Hearings on Motions to Suppress Post-Arrest Statements
9 am: Doug's hearing (about 1 hr)
It was suggested in court that Doug's interrogation lasted just under an hour. However, the video recording lasts closer to two hours, leaving it unclear how much of that time was spent in interrogation. The motion to suppress the post-arrest statement was denied but the video and audio of the post arrest statement were suppressed due to faulty recording. It was also made clear that Doug did not make any incriminating statements against his co-defendants. Special Agent Ryan M. Taylor (3 years with the FBI) took the stand. With Agent Taylor's statement, it was referenced in open court to threats that had been received. Taylor testified that in his post arrest statement, Doug stated that he went to the bridge that night because his girlfriend was being threatened and he was afraid of what would happen if he didn’t go (this is in the audio recording). The joint motion that Vegh submitted was not ruled on. The motion was to suppress incriminating statements made by the co-defendants. Judge Dowd wanted to wait until all of the individual hearings had occurred and wanted briefs submitted pertaining to the Bruton rule as it pertained to one or more co-defendants and an entrapment defense.
1 pm: Connor's Hearing (about 3 hrs)
Connor’s post arrest interview was over 4 hours long. Gilbert argued that during the interview, the FBI violated Connor's 6th amendment right to counsel and his 5th amendment Miranda rights. Therefore, any statements made by Connor during the interrogation were involuntary and inadmissible in court. Gilbert stated that there was expressed as well as implied coercion. The motion was not ruled on yet. The prosecution and defense have a little over a week to submit some more information the judge requested. Special Agent Jared Ruddy (8 years with the FBI) took the stand. The agent engaged Stevens in discussion for 14 minutes before the review of Miranda rights. He stated things like: “you know we have some things we need to cover,” before advising Connor of his rights and making statements that sounded like the agent was alluding to promises if Connor agreed to talk. The agent also continued to question Connor after he made statements like: I'm not in any condition to talk about this sh*t right now. I'm exhausted, I'm lost, I'm cold, I'm tired, I'm lonely. I'm not in a good state. I don’t want to incriminate anybody else or myself any more than I already have. Judge Dowd had many questions for the agent asking him why he continued to ask questions after Stevens stated that he was in no condition to continue. Again the judge mentioned needing more information about Bruton and entrapment.
9 am: Joshua Stafford Hearing (1 hr)
Joshua's post arrest statement was about an hour long. Joshua's hearing was not much of a hearing at all, but rather mostly just both counsels speaking in private to the judge. It was made clear that there were many problems with how the govt. conducted his interrogation, such as not signing a Miranda waiver, continuing to ask questions and proceeding with interrogation after Joshua explicitly stated that he did not waive his rights. Joshua's lawyers withdrew the motion to suppress his post arrest statement on the condition that the govt agreed not to use the statement. The only exception to this, which Judge Dowd pointed out, was that if in his own testimony (if he testifies) Joshua says something that contradicts the post arrest statement, the govt could use it during cross examination. It was also pointed stated by the prosecution and the defense that Joshua said nothing incriminating about himself or others and that in fact, much of the interview could be exculpatory evidence (favorable to the defendant) if admissible.
11 am: Brandon Baxter Hearing (3.5 hrs)
Brandon's post arrest statement was about 2 hours long. This was a very emotional hearing. Brandon took the stand to give a testimony sharing that he was dazed, confused, nervous, terrified and intimidated. He felt that if he didn't do what the agent wanted he didn't know what would happen to him. He stated that he felt like they were giving him an offer, that things wouldn't be as bad if he did what they wanted. He knew about the Indefinite Detention clause of the National Defense Authorization Act, stating that the government could make people disappear. He felt like he was being pressured to sign and stated that he was afraid for his life. He also stated that Shaquille Azir, the FBI informant, had provided him with alcohol the night he was arrested and previously supplied him with Adderall. John Pyle, Brandon's lawyer, also pointed out that this investigation and interaction with the FBI informant was happening when Brandon was still a teenager (he turned 20 just days before being arrested).
The judge denied the motion to suppress his post arrest statement stating that there was substantial compliance with Miranda on the agent's part who was conducting the interrogation. Although he did make it a point that this reading of the waiver should have happened first, before making comments regarding the case or anything that would persuade him to incriminate himself. The agent, Daniel Molina (over 15 years with FBI) who took the stand, made statements like: I'll tell you why you are here...we have a lot of info. to support that... We want to talk to you to give you a chance to be truthful with us... and we can pass that along to the prosecution and take that into considerations...info. about other parties involved. You are looking at 20-30 years in prison.
The judge also stated that the statement was “not involuntary” and that the agents had a legitimate concern for the safety of the public (other actions i.e. Chicago). The motion was dismissed in its entirety. The government also mentioned that they had not decided if they would use any of the post arrest statements, but that if they did there was a high likelihood of using Brandon’s.