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United States v. Staton

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

September 10, 2019

United States, Plaintiff,
v.
D-14 Christopher Staton, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING THE GOVERNMENT'S MOTION IN LIMINE TO ADMIT DEFENDANT'S STATEMENTS

          Sean F. Cox United States District Court Judge.

         Before Defendant Christopher Staton was indicted, he entered into a proffer agreement with the Government. This agreement required Staton to provide “truthful and complete” information about a drug conspiracy that it believed he had aided. As long as he did, the Government agreed to not offer any of his proffer statements in its case-in-chief if it decided to prosecute him.

         At his proffer session, Staton-a police officer-denied performing a traffic stop at the direction of a drug trafficker. The Government investigated further and, believing this denial to be a lie, scheduled a polygraph examination for Staton. Before the test, however, Staton admitted that he had lied and that he did, in fact, perform a traffic stop for the drug trafficker.

         The Government decided to prosecute Staton. A grand jury indicted Staton on a drug conspiracy charge and for lying to federal officers. Trial will begin on September 10, 2019.

         The Government has filed the only motion in limine in this case. In its motion, the Government argues that it may introduce Staton's proffered statements in its case-in-chief because Staton materially breached the proffer agreement by lying about the traffic stop and omitting other details about his participation in the conspiracy. (ECF No. 264). Staton responded. (ECF No. 271). The Court heard testimony from FBI Special Agent Michael Fitzgerald and arguments on this issue on September 9, 2019.

         For the reasons below, the Court will grant the Government's motion to the extent it rules that the Government is not bound by the proffer agreement.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         In June 2017, the Government began wiretapping the phone of Meltwaine Dukes, a drug trafficker. This wiretap revealed that Dukes was concerned that one of his runners was lying to him about having a drug shipment seized by the police during a traffic stop. Dukes believed that the runner had actually stolen the shipment and fabricated the traffic-stop story as a cover up. So he called Staton, an old friend who was an officer with the Detroit Police Department. With federal agents listening, Dukes and Staton discussed the details of the alleged traffic stop, and Staton agreed to look into whether the stop and seizure had actually occurred.

         The Government then wiretapped Staton's phone. This wiretap revealed more communications between Dukes and Staton, including a text exchange where Dukes sent a license plate number and Staton provided the owner's name and address.

         Eventually, the Government confronted Staton with the evidence it had collected. In July 2018, Staton agreed to meet with the Government for a proffer. Before making any statements, Staton (and his attorney) signed a proffer agreement.

         The agreement outlined the purpose of the proffer:

[The Government's] purposes in participating in a proffer session include: (a) to receive truthful information from [Staton], including information about possible criminal activity by [Staton] and others; and (b) to evaluate [Statons's] credibility as a source of information and potential witness. In return, this office will consider [Staton's] proffer statements in deciding how to resolve this investigation as it relates to [Staton] and any charges pending against [Staton] being prosecuted by this office.

(ECF No. 264-2, PageID 1094).

         The agreement required Staton to ...


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