735 F.2d 745 (2nd Cir. 1984), 810, United States v. Mast

Docket Nº:810, Docket 83-1389.
Citation:735 F.2d 745
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Albert MAST, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:June 01, 1984
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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735 F.2d 745 (2nd Cir. 1984)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Albert MAST, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 810, Docket 83-1389.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

June 1, 1984

Argued Feb. 22, 1984.

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Joseph M. Guerra, III, Asst. U.S. Atty., Salvatore R. Martoche, U.S. Atty., W.D.N.Y., Buffalo, N.Y., for plaintiff-appellant.

David M. Yellen, Buffalo, N.Y., for defendant-appellee.

Before NEWMAN and KEARSE, Circuit Judges, and TENNEY, Senior District Judge. [*]

TENNEY, Senior District Judge.

This is an appeal from an order of the District Court for the Western District of New York, John T. Elfvin, District Judge, granting defendant's motion to suppress statements made by him to a special agent of the United States Department of Agriculture. The principal question on appeal is whether the defendant's Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination bars the admission of incriminating statements made in a noncustodial setting to a special agent of the United States. For the reasons outlined below we hold that under the circumstances of this case the Fifth Amendment privilege does not bar the admission of these statements, and we reverse.


After a two count indictment was filed charging the appellee, Albert Mast ("Mast"), with converting crops pledged to the Commodity Credit Corporation in violation of 15 U.S.C. Sec. 714m(c) (1976), he moved for an order to suppress certain statements. The statements had been made to Special Agent Leonard Ringel ("Special Agent Ringel") of the Department of Agriculture during the course of the investigation that led to Mast's indictment.

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Mast argued that the statements were involuntary and, thus, that their admission would violate his Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination. Mast claimed that the statements had only been made after he had been told, first, that he did not need an attorney and, second, that he would not be prosecuted for the crop conversion if he made restitution. The district court agreed and granted the motion to suppress.

The events leading up to the suppression order were as follows. In November 1981 Mast received two crop loans for approximately $180,000 from the Commodity Credit Corporation, an agency of the federal government. The loans were administered by the Erie County New York Office of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service ("A.S.C.S."). The loans were secured by soybeans and corn that Mast had in storage. The loan agreements required the prior approval of A.S.C.S. before the crops in storage could be sold. On December 7 and 8 Mast sold a portion of the soybean crop without authorization. Four days later on December 12, after receiving permission from A.S.C.S., he sold the remaining portion of the soybean crop. As a result of this sale A.S.C.S. received approximately $14,000 toward repayment of the loan. During March 1982 Frank Newton ("Newton"), the County Executive Director of the A.S.C.S., discovered that Mast had also sold the corn crop without approval. At that time Mast was informed that he had thirty days to repay the loans. After Mast failed to meet this deadline, he was asked to meet with the County Committee of A.S.C.S. At the meeting he was told that if he repaid the loans no further action would be taken. In the meantime the Committee contacted the company that purchased the corn from Mast and notified it that the crop had secured a loan. The company made two payments of $23,000 and $5,000 directly to A.S.C.S. on June 16 and July 21, 1982 respectively. These were the last payments that were received on the loans. Mast, himself, made no further repayments on the loans. Thus, A.S.C.S. has received $42,000 toward repayment of the loans.

Eventually, the Department of Agriculture assigned Special Agent Ringel to investigate Mast's unauthorized crop sales. On August 26, 1982 Special Agent Ringel called Mast from Newton's office. He told Mast that he had been assigned to investigate the alleged unauthorized crop sales and that he wanted to meet with Mast to discuss this. Mast agreed to meet with Ringel and also agreed to bring documents relating to the soybean sales to the meeting.

The meeting, attended by Mast, Special Agent Ringel and Newton, was held on September 7, 1982 in Newton's office. Special Agent Ringel commenced the meeting by identifying himself and explaining that he wanted to discuss the allegations regarding the unauthorized crop sales. After Mast agreed to discuss these matters, Special Agent Ringel recited the Miranda warnings from an advice of rights form 1

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and asked Mast whether he understood these rights. Mast stated that he did. Agent Ringel then asked Mast to read the waiver provision of the form and to indicate whether he wanted an attorney by marking the appropriate item on the form. Before marking and signing the form, Mast asked Newton if he thought that he, Mast, should have an attorney. Newton responded, "I don't know, but I don't think so." He also told Mast that he did not think it would do any harm if Mast signed...

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