United States v. Superville, CRIM.1998–112.

Decision Date19 March 1999
Docket NumberNo. CRIM.1998–112.,CRIM.1998–112.
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. David Anthony SUPERVILLE, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Virgin Islands


Defendant, who was indicted for falsely representing that he possessed a Social Security number not assigned to him, moved to suppress statements taken from him by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) as well as his file with the Workmen's Compensation Division of the Virgin Islands Department of Labor. The District Court, Moore, Chief Judge, held that: (1) defendant's first inculpatory statement, which was obtained during the first six hours of his detention, was admissible; (2) defendant's second inculpatory statement, which was taken eight days after his detention commenced and in violation of his right to a reasonably prompt appearance before a judicial officer, was inadmissible; and (3) defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his workers' compensation file.

Motion granted in part and denied in part.

Sarah L. Weyler, Assistant United States Attorney, St. Thomas, VI, for plaintiff.

Pamela L. Wood, Assistant Federal Public Defender, St. Thomas, VI, for defendant.


MOORE, Chief Judge.

On November 19, 1998, a grand jury indicted defendant David Anthony Superville [Superville] for falsely representing that he possessed a Social Security number not assigned to him, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(b). Superville has moved to suppress statements taken from him by the Immigration and Naturalization Service [“INS”] as well as his file with the Workmen's Compensation Division [“WCD”] of the Virgin Islands Department of Labor. The Court took evidence on these matters several months ago.


On April 8, 1998, Superville, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, visited the INS office in St. Thomas and informed INS Special Agent Kirk Thomas [“Thomas”] that he wished to return home for medical treatment because he had injured his leg. He lacked travel documents, so Thomas told him to return to his office the next day with an airline ticket and written verification of the injury. Thomas testified that he requested these documents to process the defendant's voluntary departure from the United States.

Superville returned to the INS office on April 9th and gave Thomas numerous papers verifying his injury. Thomas noticed that one of the documents referred to workers' compensation and recited a Social Security number. He told the defendant that he could not leave the United States that day, and instructed him to return to the INS office on April 14, the Tuesday following the Virgin Islands' Easter holiday. Thomas testified that he planned to speak with WCD personnel in order to confirm whether Superville had falsely represented that he possessed the Social Security number that appeared on his medical documents.

Later on the 9th, other INS officers intercepted Superville at the St. Thomas airport as he attempted to board a flight with a ticket, but no passport. Senior Immigration Inspector John Robertson detained the defendant and informed him of his Miranda rights by reading the “Warning As To Rights” section of INS Form I–214. Immigration Inspector Allison Haywood then read INS Form I–867A to Superville and questioned him. During the interview, the defendant admitted that he had unlawfully entered the United States and had worked for several years in St. Thomas. After the interview ended, the agents confiscated Superville's belongings and discovered that he possessed an identification card that bore a Social Security number. The defendant was arrested immediately and the United States Attorney filed an information charging him with the crime of unlawful entry.

INS brought Superville to court, but never presented him to a judicial officer because an Assistant United States Attorney declined to prosecute the defendant and later moved to dismiss the information. Instead, the agency sent Superville to the St. Thomas jail. The magistrate judge dismissed the unlawful entry charge on April 15th.

Coincidentally on April 15th, Workmen's Compensation personnel informed Agent Thomas that Superville had filed a workers' compensation claim and received benefits. WCD personnel disclosed this information from the defendant's file, but did not allow Thomas to personally review the file because he had not subpoenaed the agency's records. Later that day, the Social Security Administration [“SSA”] advised Thomas that it had not assigned Superville the Social Security number appearing on the medical documents that the defendant had left with him. By this time, the government had granted approval to prosecute Superville for Social Security fraud.1

Superville's next contact with INS occurred on April 17th, when Agent Thomas retrieved him from the St. Thomas jail to interrogate him. Thomas testified that he informed the defendant of his right to the assistance of counsel by reading the “Warning As To Rights” section of INS Form I–214 before questioning him. Superville admitted during the interview that he had obtained a Social Security number from his employer in St. Thomas. For the next five days, Thomas tried to locate and question the defendant's former employer without success. The government filed a complaint on April 22nd that charged the defendant with falsely representing that he possessed a Social Security number not assigned to him, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(b).

Superville finally appeared before the magistrate judge for an advice of rights on April 23, 1998. Although the defendant had spent fourteen days in the squalid St. Thomas jail, this was the first time INS had presented him to a judicial officer. After the magistrate judge authorized INS to detain Superville pending trial, the government moved the defendant to a federal facility. Superville then moved to suppress his two statements.


Superville seeks to have this Court suppress his April 9th and April 17th statements because INS failed to honor his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by not allowing him to contact the consulate of Trinidad and Tobago, and violated Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5(a) by not presenting him to the magistrate judge “without unnecessary delay.” Superville also asks the Court to suppress his first statement because INS administered misleading warnings to him on April 9th. The Court will address each contention in turn.

A. Defendant's Rights under Vienna Convention

Superville complains that INS violated his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [“Vienna Convention”] by not allowing him to contact the consulate of Trinidad and Tobago upon his arrest. The United States and Trinidad and Tobago have signed the Vienna Convention, which grants a foreign national like Superville the right to contact his consul immediately upon such detention:

If [the detained alien] so requests, the competent authorities of the receiving State shall, without delay, inform the consular post of the sending State if, within its consular district, a national of that State is arrested or committed to prison or to custody pending trial or is detained in any other manner. Any communication addressed to the consular post by the person arrested, in prison, custody or detention shall also be forwarded by the said authorities without delay. The said authorities shall inform the person concerned without delay of his rights under this subparagraph.

Vienna Convention, Apr. 24, 1963, art. 36, ¶ 1(b), 21 U.S.T. 77, 596 U.N.T.S. 261. Before reaching the merits of Superville's claim, the Court must resolve the threshold question of whether the defendant has legal standing to raise this issue.

1. Standing

The question arises because treaties are agreements between sovereign nations and violations of these agreements traditionally have been resolved by government officials, not the individual citizens impacted by treaty violations. Under the fundamental principle of pacta sunt servanda, which states that “treaties must be observed,” 2 the United States has consistently invoked the Vienna Convention to protest other nations' failures to provide Americans with access to consular officials.3 This basic principle also requires, of course, that the United States respect its obligations under the treaty. Reciprocity is the foundation of international law. See Breard v. Pruett, 134 F.3d 615, 622 (4th Cir.1998) (Butzner, J., concurring) (citing Hilton v. Guyot, 159 U.S. 113, 228, 16 S.Ct. 139, 40 L.Ed. 95 (1895)). Accordingly, the State Department has intervened and attempted to persuade state authorities to honor the Vienna Convention when state law enforcement officers have neglected or refused to inform detained foreign nationals of their right to contact consular officials. For example, the Secretary of State recently asked the Governor of Virginia to stay the execution of Paraguayan death-row prisoner Angel Francisco Breard until the International Court of Justice could consider whether Virginia's violation of the Vienna Convention warranted a new trial. The Secretary expressed concern that [t]he execution ... could lead some countries to contend incorrectly that the U.S. does not take seriously its obligations under the Convention.” 4 As the Secretary recognized, continued violation of the treaty imperils the rule of law, the stability of consular relations, and the safety of Americans detained abroad.

Angel Francisco Breard sought a new trial after his murder conviction because Virginia police had not advised him upon arrest of his right to contact the Paraguayan consul. Breard eventually asked the Supreme Court to determine whether he had legal standing to raise a Vienna Convention violation as grounds for relief in federal court. See Breard v. Greene, 523 U.S. 371, 118 S.Ct. 1352, 140 L.Ed.2d 529 (1998). Although the Supreme Court...

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