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United States v. MuñOz-Ramon

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

April 11, 2014



JOHN M. GERRARD, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the defendant Jorge Muñoz-Ramon's motion to suppress (filing 204) and the Findings and Recommendation (filing 213) of the United States Magistrate Judge, recommending that the motion to suppress be denied in its entirety. Filing 213; filing 225 at 40-42. Muñoz-Ramon has objected to those findings (filing 229), and the matter is ready for disposition. The Court has conducted a de novo review of the motion to suppress, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that Muñoz-Ramon's objections are without merit, and they will be overruled, with one exception.

The exception relates to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that, should Muñoz-Ramon be found or plead guilty, he should receive an obstruction of justice enhancement for providing false testimony at the suppression hearing. At this time, the Court does not accept or reject that recommendation, but merely observes that the matter is not ripe for consideration, as Muñoz-Ramon has not been found or pleaded guilty and no sentencing has been set at this time. If this case proceeds to sentencing, the Court will reconsider the Magistrate Judge's recommendation, and make its own finding at that time. For now, Muñoz-Ramon's objection on this point is overruled, but without prejudice to a later challenge at sentencing.


Detective Robert Branch, Jr., of the Omaha Police Department testified at the suppression hearing. Filing 225 at 6-7. In May 2013, Branch was working with the narcotics unit to investigate methamphetamine distribution in the Omaha area. On May 24, the police arranged for a confidential witness to meet with a suspected supplier of methamphetamine at an Omaha hotel. The witness was supplied with money that he was to use to pay a drug debt allegedly owed to the supplier. Filing 225 at 7. The hotel room to be used for the meeting was a suite with a living room and a separate kitchen and bedroom. The living room, where the meeting was to occur, was equipped with audio and visual surveillance equipment. Filing 225 at 7-10.

Muñoz-Ramon arrived at the hotel room and met with the witness. As soon as Muñoz-Ramon accepted the money from the witness, several officers entered the room at once, commanded Muñoz-Ramon to get to the floor, and placed him in handcuffs. Filing 225 at 8, 10-13. While this was occurring, Branch was in the bedroom area of the suite, "monitoring the interaction between the cooperating witness and Mr. Muñoz." Filing 225 at 12.

The other officers then escorted Muñoz-Ramon into the bedroom area, where Branch conducted an interview. Branch testified that he first told Muñoz-Ramon why he was under arrest, obtained some biographical information from him, and then read him his Miranda rights. Branch stated that he read from the standard Omaha Police Department rights advisory form. Filing 225 at 13. After reading each portion of the advisement, Branch waited for Muñoz-Ramon to state that he understood, then Branch wrote "yes" next to each right. Filing 225 at 26; filing 206 at 3. Branch testified that Muñoz-Ramon then acknowledged that he understood his rights and agreed to speak with Branch. Filing 225 at 30. According to Branch, Muñoz-Ramon never requested an attorney during this time. Filing 225 at 11.

Branch did not have Muñoz-Ramon sign or initial the rights advisory form, and their interview was not recorded. Filing 225 at 14-19. When questioned on this point, Branch explained that he did not know why he had not recorded the interview or obtained Muñoz-Ramon's signature; he simply had not done so. Filing 225 at 14-20. Branch testified that sometimes interviews were recorded, and sometimes suspects were asked to sign or initial Miranda waivers, but that there was no policy or procedure in place that required such measures, and that his practice varied from case to case. Filing 225 at 14-26.

Branch read the Miranda advisory and conducted the interview in English. Filing 225 at 14. English is a second language for Muñoz-Ramon, Spanish being his primary language. Filing 225 at 3, 33. But Branch testified that he and Muñoz-Ramon were able to converse in English without difficulty. Filing 225 at 14, 26. Following the interview at the hotel, Branch drove around Omaha with Muñoz-Ramon in his car, and Muñoz-Ramon identified various residences involved in the distribution of methamphetamine. Filing 225 at 28. This process took "a couple of more hours, " and throughout this, Branch testified that they had no problems communicating. Filing 225 at 28. And previous surveillance and subsequent investigations confirmed that the residences Muñoz-Ramon identified were, in fact, connected to the methamphetamine operation under investigation. Filing 225 at 28-29. Finally, Branch later interviewed Muñoz-Ramon with his attorney present, and at that time, no interpreter was used. Filing 225 at 29.

Muñoz-Ramon also testified at the suppression hearing. He stated that when he was first placed in handcuffs in the living room, Branch asked him his name, and Muñoz-Ramon responded that he wanted to speak with an attorney. Filing 225 at 33-34. Muñoz-Ramon then testified, in response to questions by his counsel:

Q. And when you asked for a lawyer, then what did he say?
A. That never mind at that point because they already had me and I was risking many years in prison.
Q. And then what happened?
A. I told him again that I wanted to talk to ...

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