United States v. Jin

Docket NumberCRIMINAL ACTION 4:21-CR-48-ALM-CAN-1
Decision Date02 December 2021
PartiesUNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. SHANLIN JIN (1)
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Texas

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Christine A. Nowak UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Pending before the Court is Defendant Shanlin Jin's Motion to Suppress Defendant's Statements (Defendant's Motion to Suppress) [Dkt. 33]. On November 12, 2021, a hearing (“Hearing”) was held on the pending Motion, and the undersigned heard oral argument from both the Government and Defendant. After considering the Motion, all relevant filings and evidence, as well as the oral argument of counsel at Hearing, the Court recommends that Defendant's Motion to Suppress [Dkt. 33] be DENIED.

BACKGROUND

On January 24, 2021, Defendant was charged by criminal complaint with receipt and possession of child pornography [Dkt. 1 Sealed]. Defendant was subsequently indicted on February 24 2021, and charged in three counts with violations of: Title 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(2)(A) and (b)(1), Receipt of Child Pornography (“Count 1”); Title 18 U.S.C §§ 2252A(a)(2)(A) and (b)(1), Distribution of Child Pornography (“Count 2”); and Title 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(5)(B) and (b)(2), Possession of Child Pornography (“Count 3”) [Dkt. 21]. The Indictment charges that Defendant, “using a peer-to-peer file sharing network, the Internet, and electronic devices that he owned and possessed, ” received, possessed, and distributed child pornography [Dkt. 21 at 1].

The Investigation and Search Warrant

On or about December 13, 2020, Collin County Sheriff's Officer Investigator Lee McMillian (“McMillian”), acting in an undercover capacity, investigated file sharing of child pornography on a BitTorrent P2P file-sharing network. During the course of his investigation, McMillian identified an IP address that had successfully downloaded files depicting child pornography. Defendant is the subscriber of this IP address. Based on the foregoing, McMillian applied for a search warrant for Defendant's residence, the premises located at 1910 Saint Johns Avenue, Allen, Texas.

At 7:00 p.m. on January 12, 2021, members of the Collin County Sheriff's Office, with assistance from the Plano Police Department, served the search warrant [Dkt. 44 at 14-15]. Approximately six (6) law enforcement personnel were present when the search warrant was executed, including McMillian [Dkt. 44 at 16]. Defendant and one other individual were the only persons present in the residence at the time of the search [Dkt. 44 at 16]. During the search, Defendant was not forcibly removed from the residence, and officers did not place Defendant in handcuffs or physically touch him [Dkt. 44 at 19]. Defendant stood outside the residence for several minutes while officers began their search of the residence; during this time, an officer brought Defendant a coat because it was cold outside [Dkt. 44 at 20]. Defendant was never expressly told by law enforcement that he was or was not free to leave during the execution of the search warrant at the residence.

Approximately thirty (30) minutes after Defendant stepped outside of the residence, McMillian, who was dressed in plain clothes, requested to speak with Defendant in an unmarked patrol car parked on the street close to the driveway of the residence [Dkt. 44 at 20-21]. The street was not closed to through traffic during this time. Defendant joined McMillian in the vehicle [Dkt. 44 at 25].

Defendant sat in the front passenger seat of the vehicle and was unbuckled or otherwise unrestrained; he was not handcuffed at any time, nor was his personal space encroached upon. The vehicle was unlocked and McMillian, who sat in the driver's seat, was the only officer present [Dkt. 44 at 24, 42, 90].

The Interview

The interview conducted by McMillian was recorded. McMillian questioned Defendant for approximately thirty-two (32) minutes in the vehicle [Dkt. 44 at 49]. The interview was conducted in English. Defendant was born in China and is a native Mandarin speaker. At the outset of the recorded interview, McMillian read Defendant his Miranda rights in English, to which Defendant responded that he understood his rights and was willing to speak with McMillian:

McMillian: “Okay. I-I've got to read this to you for you, that's how the U.S. government works, okay?”
Defendant: “Okay.”
McMillian: “Let me read this to you in its entirety. Uh, please don't interrupt me while I'm reading it to you.”
Defendant: “Yes sir.”
McMillian: “And then when I'm done, I'd like to talk to you, okay?”
Defendant: “Okay.”
McMillian: “All right. You have the right to remain silent and not make any statement at all, and that any statement you make may be used against you at trial. Any statement you make may be used as evidence against you in court. You have the right to have a lawyer present to advise you prior to and during any questioning. If you're unable to employ a lawyer, you have the right to have a lawyer appointed to advise you prior to and during any questioning. You have the right to terminate this interview at any time. Do you understand?”
Defendant: “Yeah.”
McMillian: “Will you still talk to me?”
Defendant: “Mm-hm, sure.”
McMillian: “Okay.”
Defendant: “Actually, I don't know what was-”
McMillian: “Okay.”
Defendant: “actually I don't know what”
McMillian: “Okay. But you speak English, right?
Defendant: “Yeah.”
McMillian: “Do-would you-like, would you say that you're fluent in
English?”
Defendant: “Mm ”
McMillian: “Mostly fluent?”
Defendant: “Close to fluent, because I haven't talked to people in English for a long time because of COVID and-”
McMillian: “Okay.”

[Dkt. 45-1 at 1-3]. Defendant was not given a written copy of his Miranda rights.

Following this exchange, for a period of approximately ten minutes, McMillian gathered personal background information from Defendant, including information such as Defendant's educational background and length of time at his current residence [See Dkt. 45-1 at 3-12]. Defendant explained that he is a citizen and national of China who was attending a PhD program in Economics at Southern Methodist University, and while he had lived in the United States since 2016, he had moved to his current residence in June or July of 2020 [Dkt. 45-1 at 6-7]. Defendant advised he was responsible for the payment of utilities, including the internet service [Dkt. 45-1 at 9-10]. Defendant responded to each of McMillian's questions thoroughly and asked for clarification of several questions posed to him. At one point in time, McMillian asked Defendant during the interview to identify where his room is located in the house [Dkt. 45-1 at 13]. While Defendant explained the location, McMillian rolled down the car window on Defendant's side of the vehicle, which was closest to the residence [Dkt. 45-1 at 15-16]. Defendant proceeded to point at his room in the house, and McMillian then rolled up the window [Dkt. 45-1 at 15-16].

As the conversation progressed, Defendant admitted to using the BitTorrent program to download files to his computer [Dkt 45-1 at 20-21]. McMillian explained that he knows that Defendant downloaded child pornography [Dkt. 45-2 at 1]. Defendant initially denied downloading child pornography using BitTorrent, but later during the interview, admits to viewing pornography [Dkt. 45-3 at 1-2]. At the end of the interview, McMillian advised Defendant that law enforcement would be confiscating all of his electronic devices and that Defendant would need to remain outside of the residence while the search was completed; he then told Defendant to “hang tight” [Dkt. 45-3 at 3-4]. McMillian exited the vehicle while Defendant remained in the car. McMillian walked around to the passenger side and opened the door for Defendant to get out of the car.

The Motion to Suppress

On October 1, 2021, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Suppress, seeking suppression of “all oral and written statements of Defendant that were obtained illegally” [Dkt. 33]. At the hearing, Defendant clarified he seeks to suppress Defendant's oral and written statements obtained “during the interrogation by the agents in the car” on January 12, 2021 [Dkt. 44 at 5]. Defendant argues such statements must be suppressed as he did not knowingly waive his Miranda warnings during the custodial interrogation [Dkt. 33 at 11]. The Government filed its Response to Defendant's Motion to Suppress on October 15, 2021 [Dkt. 35]. The Government urges that no custodial interrogation took place, and even assuming one had, Defendant sufficiently understands English to have knowingly waived his Miranda rights [Dkt. 35 at 10]. Defendant filed a Reply on October 22, 2021 [Dkt. 40]. The Court set the matter for Hearing, held on November 12, 2021 [Dkts. 39; 42; 43]. The transcript of Hearing was filed November 22, 2021 [Dkt. 44].

ANALYSIS

To reiterate, Defendant moves to suppress all oral and written statements of Defendant obtained from the interview by McMillian on January 12, 2021. Defendant urges the Court to find the interview constituted a custodial interrogation for purposes of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and that Defendant did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his Miranda rights, and therefore his statements made to McMillian are inadmissible.

The Government contends that the interview did not constitute a custodial interrogation; however, if the Court finds that it did, Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights.

The Fifth Amendment Privilege Against Self-Incrimination

The Fifth Amendment protects the right that [n]o person . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” U.S. CONST. amend. V. The Supreme Court has...

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