United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S
MOTION TO SUPPRESS
R. MARTINEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
day, the Court considered Defendant Antonio Arroyo Jr.'s
[hereinafter "Defendant"] "Motion to Suppress
Oral and Written Statements of Defendant" (ECF No. 32)
[hereinafter "Motion"], filed on July 22, 2019, and
the Government's "Response to Motion to Suppress
Oral and Written Statements of Defendant" (ECF No. 58)
[hereinafter "Response"], filed on August 15, 2019,
in the above-captioned cause. Defendant argues that the
evidence obtained at various points during a custodial
interrogation should be suppressed because they were the
result of violations against his Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights. Mot. 3; see U.S. CONST, amends. V, XIV.
Additionally, Defendant requests an evidentiary hearing.
Id. The Government provided an audiovisual recording
to the Court, which clearly depicts all events at issue in
this matter. Resp. Ex. 1, Video Recording of Def.'s
Custodial Interrogation, May 22, 2019, ECF No. 51-1
[hereinafter "Video Ex."]. Accordingly, the Court
concludes that no evidentiary hearing is necessary. After due
consideration, the Court is of the opinion that
Defendant's Motion should be denied for the following
15, 2019, a Grand Jury issued a two-count indictment charging
Defendant with Coercion and Enticement of a Minor, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b), and Travel with Intent
to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct, in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 2423(b). Indictment 1-2. On May 16, 2019, a
bench warrant was issued for Defendant's arrest, (ECF No.
8), and in the late-afternoon of May 22, 2019, federal law
enforcement officers arrested Defendant while he was at work.
Mot. 2; Resp. 1. The arresting officers transported Defendant
to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's [hereinafter
"FBI"] El Paso office located at the El Paso
Federal Justice Center, in El Paso, Texas [hereinafter
"EPFJC"]. Mot 2; Resp. 1. Shortly after 6:00 p.m.
Mountain Time, Defendant was brought to an interview room at
the EPFJC for a custodial interrogation. Mot 2.; Resp. 2. The
room included an audiovisual recording device, which taped
everything that took place between when Defendant entered the
interview room at 6:17 p.m.,  and when his custodial
interrogation ended at 8:07 p.m. Mot 2; Resp. 2; see
agents conducted the custodial interrogation, and both were
present for all stages of questioning. Video Ex. The room was
well lit, with chairs for Defendant and both FBI agents, a
table, a desk, and decorative plants. Id. After
Defendant entered the room, one FBI agent offered him water
and the opportunity to use the restroom. Id. at
6:19:45 p.m. Defendant received water immediately,
id. at 6:24:50 p.m., and visited the restroom during
the custodial interrogation, id. at 7:28:00. One FBI
agent removed Defendant's handcuffs, id. at
6:20:25 p.m., and Defendant remained unrestrained for all
stages of questioning, id.
any questioning commenced, the FBI agents informed Defendant
of his right to remain silent pursuant to Miranda v.
Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), both orally and in
writing. Video Ex. at 6:23:26-26:38 p.m. At one FBI
agent's instruction, Defendant read aloud the last
section from the written Miranda warning, stating
that "I have read the statement of my rights and I
understand what my rights are. At this time, I am willing to
answer questions without a lawyer present." Id.
at 6:26:20-27 p.m. Defendant then signed the written
Miranda warning. Id., at 6:26:38 p.m.;
see Resp. Ex. 2, Advice of Rights, May 22, 2019, ECF
start of questioning, Defendant answered freely, at times
laughing with the FBI agents. Video Ex. This went on for
approximately forty-five minutes. Id., Defendant
calmly refused to answer certain questions but continued on
to the next question without any attempt to end the custodial
interrogation. See Id. at 6:36:30, 40:55 p.m.
Defendant exhibited momentary signs of emotion, see
Id. at 6:45:30 p.m., but overall, he continued to
cooperate and appeared in control of his emotions.
Eventually, Defendant's mood changed, and he began giving
verbal and physical indications of distress almost an hour
into the custodial interrogation. See id, at 7:13:55
started to cry and breathe heavily, recounting that he had
experienced "thoughts of suicide" in the past.
Id. at 7:14:00-16:00 p.m. He also appeared to
consider the potential consequences of a conviction, claiming
that he would die in prison if he did "some serious
time" and that he hoped he would die. Id. When
the FBI agents suggested that cooperating and serving a
sentence might provide Defendant with some form of
redemption, Defendant said that he believed "what [he]
did was evil man ... there ain't no redemption for people
like [him]." Id. at 7:14:00-16:00 p.m. Then, he
said that he "would rather be honest," that
"the best thing you can do is be honest," and that
he was "ready to accept [his] consequences."
Id. at 7:16:00-7:17:10 p.m.
Defendant consented orally and in writing to allow the FBI
agents to search his cell phone. Id. at 7:23:00,
25:30 p.m.; see Resp. Ex. 3, Consent to Search, May
22, 2019, ECF No. 58-3 [hereinafter "Consent
Form"]. One FBI agent asked Defendant for the necessary
information to complete the Consent Form, which Defendant
provided. Id. at 7:23:00-40 p.m. When asked,
Defendant informed the FBI agents of messages from an
undisclosed individual, but did not mention if there was
anything incriminating on the phone. Id. The FBI
agents did not orally explain to Defendant that he had the
right to refuse to give consent before he signed the Consent
Form, though the form included language that Defendant had
"been advised of [his] right to refuse consent."
Id.; Consent Form 1.
Defendant agreed to write a letter to the alleged victim at
the FBI agents' suggestion. Id. at
7:20:45-23:00. Immediately, the FBI agents offered to take a
break and asked Defendant if he wanted any food. Id.
at 7:23:00-23:15 p.m. Defendant visited the restroom but
declined food. Id. Once Defendant returned, he wrote
the letter to the alleged victim for twenty minutes, in tears
and taking frequent pauses. Id. at 7:31:15-50:30;
see Resp. Ex. 4, Letter, May 22, 2019, ECF No. 58-4.
Defendant continued to say multiple times that he had
contemplated suicide in the past or anticipated committing
suicide in the future. See Id. at 7:45:48, 47:55,
8:02:45 p.m. On one occasion, the FBI agents asked if
Defendant would like to stop writing. 7c?. at 7:48:09 p.m.
Although the FBI agents allowed Defendant time to compose
himself, Defendant, at not time, refused to continue with the
interrogation and completed the apology letter and answered
the FBI agents' final questions. See id. 8:07:37
p.m. (video timestamp displayed when custodial interrogation
seeks to exclude all evidence obtained through three separate
instances during the custodial interrogation: (1) oral
statements made after his "will was overborne as
evidenced by his mental, emotional and physical breakdown,
and his suicidal ideation, " (2) his consent to search
his cell phone, and (3) the apology letter he wrote to the
alleged victim. Mot. 2. The Court is mindful that Defendant
only references the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments on the
face of his Motion. Mot. 3. However, the Court construes
Defendant's arguments regarding consent to search his
cell phone as a Fourth Amendment issue, that is, whether
Defendant voluntarily consented such that law enforcement
could conduct a warrantless search of his phone pursuant to
the "consent to search" exception. See U.S.
CONST, amend. IV; United States v. Garcia, 496 F.2d
670, 673 (5th Cir. 1974) ("It is well established that a
search conducted pursuant to consent is excepted from the
requirements of both probable cause and a warrant."
(citing Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 219
(1973))). Accordingly, the Court considers Defendant's
challenge to his consent to search through the appropriate
Fourth Amendment standards, while continuing to consider
Defendant's challenges to his oral statements and the
apology letter pursuant to the Fifth Amendment.
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees
that no individual "shall be compelled in any criminal
case to be a witness against himself." U.S. CONST,
amend. V. In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court
"established that the prosecution may not use statements
stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless
it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to
secure the privilege against self-incrimination."
United States v. Bennett, 626 F.2d 1309, 1311 (5th
Cir. 1980) (citing Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436
(1966)). "The safeguards of Miranda v. Arizona
. . . are well-established," United States v.
Payne, 954 F.2d 199, 201 (4th Cir. 1992), and include
"the now famous Miranda rights,"
Bennett, 626 F.2d at 1311. "In order to use an
in-custody statement against a defendant, the government must
demonstrate that the defendant was warned of his right to
remain silent and his right to consult with an
attorney." United States v. Anderson, 755 F.3d
782, 790 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing Miranda, 384 U.S.
government bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of
the evidence that both the waiver of Miranda rights
and the confession were voluntary." United States v.
Raymer, 876 F.2d 383, 386 (5th Cir. 1989) (citing
Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 168-69 (1986)).
Courts consider the totality of the circumstances to
determine whether the defendant acted voluntarily such that
'"the statement is the product of the accused's
free and rational choice."' United States v.
Bell, 367 F.3d 452, 461 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting
United States v. Broussard, 80 F.3d 1025, 1033 (5th
Cir. 1996)). A statement is involuntary when it
"result[s] from coercive police conduct,"
id. (citing Connelly, 479 U.S. at 163-65),
and "deprives the defendant of knowledge essential to
his ability to understand the nature of his rights and the
consequences of abandoning them," id. (citing
Soffar v. Cockrell, 300 F.3d 588, 596 (5th Cir.
2002) (en banc)).
is defined through "the presence or absence of police
coercion" and a statement may only be involuntary if
there is "an element of official overreach[ ]."
Raymer, 876 F.3d at 386-87 (citation omitted);
see also United States v. Blake, 481 Fed.Appx. 961,
962 (5th Cir. 2012) ("Coercive police conduct is a
necessary prerequisite to the conclusion that a confession
was involuntary." (citing Connelly, 479 U.S. at
163-67)). A defendant's mental condition alone is not
enough to determine voluntariness. Raymer, 876 F.3d
at 386-87 (citing Connelly, 479 U.S. 157). Instead,
Courts must ask whether there was "[p]olice exploitation
of the mental condition." Id. (citing
Connelly, 479 U.S. at 164-65). Courts focus on law
enforcement action because "the Fifth Amendment
privilege is not concerned 'with moral and psychological
pressures to confess emanating from sources other than
official coercion/" Connelly, 479 U.S. at 170
(quoting Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298, 305
(1985)). Thus, the Court's inquiry should be limited to
the FBI agents' actions during the custodial
interrogation and whether they were calculated to exploit
Defendant's perceivable mental condition, not
Defendant's claims of past, or possibly future, suicidal
relating to the continuation of life must never be taken
lightly. Today, the Court is required to accept
Defendant's statements on their face, and divine
objective meaning from the words he has chosen and the
context in which his emotions manifested during the custodial
interrogation. There is a fine distinction between comments
about past and future thoughts, and comments about thoughts
in the present. A person's reflections on entertaining
suicidal thoughts in the past are not an indication of a
desire to end life presently. Similarly, an expression of
concern that one might commit suicide in response to a
possible outcome of one's case is not a statement of
one's current mental condition. The Court is of the
opinion that it is impossible to know a thought that is not
explicitly shared. Therefore, the Court must set aside
sympathy for Defendant's plight, and consider his words
as they are spoken, not as they may be possibly construed.
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees
"[t]he right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures." U.S. CONST, amend. IV. The
Supreme Court has determined that warrantless searches and
seizures are per se unreasonable unless they fall within a
few narrowly defined exceptions. United States v.
Cardenas,9 F.3d 1139, 1147 (5th Cir. 1993) (citing
Coolidge v. New Hampshire,403 U.S. 443, 454-55
(1971)). In addition, "a warrant is generally required
before [a search of data on a cell phone], even when a cell
phone is seized incident to arrest." Riley v.
California,134 S.Ct. 2473, 2493 (2014). "[O]ne of
the specifically established exceptions to the requirements
of both a ...