United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT BAPTISTE'S
MOTION TO SUPPRESS
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
October 30, 2018, a grand jury returned a superseding
indictment against Joseph Baptiste and Richard Roger Boncy
charging them with conspiring to violate the Travel Act and
the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, conspiring to commit money
laundering, and a violation of the Travel Act based on their
efforts to bribe Haitian officials to promote a port
development project in Môle Saint Nicolas, Haiti. [ECF
No. 74 (“Superseding Indictment” or
Baptiste and Boncy are scheduled to be tried together
beginning June 10, 2019. [ECF No. 136]. Currently pending
before the Court is Mr. Baptiste's motion to suppress his
statements to FBI agents during a December 29, 2015
interview. [ECF No. 124]. For the reasons set forth below,
the motion to suppress [ECF No. 124] is DENIED.
following facts are drawn from an affidavit submitted by Mr.
Baptiste and affidavits submitted by the FBI Special Agents,
Alison Pauly and Garrett Trombly (“Special
Agents”), who interviewed Mr. Baptiste. [SI; ECF Nos.
130-1, 130-2, 138].
December 29, 2015, Mr. Baptiste traveled to Miami for dinner
and a business meeting with an individual he identifies as
“the SEW chairman.” [ECF No. 138 (“Baptiste
Aff.”) ¶ 2]. After dinner, the SEW chairman
invited Mr. Baptiste to his hotel room at the Hilton Miami
Downtown to continue their dinner conversation. [Id.
¶ 3; ECF No. 130-1 (“Pauly Aff.”) ¶ 2;
ECF No. 130-2 (“Trombly Aff.”) ¶ 2].
Unbeknownst to Mr. Baptiste, the SEW chairman was an
undercover FBI agent. [Pauly Aff. ¶ 3; Trombly Aff.
SEW chairman's hotel room, Mr. Baptiste was looking out
of the window when he heard a knock on the door and turned
around to see the Special Agents enter the room. [Baptiste
Aff. ¶ 5; Pauly Aff. ¶ 3; Trombly Aff. ¶ 3].
At this time, the undercover agent left and did not return to
the room during the interview. [Pauly Aff. ¶ 3; Trombly
Aff. ¶ 3]; see also [Baptiste Aff. ¶ 6].
Special Agents identified themselves as FBI agents
investigating corruption in Haiti. [Baptiste Aff. ¶ 5;
Pauly Aff. ¶ 4; Trombly Aff. ¶ 4]. Special Agent
Trombly recalled that he and Special Agent Pauly told Mr.
Baptiste “that he was free to leave at any time.”
[Trombly Aff. ¶ 4]. Mr. Baptiste recollected that one of
the Special Agents “pointed to the couch” where
they wanted him to sit. [Baptiste Aff. ¶ 6]. Mr.
Baptiste sat down on the couch; his back was to the window
and the Special Agents sat across from him with their backs
toward the door. [Id.]. Mr. Baptiste “fe[lt]
trapped” in this seating configuration. [Id.].
Special Agents interviewed Mr. Baptiste for three to four
hours. [Id. ¶ 7]. Mr. Baptiste “did not
feel that [he] was free to leave.” [Id. ¶
12]. The Special Agents remembered Mr. Baptiste as
“friendly” and “cooperative” and
recalled themselves maintaining a “courteous”
tone throughout the “calm” interview. [Pauly Aff.
¶¶ 4, 6; Trombly Aff. ¶ 5]. Mr. Baptiste was
cold and tired during the interview. [Baptiste Aff. ¶
9]. During the interview, Mr. Baptiste asked the Special
Agents if he needed a lawyer. [Id. ¶ 8]. The
Special Agents told him that they could not provide legal
advice. [Id.]. Neither of the Special Agents could
recall whether Mr. Baptiste asked them if he needed an
attorney. [Pauly Aff. ¶ 5; Trombly Aff. ¶ 6]. The
Special Agents stated that their standard response to a
witness asking if he or she needs an attorney is to say that
they cannot answer the question. [Pauly Aff. ¶ 5;
Trombly Aff. ¶ 6].
the interview, one of the Special Agents asked Mr. Baptiste
to call a business associate. [Baptiste Aff. ¶ 10; Pauly
Aff. ¶ 7; Trombly Aff. ¶ 7]. Mr. Baptiste complied.
[Baptiste Aff. ¶ 10; Pauly Aff. ¶ 7; Trombly Aff.
¶ 7]. The Special Agents also asked Mr. Baptiste to
surrender his phone and showed him a search warrant for the
phone. [Baptiste Aff. ¶ 11]. Although Mr. Baptiste
states that he “voluntarily provided” his phone
to the Special Agents, he asserts that he “fe[els] that
[he] would have been arrested” for not complying with
their request. [Id.]. Mr. Baptiste left the hotel
room when the interview concluded. [Pauly Aff. ¶ 8;
Trombly Aff. ¶ 8].
April 18, 2019, Mr. Baptiste filed a motion to suppress the
statements he made to the Special Agents on December 29, 2015
claiming that the statements were taken in violation of his
rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S.
Constitution. [ECF No. 124]. The Government opposed the
motion to suppress on May 2, 2019. [ECF No. 130]. At a
pretrial hearing on May 8, 2019, the Court gave Mr. Baptiste
leave to prepare and file an affidavit in support of his
motion to suppress. [ECF No. 137]. On May 13, 2019, Mr.
Baptiste submitted an affidavit describing the circumstances
under which he made the statements that he now seeks to
suppress. [Baptiste Aff.].
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), statements
obtained in a custodial interrogation are generally
inadmissible unless law enforcement has observed the
applicable procedural safeguards including warning the
suspect “that he has a right to remain silent, that any
statement he does make may be used as evidence against him,
and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney,
either retained or appointed.” 384 U.S. 436, 444
(1966). The procedural safeguards outlined by
Miranda are only required during a “custodial
interrogation, ” Rhode Island v. Innis, 446
U.S. 291, 300 (1980), which the Supreme Court has defined as
“questioning initiated by law enforcement officers
after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise
deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way,
” Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444.
determine whether an individual is in custody for the
purposes of Miranda in situations in which there has
not been an arrest, “district court[s] look to the
totality of the circumstances surrounding the questioning and
determine whether a ‘reasonable person would have
felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the
interrogation and leave.'” United States v.
Arroyo, 972 F.Supp.2d 112, 121 (D. Mass. 2013) (quoting
United States v. Mittel-Carey, 493 F.3d 36, 39 (1st
Cir. 2007)). The First Circuit has identified four factors to
be considered in this analysis: “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.”
United States v. Swan, 842 F.3d 28, 31 (1st Cir.