526 F.3d 122 (4th Cir. 2007), 06-4008, United States v. Sweets

Docket Nº:06-4008
Citation:526 F.3d 122
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. James Dana SWEETS, a/k/a Sweets, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:July 03, 2007
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 122

526 F.3d 122 (4th Cir. 2007)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

James Dana SWEETS, a/k/a Sweets, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 06-4008

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

July 3, 2007

Argued: Nov. 28, 2006.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. Catherine C. Blake, District Judge. (CR-04-564).

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ARGUED:

G. Arthur Robbins, Chesapeake & Meridian, Annapolis, Maryland, for Appellant.

Kwame Jangha Manley, Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Baltimore,

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Maryland, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

James C. Howard, Chesapeake & Meridian, Annapolis, Maryland, for Appellant.

Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

Before NIEMEYER and MICHAEL, Circuit Judges, and JOSEPH R. GOODWIN, United States District Judge for the Southern District of West Virginia, sitting by designation.

OPINION

NIEMEYER, Circuit Judge:

James Dana Sweets was convicted for his participation in an extensive drug trafficking conspiracy involving more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and for his participation in a conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(n) (currently, 18 U.S.C.A. § 924(o) (West 2006)). The district court sentenced Sweets to 360 months' imprisonment. On appeal, Sweets contends principally that Baltimore City police and federal agents obtained evidence against him on two different occasions through violations of his Fifth Amendment rights and then used the evidence against him at trial.

First, he alleges that on May 17, 2004, Baltimore City police officers and federal agents coerced him into revealing the whereabouts of John Long, whom police were seeking in connection with a murder investigation. After Long was arrested, he pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and thereafter testified against Sweets pursuant to his plea agreement, implicating Sweets in the conspiracy for which he has now been convicted. Sweets contends that by coercing him to disclose Long's location, the police compelled Sweets to be a witness against himself.

Sweets also alleges that six months later, on November 18-19, 2004, after he had been arrested by Baltimore City police and federal agents on first-degree murder charges, he was questioned by police and gave a statement without having been advised of his Miranda rights; he was then questioned again on the same matters after having been given Miranda warnings. Sweets alleges that this method was an intentional strategy by police to legitimize his earlier unwarned statement.

We conclude that the May 17, 2004 coerced disclosure of Long's whereabouts did not violate Sweets' Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination because Sweets' disclosure of Long's location, even if testimonial in nature, was not incriminating. Moreover, the government did not introduce the fact of Sweets' production or any fruits of that fact at trial. With respect to the interrogation of Sweets on November 19, 2004, we conclude that the district court did not clearly err in finding as a fact that Sweets waived his Miranda rights.

Also rejecting Sweets' claim that the government violated its obligations under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), we affirm.

I

Sweets participated in a drug trafficking conspiracy with John Long, Charles Garrison, and Maurice Green, which lasted approximately four years and involved the distribution of roughly four to nine ounces of crack cocaine per week. Sweets was a

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principal in the conspiracy, usually taking 50% of the conspiracy's profits. As part of the conspiracy, Sweets and Long kept a half-dozen firearms, including several handguns, a rifle, and a shotgun.

A jury convicted Sweets on one count of conspiracy involving at least 50 grams of crack cocaine and one count of conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking. The evidence introduced against Sweets included the testimony of Sweets' co-conspirator, Long, photographs of the drugs and drug paraphernalia found in Long's hotel room when he was arrested, and Sweets' incriminating statement given to law enforcement officers on November 19, 2004. Sweets contends that the evidence was introduced against him in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights. The factual circumstances of obtaining the evidence were as follows.

A

As part of an investigation of John Long for first-degree murder, Baltimore City police officers and federal agents visited Sweets at his house in Baltimore City on May 17, 2004. Police officers knew that Sweets knew Long, and they went to Sweets' residence with the hope of learning where Long, who was in hiding as the result of an earlier police raid, was presently located. Sweets' girlfriend admitted the police officers into the house, and after Sweets came out of the bathroom, the officers accompanied him to the living room to ask him questions about where Long was located. At first, Sweets denied knowing where Long was. But after the police told Sweets that they were going "to lock everybody [Sweets, Sweets' girlfriend, and her nephew] up for obstruction of justice if [Sweets] didn't take them where [Long] was at," Sweets agreed to take the officers to Long. After Sweets and the police drove to the hotel where Long was located and the officers verified that Long was actually there, they took Sweets back home. While Sweets and the officers were making the trip to the hotel, other officers remained with Sweets' girlfriend and her nephew, preventing Sweets' girlfriend from going to work and preventing anyone from making telephone calls.

At the hotel, the police arrested Long pursuant to a warrant and found drugs and drug paraphernalia in his hotel room. Long later pleaded guilty to drug charges and agreed to testify against Sweets about the pair's drug trafficking activities. The officers used the drugs and drug paraphernalia recovered from Long's hotel room as part of the evidence against Sweets.

B

Six months after visiting Sweets to discover Long's whereabouts, police officers again came to Sweets' house on November 18, 2004, now with a warrant for his arrest for first-degree murder, a charge not before us. Before formally arresting Sweets, the police officers handcuffed Sweets and asked him about the whereabouts of Maurice Green. After some questioning on that subject, Sweets agreed to take the police to Green, resulting in Green's arrest. Sweets was then taken to the police station where, at a little after 12:20 a.m., Detective Michael Glenn began questioning Sweets. Sweets gave Detective Glenn an incriminating statement, in which he admitted that Long had fronted him crack cocaine. At 1:40 a.m., Sweets agreed to repeat the incriminating statement on tape. The tape contains Sweets' receiving and acknowledging Miranda warnings.

The parties dispute when, during the course of these events, Sweets was first given Miranda warnings. Detective Glenn testified at the suppression hearing before the district court that as soon as he entered the room, about 12:20 a.m., to

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question Sweets, he gave Sweets Miranda warnings, and Sweets, at that time, signed a form containing the warnings. The form noted that the time of the warnings was 12:24 a.m. Detective Glenn stated that he thereafter questioned Sweets and, after receiving an inculpating statement, brought in a tape recorder to record the statement. On tape, he again gave Sweets the Miranda warnings. Sweets, on the other hand, testified that Detective Glenn did not give him Miranda warnings when Detective Glenn entered the room at 12:20 a.m. Rather, Sweets stated that he gave an unwarned statement after which, at about 1:40 a.m., he was given the Miranda warnings that were heard on the tape recording. He also said that he signed the waiver form after giving the first statement, not at 12:25 a.m. as noted on the form.

The taped statement was introduced against Sweets at trial as part of the evidence against him.

Sweets filed a motion to suppress the testimony of John Long, the evidence of drugs and drug paraphernalia obtained from Long's hotel room on May 17, 2004, and Sweets' recorded statement taken on November 19, 2004. The district court denied the motions. The court concluded that the testimony of Long would not be suppressed, regardless of how his location became known. With respect to the November 19, 2004 incriminating statement, the court concluded that the first interrogation of Sweets at his house about the location of Green did not taint the statements given by Sweets at the police station and that the statements at the police station--both the untaped and taped versions--were given pursuant to a valid waiver of Miranda rights.

The jury convicted Sweets of both charged counts. Following sentencing by the district court, Sweets filed this appeal.

II

A

Sweets contends first that John Long's testimony, as well as the drugs and paraphernalia found in Long's hotel room, should have been suppressed as the fruits of Sweets' coerced disclosure of Long's location at the hotel. His argument that he was coerced to give Long's location rests on (1) statements by police that they were going to lock up everyone in Sweets' house for obstruction of justice if Sweets did not take the police to Long; (2) the fact that Sweets did not "feel like [he] had a choice at that point" - -the point when he was in the squad car on the way to John Long's location; and (3) the police restrictions on his girlfriend and her nephew, who were required to remain...

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