P., Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

Before HALL, LUTTIG, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

Reversed by published opinion. Judge WILLIAMS wrote the majority opinion, in which Judge LUTTIG joined. Judge HALL wrote a dissenting opinion.

OPINION

WILLIAMS, Circuit Judge.

Patrick Elie was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of making a false statement to a firearms dealer, see 18 U.S.C.A. §§ 922(a)(6), 924(a)(2) (West Supp.1997), and on one count of impersonating an accredited diplomat, see 18 U.S.C.A. § 915

Page 1137

(West Supp.1997). Shortly thereafter, Elie moved to suppress, among other things, the firearms and firearms receipts found in his hotel rooms, the firearms transaction records obtained from Gilbert Small Arms (the firearms dealer), and the testimony of the individual at Gilbert Small Arms who sold Elie the firearms. The district court, in a series of orders, suppressed the evidence as the "tainted fruit" of a Miranda violation. The district court also ruled that the warned and voluntary statements Elie made at the Arlington County Detention Center, in which he identified the firearms seized from his hotel rooms and the firearms dealer that sold him the weapons, did not constitute an "independent source" for admitting any of the challenged evidence. Finding that the "fruit of the poisonous tree" analysis is inapplicable in cases involving mere departures from Miranda, we reverse.

I.

Based on a complaint that Patrick Elie, a former cabinet member in the United States-supported Haitian government led by Jean-Baptist Aristide, had assaulted Ms. Raymonde Preval-Belot, First Secretary of the Haitian Embassy in Washington, D.C. and sister of the current Haitian President, a warrant was issued for his arrest. The affidavit in support of the arrest warrant stated that Elie possessed firearms and that he also had threatened to harm, among other people, the Haitian Ambassador to the United States.

On April 23, 1996, several Fairfax County police officers and two State Department Diplomatic Security Service agents (the officers) went to the Hunter Hotel in Springfield, Virginia to arrest Elie, who was "considered armed and dangerous." Two officers, with guns drawn, confronted Elie in the hotel restaurant. Elie was ordered to the ground, handcuffed, and searched for weapons. 1 After being helped to his feet, and prior to any police questioning, Elie stated that he was a diplomat.

Elie was then escorted out of the dining area and into the hotel lobby, where he was asked, prior to receiving any Miranda warnings, whether he had any weapons in his hotel rooms. After responding in the affirmative, Elie was told that he had the option of having the weapons and his other possessions secured by either hotel management or the police. Elie elected to have the officers secure and inventory his property.

Elie accompanied the officers to his rooms. In addition to observing the inventory search from just outside the rooms, Elie reportedly "spoke non-stop" during the encounter. Among other things, he (1) told the officers where they could find certain items, including weapons; (2) revoked his consent to search a container that contained a number of documents; and (3) asked the officers why he had not been given his Miranda warnings. 2

As a result of the search, the officers secured a Colt .223 semiautomatic assault rifle with a round in the chamber and six magazines loaded with armor piercing ammunition; a Remington .22 caliber bolt action rifle equipped with a telescopic sight; a loaded Steyr 9mm semi-automatic pistol and 264 9mm rounds, including 180 rounds of hollow-point ammunition; night vision equipment; two knives; approximately $4,800 in cash; purchase receipts for three additional firearms; and documents relating to, among other things, the activities of the Haitian Ambassador.

After Elie's property was secured, he was taken to the Arlington Detention Center for processing on the assault charges. Arlington Detective Lee Ann Petta gave Elie a routine personal history form to complete. Elie wrote his name on the front of the form and, unsolicited, provided an account of his arrest on the back of the form. With a tape recorder running, Elie was given his Miranda warnings, signed an advice-of-rights form, and was asked if he would like to answer questions about the assault charges.

Page 1138

In response to Detective Petta's questions, Elie stated that he wished to ask some questions of his own. Elie, completely unsolicited, then proceeded to tell Detective Petta that he was in the United States conducting an undercover investigation of the Haitian Ambassador. In particular, he was investigating allegations that the Haitian Ambassador had embezzled millions in state funds, provided Haitian passports to terrorists and drug dealers, and plotted to assassinate both ex-president Aristide and President Preval.

Elie also told Detective Petta, without any prompting, about "the guns." After Detective Petta asked him to what he was referring, Elie identified the two rifles and the handgun seized from his hotel rooms. Later in the interview, again without any prompting by Detective Petta, Elie volunteered that he had purchased the firearms at Gilbert Small Arms.

While Elie was detained at the Arlington County Detention Center on the assault charges, State Department Diplomatic Security Service agents (DSS agents) interviewed the employees of Gilbert Small Arms and reviewed the firearms transaction records related to the sale of the aforementioned firearms. As a result of their investigation, the DSS agents believed that Elie knowingly made a false statement, both to the firearms dealer and on the firearms transaction records, with respect to facts material to the lawfulness of the sale of the weapons. Specifically, Elie stated that he resided at 2500 Clarendon Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia; a claim the DSS agents believed to be false. 3 Thereafter, based on a DSS agent's affidavit that Elie made a false statement to a firearms dealer, a federal warrant was issued for his arrest.

On April 29, 1996, two DSS agents arrived at the Arlington County Detention Center to execute the federal arrest warrant. However, before Elie was released into their custody, an official at the Arlington County Detention Center asked him several routine discharge questions. Of particular importance in this case, Elie stated, both orally and in writing, that he was a resident of "Port Au Prince."

Although DSS agents read him his Miranda warnings as they placed him under arrest, Elie refused to sign the form acknowledging or waiving his rights. Notwithstanding his refusal, Elie engaged the DSS agents in conversation while they were en route to the location where Elie would be processed on the firearms charges. Elie told the DSS agents, among other things, that there was a "cancer" in both the Haitian police force and the Haitian Embassy in Washington, D.C., that he was conducting an undercover investigation of the Haitian Ambassador, and that he kept weapons in his hotel rooms to defend himself in case the people whom he was investigating tried to assassinate him.

Elie was subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of making a false statement to a firearms dealer, see 18 U.S.C.A. §§ 922(a)(6), 924(a)(2), and on one count of impersonating an accredited diplomat, see 18 U.S.C.A. § 915. Thereafter, Elie moved to suppress (1) his statement that he was a diplomat; (2) his statement acknowledging that there were firearms in his hotel rooms; (3) all the tangible evidence, including the firearms and firearms receipts, found

Page 1139

in his hotel rooms; (4) his written statements on the back of the personal history form; (5) the statements he made to Detective Petta; (6) his written statement concerning his residency; and (7) the statements he made to the DSS agents.

After an evidentiary hearing on Elie's motion, the district court (1) denied suppression of Elie's statement that he was a diplomat, finding that the statement was not made in response to any police interrogation; (2) suppressed Elie's statement that he had weapons in his hotel rooms, finding that the statement was made while he was in police custody, in response to police interrogation, and without the necessary Miranda warnings; (3) suppressed all the tangible evidence found in Elie's hotel rooms, including the firearms and firearms receipts, finding that the evidence was the "tainted fruit" of the Miranda violation; (4) denied suppression of Elie's written statements regarding his arrest and his residency, finding that the statements were made in response to routine booking questions and, therefore, not given Fifth Amendment protection; and (5) denied suppression of Elie's warned statements to Detective Petta and the DSS agents, finding that he had waived his Miranda rights.

In assessing whether Elie had voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waived his Miranda rights, the district court examined the totality of the surrounding circumstances, which included the...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP