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United States v. Crockett

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 15, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
SIR ANTONIO CROCKETT, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS [36, 37]

          LAURIE J. MICHELSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Sir Antonio Crockett was a passenger in a car being driven erratically. Two Genesee County Parks Rangers pulled the car over. They could see a Molotov cocktail on the rear floor board. Crockett was arrested. He agreed to speak with the authorities and made an incriminating statement. After being indicted on charges involving possession of a destructive device (ECF No. 1), Crockett now seeks to suppress the statements he made in his post-arrest interview, as well as the alleged Molotov cocktail seized from the car, as fruits of a poisonous arrest. He also complains about the officers' failure to electronically record his interview. Finding no constitutional violations, the Court will deny Crockett's Motion to Suppress Statement and Motion to Suppress Evidence. (ECF No. 36, 37.)

         I.

         On November 16, 2017, at approximately 4:25 am, Genesee County Parks Rangers Thomas Durant and Terry VanKeuren were in the vicinity of the 1300 block of Leland Street, near Hargott Avenue, in Flint, Michigan. (ECF No. 39-2, PageID.112.) They observed a gold, four-door Cadillac make an erratic turn and run two stop signs. (Id.; Mar. 20, 2019 Hrg. Tr. at 13-14, 20.)

         As they pulled the vehicle over and illuminated it with their spotlight, they saw the passenger behind the driver's seat lean forward between the front seats. (ECF No. 39-2, PageID.112) VanKeuren also saw the front seat passenger, later identified as Crockett, hand a bottle to the backseat passenger. (Id., PageID.113; Tr. at 15, 33, 48.) When the Rangers approached the vehicle, they observed a Molotov cocktail and red gas can in plain view on the floor board behind Crockett's seat. (Id.; Tr. at 16.) There were numerous other bottles in the back seat of the car. (Gov't Exh. 3.)

         While Crockett was handcuffed in the police cruiser, Durant spoke with the two female occupants of the vehicle. The driver indicated that she and Crockett had smoked crack cocaine that evening. (ECF No. 39-2, PageID.113; Tr. at 20) She gave Durant permission to search the car. (ECF No. 39-2, PageID.113.) Crockett (and one of the women) were taken to the City of Flint lock-up and “lodged for the charge of attempted arson.” (Id.; Tr. at 62.) The other occupant was taken to the Ranger Station. All three were interviewed.

         One of the women again advised the interviewing officers that she and Crockett had been smoking crack cocaine. (Id., PageID.116.) They heard a gunshot and felt something hit the car. She thought that someone Crockett had been feuding with had shot at the car. (Id.) Crockett also directed her to drive to his uncle's house so he could get a gun. (Id.) But the uncle was not home. (Id.) They then drove to a gas station. She put some gas in the car and saw Crockett carrying a red gas can but did not see the Molotov cocktail. (Id.)

         The other passenger told the officers that Crockett said “Baby shot the car” and that Crockett “was going to murder him” and everyone in the house. (Id., PageID.115.) When they were stopped by the Rangers, she said Crockett tried to hand her a bottle but she refused to take it and so Crockett placed it in the front seat with him. (Id.)

         Crockett was interviewed by Flint detective Vicki Miller and Chief of Police of the Ranger Division Kevin Shanlian. Shanlian was under the mistaken impression that the interview with Crockett was being electronically recorded as soon as they entered the interview room. (Tr. at 57-58, 65.) He also brought a tape recorder with him, but Crockett refused to give a taped statement. (ECF No. 39-5, PageID.118; Tr. at 58, 60.)

         At the outset of the interview, Shanlian advised Crockett of his Miranda rights, which Crockett said he understood. (Id., PageID.117; Tr. at 56-57.) On the Rangers' Miranda form, Crockett placed his initials next to each right he was advised of and signed the waiver of rights. (ECF 39-6; Tr. at 56-57; Gov't Exh. 7.) He agreed to speak with the officers without a lawyer present. (Id., PageID.117.) Shanlian told Crockett, “you know we saved you from committing a murder last night, ” to which Crockett responded, “You're right, I was high.” (ECF No. 39-5, PageID.117; Tr. at 58-59.) But Crockett further advised that he was not feuding with anyone, did not know who shot at the car, and bought some gasoline for another vehicle. (ECF No. 39-5, PageID.117; Tr. at 59, 71.) He did admit going to his uncle's home to try to get a gun, which he knew he could not possess because of his criminal record. (Id.; Tr. at 60.)

         Crockett was subsequently indicted in federal court for possession of explosives by a felon, possession of a destructive device by a felon, and possession of an unregistered destructive device. (ECF. No. 1.) He now seeks to suppress his post-arrest statements, especially that the officers prevented him from committing a murder, which he denies making. (ECF No. 37, PageID.91.) Crockett argues that the underlying arrest was unlawful and that his constitutional rights were further violated by the absence of any video recording of his post-arrest interview.

         He requested an evidentiary hearing which the Court conducted on March 20, 2019. After considering the evidence at the hearing and the parties' briefing, the Court finds no basis to suppress the evidence seized from the Cadillac or Crockett's statement.

         II.

         The Court begins with Crockett's argument that his statement and the Molotov cocktail were the fruits of an unlawful arrest. Crockett believes that, as one of several passengers in a car with ...


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