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United States v. Cabrera-Calderon

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 28, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Chanthall Cabrera-Calderon, Defendant.

          ORDER

          David G. Campbell United States District Judge.

         Defendant Chanthall Cabrera-Calderon has filed a motion to suppress statements she made to Special Agents Coles and Schear of the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General. Doc. 15. The government has filed a response. Doc. 17. At a recent status conference, counsel for the parties stated that no reply would be filed and no evidentiary hearing is necessary. No party has requested oral argument. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the motion.

         Defendant worked for the United States Postal Service and was interviewed at her place of work on June 3, 2016, by Special Agents Coles and Schear. During the interview, Defendant admitted to stealing certain items of mail. Defendant now seeks to suppress her admissions and any other incriminating evidence given during the interview.

         Defendant claims that the interview violated her Sixth Amendment right to counsel. She bases this claim on the assertion that criminal charges had been filed against her in state court on June 2, 2016, relating to the same conduct, and Special Agents Coles and Schear knew about those state charges. Specifically, Defendant contends that she was arrested on June 2, 2016 by Scottsdale Police Department Detective Brennan after she admitted stealing an item of mail. Defendant contends that criminal charges were filed against her by Detective Brennan on the same day, and that the filing of those charges triggered her right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment. Defendant's motion is not ambiguous. It specifically claims that she was “criminally charged” on June 2, 2016, and that the charges initiated “formal proceedings” against her. Doc. 15 at 5, 7. Defendant also contends that her due process rights were violated when Special Agents Coles and Schear knowingly interviewed her while criminal charges were pending.

         As the government's response notes, the factual predicate for Defendant's motion is simply incorrect. Defendant was not charged with a crime on June 2, 2016. She was interviewed and arrested by Detective Brennan on that day, but no criminal charge was filed. The report relied on by Defendant does state that Detective Brennan “charged her with larceny, ” but the report makes clear that Detective Brennan “referred” her case “to the Maricopa County State's Attorney's Office for prosecution.” Doc. 15-1 at 5. And the actual docket of her criminal case, which presumably was available to defense counsel, shows that a complaint was not filed against Defendant until June 30, 2016, more than four weeks after her interview by Special Agents Coles and Schear. Doc. 17-3.

         The Supreme Court has made clear that a person's Sixth Amendment right to counsel attaches only at or after the time that adversary judicial proceedings are initiated. United States v. Gouveia, 467 U.S. 180, 187 (1984) (citing cases). The Supreme Court cases establishing this rule “‘have involved points in time at or after the initiation of adversary judicial criminal proceedings - whether by way of formal charge, preliminary hearing, indictment, information, or arraignment.'” Id. at 188 (quoting Kirby v. Illinois, 406 U.S. 682, 688-89 (1972)). The Ninth Circuit has also recognized this rule. See United States v. Hayes, 231 F.3d 663, 669-675 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

         The record in this case clearly shows that criminal charges were not brought against Defendant until June 30, 2016, at the earliest. Doc. 17-3. Because charges had not been asserted against her on June 3, 2016, Defendant's argument that her Sixth Amendment right to counsel had attached is simply wrong.

         Defendant also argues that the right to counsel can apply to government conduct that occurs before a charge is filed. Doc. 15 at 4. But the language quoted by defense counsel in this argument, and attributed to the Ninth Circuit decision in Hayes, in fact comes from the dissent in Hayes, something not noted in Defendant's motion. See Hayes, 231 F.3d at 680 (Reinhardt, J., dissenting). The dissent does cite to a statement in In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 33 F.3d 1060, 1062 (9th Cir. 1994), suggesting that the government's deliberate interference with an attorney-client relationship can raise Sixth Amendment concerns even before a charge is filed, but Defendant makes no such allegation here. She does not claim to have had an attorney on June 3, 2016, much less that Special Agents Coles and Schear deliberately interfered with her relationship.

         Defendant also argues that the June 3, 2016 interview violated her right to due process. This is the argument:

Here, SA Coles was informed that Ms. Cabrera-Calderon was arrested and criminal charges were brought against her. Despite this knowledge, and knowing that Ms. Cabrera-Calderon had the right to counsel in light of the charges against her, SA Coles proceeded to deliberately elicit incriminating questions from Ms. Cabrera-Calderon.

Doc. 15 at 8. The Court need not decide whether such conduct would constitute a due process violation if it actually occurred, because it did not occur here. Charges had not been filed, and the agents did not elicit incriminating information with knowledge that charges had been filed. The factual premise for the due process argument does not exist.

         IT IS ORDERED that Defendant's motion to suppress (Doc. 15) is denied. Excludable delay pursuant to U.S.C. ยง ...


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