United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Talwani United States District Judge
February 26, 2015, a federal grand jury indicted Robert Rang
for the attempted coercion and enticement of a minor, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b). Rang now moves to
suppress statements he made to law enforcement officers on
December 29, 2014. For reasons set forth in this opinion,
Rang's Motion to Suppress Statements [#41] is
ALLOWED in part and DENIED in part.
on evidence that Rang had engaged in sexually-explicit
communications with a nine-year-old boy via the telephone,
internet, and a video game console, between eight and ten law
enforcement officers executed a federal search warrant of
Rang's Pennsylvania home on the morning of December 29,
2014. After being let in by Rang's father, the officers
encountered Rang on the second floor. United States Postal
Inspector Michael J. Connelly and Massachusetts State Trooper
Robert Smith subsequently led Rang to the third-floor attic
to question him. The interview was audiotaped. The officers
administered Rang his rights under Miranda v.
Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), which Rang waived in
writing. He initially denied having sent sexually-explicit
communications to the minor and provided multiple
explanations before ultimately admitting that he had sent the
communications knowingly. The interrogation lasted two hours
and twenty-two minutes, and Rang was arrested shortly
now moves to suppress the statements he made to Inspector
Connelly and Trooper Smith. He has presented evidence that he
has a borderline intelligence quotient (“IQ”) as
well as Bipolar Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder and that his mother alerted officers to these
conditions on the morning of the search. He contends that his
conditions prevented him from fully comprehending his rights
and the significance of waiving them and that Inspector
Connelly and Trooper Smith purposefully exploited his
cognitive impairments. Consequently, he argues four grounds
for suppression: (1) he made certain statements before being
apprised of his Miranda rights; (2) the officers
incorrectly articulated the Miranda warnings and
made statements to contradict and minimize their impact which
effectively rendered them void; (3) he did not knowingly,
intelligently, and voluntarily waive his rights; and (4) he
made the statements involuntarily.
outset, the court must determine whether Rang was in custody
at the time of the interrogation. It is well established that
“a person questioned by law enforcement officers after
being ‘taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his
freedom of action in any significant way' must
first” be administered Miranda warnings.
Stansbury v. California, 511 U.S. 318, 322 (1994)
(per curiam) (quoting Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444).
“‘[C]ustody' is a term of art, ”
Howes v. Fields, 132 S.Ct. 1181, 1187 (2012),
arising only when “there is ‘a formal arrest or
restraint on freedom of movement' of the degree
associated with a formal arrest, ” California v.
Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125 (1983) (per curiam)
(quoting Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492, 495
determining whether a person was in custody, the court
considers “whether, in light of the objective
circumstances of the interrogation, a reasonable person would
have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the
interrogation and leave.” Howes, 132 S.Ct. at
1189 (internal citations, quotation marks, and brackets
omitted). The court must scrutinize “all of the
circumstances surrounding the interrogation.”
Id. (quoting Stansbury, 511 U.S. at 322).
Relevant factors to be considered when determining the
existence of freedom of movement or restraint include
“the location of the questioning, its duration,
statements made during the interview, the presence or absence
of physical restraints during the questioning, and the
release of the interviewee at the end of questioning.”
Id. (internal citations removed); see also
United States v. Mittel-Carey, 493 F.3d 36, 39 (1st Cir.
2007) (“Though by no means an exhaustive list, [the
First Circuit] has identified four factors which ought to be
considered when custody is at issue, including ‘whether
the suspect was questioned in familiar or at least neutral
surroundings, the number of law enforcement officers present
at the scene, the degree of physical restraint placed upon
the suspect, and the duration and character of the
interrogation.'” (quoting United States v.
Masse, 816 F.2d 805, 809 (1st Cir. 1987)).
interrogation of a suspect in his home weighs against a
finding of custody. United States v. Hughes, 640
F.3d 428, 435-36 (1st Cir. 2011); Mittel-Carey, 493
F.3d at 40; United States v. Lanni, 951 F.2d 440,
442 (1st Cir. 1991); cf. United States v.
Nishnianidze, 342 F.3d 6, 14 (1st Cir. 2003). However,
it is by no means determinative. Mittel-Carey, 493
F.3d at 40; cf. Orozco v. Texas, 394 U.S. 324, 327
(1969) (requiring that law enforcement officers provide
Miranda warnings during custodial interrogations of
defendants in their homes). This principle is exemplified in
Mittel-Carey, 493 F.3d 36, where the defendant was
interrogated, without Miranda warnings, in his home
for ninety minutes to two hours after eight law enforcement
agents arrived at 6:25 a.m. to execute a search warrant.
Id. at 38, 40. The First Circuit deemed that, based
on the totality of the circumstances, the defendant was in
custody despite the interrogation having been conducted in
his home. Id. at 39-40. Driving this determination
was the degree of physical control the officers exercised
over the defendant at all times-ordering him to dress and
where to sit, requiring that an officer escort him the few
times he was permitted to move, and separating him from his
girlfriend in another room. Id. at 40. Other factors
the court considered included the early morning hour, the
number of officers present in the home, the length of the
interrogation, an officer's brandishing of an unholstered
gun when initially confronting the defendant in his bedroom,
and use of coercive statements by the interrogating officer.
many of the factors tilt toward a determination that Rang was
in custody at the time of the interrogation. Although the
officers questioned him in his home, his movements were
substantially restrained. Rang first encountered the officers
when their firearms were drawn. The officers handcuffed and
escorted him to his bedroom and then to the third floor-two
floors above where his parents and sister were seated under
the watchful eye of other officers. Inspector Connelly and
Trooper Smith closed the door to the third floor behind them.
The attic room was finished, but unfurnished and unheated.
Rang sat on the floor while at least one of the officers at
all times sat above him on a plastic storage box. Although
Rang's hands were unrestrained once on the third floor
and the officers told him he could leave at any time,
Inspector Connelly also admonished him that “we
can't have you just walking around just for our safety
because, you know, there's sharp things in the house . .
. [W]e don't want there to be any
misunderstandings.” While Rang was questioned by only
two officers, several others were executing the search
warrant below, and officers entered and exited the attic
during the two-hour-and-twenty-two-minute interrogation.
isolation of Rang from his family while he was questioned in
an unfurnished and unheated room, the restrictions on both
his and his family's movements, the drawn firearm when
officers first approached Rang that morning, the presence of
numerous officers in his home, and the length of the
interrogation outweigh any feeling of comfort or familiarity
Rang otherwise might have experienced by being questioned in
his home, the generally calm tone of the interrogation, and
the officers' assurances that he was not under arrest and
could end the questioning at any time.
on the totality of the circumstances, the court finds that
Rang was ...