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United States v. Eiland

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

July 1, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on the defendant's objection (filing 37) to the Magistrate Judge's Findings, Recommendation and Order (filing 35) that the defendant's motion (filing 24) to suppress his statements and the evidence resulting from the search and seizure of his phone be denied. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court has conducted a de novo review of the motion to suppress, and the evidence and testimony adduced at the hearing on the motion. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that the statements made by the defendant on November 7, 2018, and any evidence derived from the later seizure and search of his cellphone, should be suppressed. Accordingly, the Court will sustain the defendant's objection and grant his motion to suppress.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 7, 2018, the defendant, 19-year-old Alec Eiland, was living in an apartment near 70th and Adams Streets in Lincoln. He was a recent graduate of Waverly High School. That afternoon, the defendant was leaving his apartment after taking his lunch break from his job at Russ' Market. He got into his car and started it when he noticed someone walking up from behind. Filing 36 at 69. The person came up to his car, knocked on the window, and asked if he was Alec Eiland. The defendant said yes. The person identified himself as FBI Special Agent Brandon Day and asked the defendant to step out of his car. Filing 36 at 69. Agent Day patted the defendant down, took his cellphone and placed it on the defendant's car, and told the defendant that he had to hold him there until a couple of agents from Omaha arrived. Filing 36 at 70. The defendant asked if he could use his cellphone to call his employer to say he was going to be late getting back to work. Agent Day said no, but Day used his own cellphone to call the defendant's employer. Agent Day handed his phone to the defendant, and told him to tell his employer he was having car problems and would be a few minutes late. Filing 36 at 71.

         The defendant estimated that he waited with Agent Day for 10 to 15 minutes before two more agents arrived. The defendant said that he and Day engaged in small talk during the wait. When Special Agents John Hallock and Jonathan Robitaille arrived, they got out of their car with a recorder and asked the defendant if they could ask him some questions. Filing 36 at 72. Before the recording started, the defendant was told that it would help if he was cooperative, but if he was uncooperative it would make the situation worse. Filing 36 at 72. At the suppression hearing, Agent Hallock could not describe what was said before the recording started, but agreed that there was some conversation, which he characterized as "small talk of some sort." Filing 36 at 42. The recording itself indicates that before the recording began, the agents told the defendant this was his opportunity to tell his side of the story. Ex. 1 at 1:26.

         The recorded interview started with Agent Hallock reading Miranda warnings to the defendant. Filing 36 at 9; Ex. 1 at 0:27-1:16. Hallock then asked the defendant to sign a waiver form, but the defendant balked and said, "All right, so this is me signing without a lawyer?" Ex 1 at 1:16. Agent Hallock acknowledged that it was, and the defendant replied, "So what if I want a lawyer?" Ex. 1 at 1:21. Agent Hallock said, "That's up to you." The defendant started to respond, "Well, I'd feel more comfortable . ." but Hallock interrupted him:

HALLOCK: Remember what we-well, remember what we talked-remember what we talked about . . .
HALLOCK: about, you know, getting a chance to tell your side of the story today.

Ex. 1 at 1:26 The defendant told Agent Hallock he was concerned that if he told his side of the story he would get in trouble. Hallock told him it was hard to say what would happen and that it would be up to the prosecutor. After five seconds of silence, Agent Robitaille said, "Just your opportunity to say your side of the story." Ex. 1 at 1:46. The defendant expressed his concern about incriminating himself if he participated without a lawyer.

EILAND: Yeah, but I don't want to say anything incriminating. I don't want to ruin my whole life because of one mistake.
HALLOCK: I don't know if it will ruin your whole life. You're a young man. You have no criminal history.
HALLOCK: Is that correct, or have you been in trouble?
HALLOCK: Again, read over that, and you decide what you ...

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