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United States v. Clayton

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 30, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Michael Anthony Clayton, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan at Grand Rapids. No. 1:17-cr-00230-1-Janet T. Neff, District Judge.

         ON BRIEF:

          Kenneth P. Tableman, KENNETH P. TABLEMAN, P.C., Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Davin M. Reust, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Before: SUTTON, GRIFFIN, and READLER, Circuit Judges.



         For over five decades, the Supreme Court's pronouncement in Miranda v. Arizona has informed the decision-making process for suspected criminals in the custody of law enforcement. Chief among the decisions facing a suspect in custody are whether to speak to investigators and whether to seek legal advice. To inform these choices, Miranda requires that a suspect be advised by investigators of, among other things, his right to "remain silent" and his "right to counsel." Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 473 (1966). Those critical features of Miranda ensure that a suspect understands, before being questioned, that he is not required to talk to interrogating officers and that he has the right to consult a lawyer regarding any anticipated interrogation.

         Those fundamental aspects of Miranda were honored here. All agree that the Miranda warning given to Defendant Michael Clayton omitted one element of the traditional warning utilized by the Battle Creek, Michigan Police Department-that a suspect has the right to have his attorney with him "during questioning." But that message was still conveyed to Clayton. In being informed of his right to counsel, Clayton was told that the right begins at the outset, before any questioning. That and the fact that "[n]othing in the words used indicated that counsel's presence would be restricted [during] questioning," undermine Clayton's argument. Florida v. Powell, 559 U.S. 50, 63 (2010). We accordingly reject his Miranda challenge. We also reject Clayton's challenge to his sentence and AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Michael Clayton was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for sexually exploiting three young women, each of them minors. The allegations against him were disturbing and graphic. Clayton often used drugs to facilitate this abuse. His most frequent victim, J.P., was a vulnerable minor with a drug addiction.

         A. Clayton Sexually Exploits J.P.

         From an early age, J.P. struggled to overcome her addiction to drugs. In an effort to kick the habit, she moved away from Michigan. She was only fifteen years old at the time.

         J.P. returned to Michigan a year later. Almost immediately, she met Clayton through a mutual friend, H.K., also a minor. Clayton and his friend Ramiro Hernandez met up with J.P. and H.K. one evening at Clayton's house. Clayton asked J.P. her age, and she told him she was sixteen. The group smoked marijuana and drank alcohol. Clayton also supplied the girls with cocaine. And at some point that night, Clayton had sex with J.P.

         This pattern of conduct continued over the next two weeks: Clayton would invite J.P. over to his house, give her cocaine, and have sex with her. Clayton was clear in his expectations of J.P.: cocaine in exchange for sex. Clayton recorded the sex acts on his iPhone, often publishing them on Snapchat, a social media application where users can exchange photos, videos, and texts. In the fourteen days that Clayton knew J.P. he recorded twenty-seven sexually explicit videos of her.

         During this same period, Clayton also began introducing J.P. to other men. The first was Freddie Cruz. One evening when Cruz arrived at Clayton's home, J.P. was handed a small plate with cocaine on it, which she was told was from Cruz. Clayton asked J.P. to turn around while the two men commented on her body and negotiated a price. Cruz then left.

         Later that evening, Carlos Duran visited Clayton's home. As he did with Cruz, Clayton negotiated with Duran a price for J.P.-$100. Duran then took J.P. to the bedroom and had sex with her while Clayton stood by with a gun. Clayton kept the money paid by Duran.

         One day during this disturbing sequence of events, J.P.'s nose started bleeding, and she asked to take a break from using cocaine. Clayton became suspicious and asked J.P. why she was stopping. She told him that she felt sick. Ignoring her answer, Clayton asked again. He then left the room. When he returned, he was holding a gun. Clayton loaded the gun and gave J.P. specific instructions: "[O]kay, this is what we are going to do. I'm going to take this plate of coke and we are going to go in the bedroom and we are going to have sex." J.P. did as she was instructed.

         B. Law Enforcement Intervenes, Finding A Terrified J.P. Hidden In Clayton's Basement.

         That night, a frightened J.P. texted her father while at Clayton's house. She was being held against her will, she said, and she believed that her life was in danger. Fear-stricken, her father called the Battle Creek Police Department, notifying them of J.P.'s texts.

         The police and J.P.'s father raced to Clayton's house, and the police announced their presence upon arrival. Clayton's roommate, Blake Robbins, answered the door. He told the officers J.P. had left with her friend, H.K., about thirty minutes earlier. At that moment, J.P.'s father received another text. J.P. alerted him that she was still in the house. The officers stormed inside. They found Clayton and, with him, a potpourri of criminality: two loaded guns, a set of brass knuckles, cocaine powder, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. But they could not immediately locate J.P. Upon reaching the basement, the officers finally found J.P., traumatized and hysterical. J.P. would later testify that she had been forced into the basement in an effort to conceal her presence. Officers took J.P. to the hospital, took Clayton and Robbins into custody, and arrested Hernandez not long after.

         C. While In Custody, Clayton Is Questioned By Law Enforcement.

         When Clayton arrived at the station, officers seized his phone and began questioning him. Detective Sutherland conducted the interrogations. Before any questioning, Sutherland read Clayton his Miranda rights from a standard form used by the Battle Creek Police Department. Sutherland told Clayton:

Before we ask you any questions, you must understand your rights.
-You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in court.
-You have the right to talk to a lawyer before we ask you any questions.
Clayton: Ok.
Det. Sutherland: If you cannot afford to have a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish.
Do you understand your rights?
Clayton: Yes, sir.

         In giving these warnings, Sutherland misread the third Miranda warning concerning the right to counsel. Sutherland tracked the part of the form that states "[y]ou have the right to talk to a lawyer before we ask you any questions"-but omitted the following clause of the warning-"and to have him/her with you during questioning." (emphasis added). ...

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