United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements
Made to Law Enforcement Agents on March 5 and 6, 2017 (Doc.
79). For the following reasons, the Court
DENIES the motion.
issue in this motion to suppress are two interviews that
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents conducted of Defendant
Said Azzam Mohamad Rahim. This case stems from the FBI's
investigation of the mobile application “Zello.”
Doc. 80, Br. Mot. to Suppress, 1. The FBI began surveilling
communications on Zello in the spring of 2016, after
suspicions that the application was being used in connection
with support for terrorists organizations. Id.
(citing Doc. 80, Ex. A). This surveillance led the FBI to
believe that Rahim was using Zello to support and promote the
Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (“ISIL”).
Id. The FBI continued to surveil Rahim, eventually
discovering that he was planning to travel to Amman, Jordan
on March 5, 2017. Id. at 2 (citing Ex. C). Rahim
argues that he was traveling to Jordan to see his daughter,
who lives there with her mother; the Government, however,
suspected he was traveling there to join a terrorist
organization. Id. Relevant to this motion, the FBI
conducted two interviews of Rahim before his arraignment on
the charges he now faces.
Pre-Miranda Interview at DFW International
Sunday, March 5, 2017, Rahim went to the Dallas-Fort Worth
International Airport to travel to Jordan. Agents with the
FBI and the Department of State Diplomatic Security Services
(State Department) were stationed at the airport and planned
to interview Rahim after he cleared the security check point.
Doc. 83, Gov't's Resp., 2. At that time, the agents
had already obtained search warrants to seize and search
Rahim's luggage. Doc. 80, Rahim's App'x, Ex. C.
Before he went through security, Rahim attempted to obtain a
boarding pass with an airline agent, but the airline refused
to issue him a boarding pass at that time and instead
instructed him to proceed to the departure gate to obtain
one. Doc. 83, Gov't's Resp., 2.
passing through security, Rahim claims he was immediately
detained by law-enforcement agents, identifying themselves as
members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and escorted to a
private room near his departure gate. Doc. 80, Br. Mot. to
Suppress, 2. According to the Government, FBI Special Agent
Dan Glick of the State Department approached Rahim at the
security checkpoint and discovered from him that he had not
received a boarding pass. Doc. 83, Gov't's Resp., 2.
FBI Special Agent Dwayne Golomb approached the two once Glick
had helped Rahim collect his belongings. Id. The
agents were wearing plain, unmarked jackets, and their
firearms were not visible. Id. Special Agent Glick
then asked Rahim if he would be willing to speak with him in
order to clear up any issues with the airline. Id.
at 2. Rahim agreed to voluntarily speak to the agents,
stating he had no reason not to answer. Doc. 80, Rahim's
App'x, 153. The two agents accompanied Rahim to his gate.
Doc. 83, Gov't's Resp., 2. During this walk,
Rahim “maintained control of his passport, keys,
wallet, and bag.” Id. At the gate, the agents led
Rahim to a small room off of his gate's jet bridge.
Id. Special Agent Golomb directed Rahim to sit in a
chair near the door to the room, and he and Special Agent
Glick sat across from Rahim. Id. at 2-3. The agents
began the interview.
interview began sometime around 3:00 p.m. Doc. 80, Br. Mot.
to Suppress, 2. Rahim's flight was scheduled to depart at
4:10 p.m. Id. The agents started by asking Rahim
basic questions about his contact information (full name,
telephone numbers, email address, place of business). Doc.
80, Rahim's App'x, Ex. F (DFW Interview Tr.), 1-4.
The agents then told Rahim: “we've got this
questionnaire, you know, that we'd like you to answer
voluntarily.” Id. at 4:25-5:2. The agents then
officially introduced themselves and the respective agencies
they work for. Id. at 5. Special Agent Golomb then
informed Rahim that he should be truthful and honest in
answering their questions and that “lying to us
technically is a Federal crime.” Id. at 5-6.
They then proceeded to ask Rahim questions from the
questionnaire. The agents' questions covered the reasons
for his travel to Jordan, what family he had in Jordan, and
questions about his knowledge of or association with certain
terrorist organizations. Doc. 80, Br. Mot. to Suppress, 3. In
total, the interview process lasted over an hour and twenty
minutes, and by the time it was over, Rahim's flight had
departed without him. Id. At various points in the
interview, Rahim asked about the status of his flight and
whether he was going to be able to board the plane. See,
e.g, Doc. 80, Rahim's App'x, Ex. F (DFW
Interview Tr.), 32. The agents assured him at multiple points
that his flight had not departed yet and that they were
working to find out why he had not received a boarding pass.
Id.; id. at 79-80. The agents told Rahim
that the problem appeared to be that the German-based airline
did not clear him to fly and that, by answering the
questions, the agents would potentially be able to help him
obtain a boarding pass. Id. at 72, 93; see
also Doc. 80, Rahim's App'x, 153-54 (agents
informing Rahim of the problem with the airline before the
interview). Also, towards the end of the interview,
the agents requested, and Rahim consented to, another search
of his luggage and a search of his cellphone. Doc. 83,
Gov't's Resp., 3. While these items were being
searched, the agents “chatted” with Rahim about
soccer and also confirmed some of his biographical
information. Id. The Government claims any
“meaningful questioning” had concluded at this
point. Id. The Government also points out that
during the interview, airport and airline personnel passed by
the room where the interview was taking place on a number of
occasions (the Government counts twenty-two, exactly).
Id. After the agents finished searching Rahim's
things, they informed him that his flight had already
departed and that he could try to fly again the following
day. Id. at 4.
undisputed that Rahim was never read his Miranda
rights at this interview. Rahim also points out that at no
time during the interview did the agents inform him that he
was free to leave or that he had the option to not answer the
agents' questions. Doc. 80, Br. Mot. to Suppress, 2-3.
Rahim claims that the agents' representations that they
were attempting to help him obtain a boarding pass were a
“guise” and that they never intended to let him
travel. Id. at 3. Indeed, after he left the
interview room, Rahim was arrested while he was still at the
airport in the drop-off area of the terminal. Id. at
4. Rahim was arrested for allegedly making false statements
to the agents during the course of that interview. Doc. 83,
Gov't's Resp., 4. He was then transported to the
Dallas County Jail and held there overnight. Id.
argues that his statements from this interview should be
suppressed because the statements were made while he was in
law-enforcement custody and subject to interrogation,
requiring the law-enforcement agents to provide Rahim with
Miranda warnings before the statements could be
admissible in court. Doc. 80, Br. Mot. to Suppress, 4. The
Government responds that there was no Miranda
violation because Rahim was not in custody when he made the
statements. Doc. 83, Gov't's Resp., 5.
Post-Miranda Interview at Dallas FBI
was arrested at approximately 4:50 p.m. on Sunday, March 5,
2017. Id. at 4. He was accepted into custody at
Dallas County Jail around 6:40 p.m. Id. Around 9:00
a.m. the next morning, federal agents transported him from
the county jail to the FBI Dallas field office. Id.
He arrived there at around 10:00 a.m. Id. After he
arrived, the agents started a second interview of Rahim. Two
agents proceeded to question Rahim until around 10:56 a.m.
One of the agents from the first interview was present at
this one as well. The second agent had not been present at
the previous interview.
interview started at approximately 10:13 a.m. Id.
This time, before the interview started, the agents read
Rahim his Miranda rights and Rahim stated he
understood his rights. Gov't's Ex. 2, Custodial
Interview. Rahim also signed a waiver stating he was read and
he understood his rights. Id. The agents explained
to Rahim that he had been arrested for making false
statements to federal agents in his prior interview. Doc. 80,
Br. Mot. to Suppress, 3. This interview covered similar
topics as the previous interview, but went into more depth on
Rahim's use of the mobile app Zello and his association
with terrorists organizations made through the app.
Gov't's Ex. 2, Custodial Interview. After
approximately forty-five minutes of questioning, Rahim
appeared to ask for a lawyer; the agents asked him if this
was the case and Rahim confirmed that he would like to speak
to a lawyer. Id.; Doc. 80, Br. Mot. to Suppress, 3.
The agents immediately stopped the interview. Id.
the interview, Rahim was processed out of the FBI field
office and transported to this courthouse. He arrived at
approximately 12:00 p.m. and made his initial appearance in
front of Magistrate Judge Toliver at 2:00 p.m.-the standard
time that Judge Toliver conducted initial appearances. Doc.
83, Gov't's Resp., 5.
argues two grounds exist to suppress the
post-Miranda statements he made in the second
interview: (1) there was an unreasonable delay between his
detention and presentment to a magistrate, violating
Corley v. United States, 556 U.S. 303 (2009); and
(2) the statements made in the second interview were the
fruits of the illegally obtained pre-Miranda
statements and thus inadmissible under Missouri v.
Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004). Doc. 80, Br. Mot. to
Suppress, 4. As for the first argument, the Government
responds that while the post-Miranda interview
occurred after a six-hour delay in presentment-past the
statutory safe harbor in 18 U.S.C. § 3501(c)-the delay
was not unnecessary or unreasonable. Doc. 83, Gov't's
Resp., 15-19. And with respect to Rahim's second
argument, the Government counters that even assuming the
first interview violated Miranda, Rahim's
statements in the second interview were in fact voluntary
under the circumstances and no deliberate two-step strategy
was used to coerce the statements. Id. at 19-24.
Court has received the parties' briefing and the relevant
exhibits to decide this motion. The Court also held an
evidentiary hearing on Monday, April 15, 2019. Based on the
parties' arguments and evidence presented at the hearing,
the Court denied Rahim's motion to suppress his
statements made to law-enforcement agents. See Doc.
100, Apr. 15, 2019 Order. This memorandum opinion provides
the reasoning for that Order.