United States v. Medina, EP-19-CR-3333-PRM

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
Writing for the CourtPHILIP R. MARTINEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Citation473 F.Supp.3d 720
Docket NumberEP-19-CR-3333-PRM
Decision Date20 July 2020
Parties UNITED STATES of America, v. Albert Gonzalez MEDINA, Defendant.

473 F.Supp.3d 720

UNITED STATES of America,
v.
Albert Gonzalez MEDINA, Defendant.

EP-19-CR-3333-PRM

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division.

Signed July 20, 2020


473 F.Supp.3d 723

Richard Douglas Watts, U.S. Attorney's Office, El Paso, TX, for United States of America.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

PHILIP R. MARTINEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

473 F.Supp.3d 724

On this day, the Court considered Defendant Albert Gonzalez Medina's [hereinafter "Defendant"] "Motion to Suppress Contraband Evidence and Statements of Defendant" (ECF No. 22) [hereinafter "Motion"], filed on November 7, 2019, the Government's "Response to Defendant's Motion to Suppress and Brief in Support" (ECF No. 26) [hereinafter "Response"], filed on November 11, 2019, Defendant's "Reply to Government's Response to Defendant's Motion to Suppress Contraband Evidence and Statements of Defendant" (ECF No. 28) [hereinafter "Reply"], filed on December 30, 2019, and the Government's "Surreply Concerning the October 16, 2019 Custodial Interrogation of Defendant" (ECF No. 36) [hereinafter "Surreply"], filed on March 3, 2020, in the above captioned cause.

Defendant avers that evidence obtained at various points during his interactions with law enforcement should be suppressed because it was the result of violations against his Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment Rights. Mot. 2; Reply 2–3; see U.S. CONST. amends. IV, V, VI. For the foregoing reasons, the Court will deny Defendant's Motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Defendant alleges few facts in support of his arguments; instead, he relies on brief, conclusory allegations throughout his Motion and Reply. This is true notwithstanding the Court's "Order Requiring Defendant to File a Reply" (ECF No. 27) [hereinafter "Order Requiring Reply"], filed on December 10, 2019, requiring Defendant to file a Reply for the expressed reason that he "provide facts in support of [his] argument, or inform the Court that Defendant concurs that the Government's presentation of the factual record is complete." Order Requiring Reply 3. Because Defendant has failed to apprise the Court of its position on the factual record, the Court adopts the Government's uncontested presentation of the facts.

A. Factual Background

In the evening of September 19, 2019, four Special Agents [hereinafter "SAs"] of the Texas Department of Public Safety [hereinafter "DPS"], one DPS Lieutenant, and two DPS State Troopers arrived at room one-thirty-five of the La Quinta Hotel located at 6140 Gateway Blvd., El Paso, Texas, in response to reported criminal activity. Resp. 1. Three of the SAs approached room one-thirty-five and knocked on the door. Id. at 2. Defendant and a 40-year-old female, identified as B.L.G., opened the door. Id. Defendant consented to a protective sweep. Id. While conducting the protective sweep, SAs Mario Aranda and John Skirmont observed drug paraphernalia on the floor and firearms in the closet. Id.

The SAs then conducted a search of the room after obtaining written consent from Defendant. Id. As a result of their search, the SAs found .35 kilograms of a crystal substance that later tested positive for the properties of methamphetamine; a clear bag containing a black tar-like substance and a syringe containing a black tar-like substance, both of which weighed approximately two grams, and later tested positive for the properties of heroin; two brown plastic boxes containing various calibers and amounts of ammunition; ten firearms; and various personal identification forms not belonging to either Defendant or B.L.G. Id. at 2–3. The SAs discovered the .35 kilograms of crystal substance, and one of the guns, a .22 Magnum handgun, in a

473 F.Supp.3d 725

locked gray hand bag after Defendant provided them with his alleged guess of the combination. Id. at 2.

After discovering the items, the SAs detained Defendant and transported him to the Texas Anti-Gang [hereinafter "TAG"] Center for processing and an interview. Id. at 3. Upon arrival at the TAG Center, and before any questioning commenced, DPS Lt. Lorrenzo Diaz and SA Michael Carrasco informed Defendant of his right to remain silent pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona , 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). Resp. 3. Defendant indicated, both verbally and in writing, that he understood his Miranda rights, and agreed to answer questions without the presence of an attorney. Id.

At approximately 11:25 p.m., Lt. Diaz and SA Carrasco began a recorded, custodial interrogation with Defendant. Id. When asked what his intentions were for the weapons found in room one-thirty-five, Defendant responded that he was being paid to hold on to them but that he did not know what was in the gray bag. Id. at 3–4. He also claimed that the drugs were his and that B.L.G. was not involved with either the drugs or the guns discovered. Id. at 4.

The following day, September 20, 2019, the El Paso County Jail Magistrate Court appointed the El Paso County Public Defender to represent Defendant. Reply 2.

On October 15, 2019, the State of Texas dismissed its case against Defendant in favor of federal prosecution. Resp. 4. The next day, a Grand Jury issued a two-count indictment charging Defendant with possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(viii), and unlawfully transporting firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). See Indictment 1, Oct. 16, 2019, ECF No. 6.

On September 24, 2019, an arrest warrant was issued, and in the early afternoon of October 16, 2019, Homeland Security Investigations [hereinafter "HSI"] SA Paul Boothe took Defendant, who was being held at the El Paso County Detention Annex Facility, into federal custody. Arrest Warrant, Oct. 16, 2019, ECF No. 16; Resp. 4. SA Boothe transported Defendant to the TAG Center after Defendant consented to an interview. Resp. 4. Prior to beginning the interview, SA Boothe provided Defendant with his Miranda rights and Defendant indicated in writing and verbally that he understood his rights. Id. He also agreed to speak to the SAs without the presence of an attorney. Id.

At approximately 1:10 p.m., SA Boothe, joined by SA Ruben Bustillos, conducted a custodial interrogation of Defendant. Id. The SAs asked Defendant to explain what happened on September 19, 2019, the day he was taken into custody. Id. Defendant stated that on the evening in question, after hearing a knock on the door, he looked out the window and saw police officers standing outside of the door. Id. at 4–5. He then admitted to hiding a wooden box of heroin so that the officers could not see it out in the open once he opened the door. Id. at 5. Defendant stated that after opening the door, he complied with a request to step outside so that the officers could search the room. Id. at 5. Eventually Defendant was put into one of the officer' vehicles. Id. While in the vehicle, an officer asked him for the combination to a gray locked bag; Defendant's answer was that he did not know the combination but that he thought it started with zero. Id. Defendant stated that he was being paid by someone named David to hold onto the bag, and that on the night in question, the officers discovered methamphetamine inside of it. Id. Defendant initially stated that he did not know what was inside of

473 F.Supp.3d 726

the bag, but then later expressed knowledge of the methamphetamine based on a prior interaction with David in which he asked David for methamphetamine and then saw him retrieve some from the bag. Id.

B. Procedural History

On November 6, 2019, Defendant filed his Motion, moving to exclude all physical and testimonial evidence obtained by law enforcement pursuant to the Fourth and Fifth Amendment. Mot. 2. The Government filed a Response on November 19, 2019. Resp.

On December 10, 2019, the Court ordered Defendant to file a Reply to the Government's Response. Order Requiring Reply 3. Defendant did so on December 30, 2019. Reply 1. In his Reply, Defendant introduced a Sixth Amendment right to counsel challenge regarding the October 16, 2019, custodial interrogation; an argument not raised in his initial motion. Id. at 2. Thereafter, the Court sua sponte ordered the Government to file a Surreply to Defendant's Sixth Amendment argument raised in his Reply. Order Requiring Government to File a Surreply, Mar., 2, 2020, ECF No. 33. In accordance with the Court's order, the Government filed a Surreply on March 2, 2020. Therein, the Government made the following statement:

The prosecution agrees to refrain from using Defendant's statement of October 16, 2019 in her case-in-chief. The prosecution does not oppose a Court Order of suppression of Defendant's October 16, 2019 statement for purposes of the Government's case-in-chief. However, should the situation arise in which the statement could be used for other purposes, such as impeachment of the Defendant by a prior inconsistent statement, the prosecution respectfully asks the Court to revisit the issue at such time.

Surreply 1.

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