Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Aguino-Ramos

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

July 23, 2019




         This action is before the Court on Defendant Arnol Aguino-Ramos' Motion to Suppress Evidence and for Dismissal of the Indictment and Exhibits which has been joined by Co-Defendants Alexander Olivero-Ortiz and Diego Aguino-Ramos (docs. 53-56, 60), [1] and the response and exhibits filed by the United States (doc. 61).

         The motion was heard July 17, 2019. Defendants and their respective counsel, Federal Defender Carlos Williams, Ashley Cameron, and Neil Hanley; and Assistant United States Attorney George May, were present for the hearing. Upon consideration of the motion, response and testimony, and for reasons more fully set forth on the record, the Motions are DENIED, as follows:

         A. Defendant's motion to suppress statements made during the initial questioning by Coast Guard Officers on board the target vessel.

         Defendant moves to suppress his statement that he and the co-defendants were paid to transport marijuana from Columbia to Peru, on basis that the statement was made after the Coast Guard interdicted and boarded the vessel at gun-point, arrested the crew, and then questioned without advice of the rights under Miranda and the Fifth Amendment.

         Upon consideration, the motion is denied. Applying the factors for a custodial interrogation and the “reasonable man” standard, the Court finds that the United States' evidence and testimony weighs in favor of denying the motion to suppress these statements. United States v. Jonas, 639 F.2d 200, 203-204 (5th Cir. Unit B, Mar. 9, 1981) (“In determining whether an interrogation occurred in a custodial context, thus requiring a Miranda warning, this Court employs a four-factor test: (1) whether probable cause to arrest had arisen; (2) whether the officer intended to hold the defendant; (3) whether the defendant believed that his freedom was significantly restricted; and (4) whether the investigation focused on the defendant.”); United States v. Phillips, 812 F.2d 1355, 1359-1360 (11th Cir. 1987) (“The Court has also expressly adopted an objective, reasonable man standard as the appropriate test in cases involving custody issues[.]”).

         Specifically, the testimony and evidence presented by the United States establish a routine boarding which does not rise to the level of a custodial detention.[2] Therefore, Miranda warnings were not required before questioning could occur. See United States v. Rioseco, 845 F.2d 299, 303 (11th Cir. 1988) (“The mere fact that Coast Guard officers were armed and that Jesuchristo personnel were gathered in one specific area of the boat during the routine search of the boat subsequent to boarding could not lead a reasonable man to believe that he was in custody.”).

         B. Defendant's motion to suppress statements made during the interview with Homeland Security Investigation agents at Port Everglades, Florida.

         Defendant asserts that the interview was inherently coercive due to the length of time aboard the Coast Guard vessels, the shackling on deck, exposure to the elements, and overall care which falls below the standard of decency, and therefore, the statements made at the interview should be suppressed as involuntarily.

         Defendants were arrested and read their Miranda rights soon after they arrived at port on April 16, 2019. A period of thirty-two days had passed since their detention on March 15, 2019, and during this time they were housed and fed on a tented deck or in the hangar of the U.S.C.G. Cutter Bear or the U.S.S. Tornado.

         Title 18 U.S.C. § 3501(c) provides that a confession by a defendant while under arrest or in custody “shall not be inadmissible solely because of delay in bringing such person before a magistrate judge” if the confession or statement has “been made voluntarily and if the weight to be given the confession is left to the jury and if such confession was made . . . within six hours immediately following his arrest or other detention”. Id. However, the statute also provides that the “time limitation contained in this subsection shall not apply in any case in which the delay in bringing such person before such magistrate judge . . . beyond such six-hour period is found by the trial judge to be reasonable considering the means of transportation and the distance to be traveled to the nearest available such magistrate judge[.]” Id.

         As to the first element, the credible testimony and evidence establish that Defendants' detention and care aboard the Bear and the U.S.S. Tornado was not inherently coercive and did not render their statements involuntary and inadmissible. The Court considered the totality of the circumstances, including the length of detention, the education and intelligence of the Defendants, the advice of constitutional rights, and whether the questioning was prolonged.

         The Coast Guard Officer testified that in the best-case scenario, 22 days were necessary to travel the 1, 800 nautical miles from the Eastern Pacific to Port Everglades, Florida. In this case, the Bear required approximately 4 days at sea and in port at Panama to arrange the return of an injured crewmember to the United States, re-provision the ship, dispose of oil wastes, as well as transfer the Defendants to the U.S.S. Tornado and then pick them up. Also, additional days at sea and in port were necessary to make a previously scheduled fuel stop in Ecuador. After leaving Ecuador, approximately 3-4 days were necessary to deliver four Costa Rican detainees, received from the U.S.S. Tornado, to Costa Rica, and pick up other detainees, before sailing to Port Everglades. The testimony indicated that a planned air transfer from Panama to Fort Lauderdale which was initially scheduled for April 10, 2019 was cancelled.

         In addition, the Court finds the treatment of the Defendants to have been humane and adequate under the circumstances. The Defendants were periodically checked by medical personnel, fed the same meals as the crew, provided shelter and bedding, and allowed bathroom and exercise breaks from their shackles. ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.