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United States v. Williams

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 20, 2015

United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee
Reginald Bernard Williams, Defendant - Appellant

Submitted June 12, 2015

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Erin Granger, Jennifer Winfield, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri, Saint Louis, MO.

For Reginald Bernard Williams, Defendant - Appellant: Nanci McCarthy, Federal Public Defender, Federal Public Defender's Office, Saint Louis, MO.

Reginald Bernard Williams, Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Texarkana, TX.

Before GRUENDER, BEAM, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.


BEAM, Circuit Judge.

Reginald Williams appeals the district court's denial of his motion to suppress physical evidence obtained from searches of Williams' rental car and motel room, and argues that the district court[1] erred in failing to dismiss sua sponte the superseding indictment for vindictive prosecution. We affirm.


On September 13, 2012, Williams was arrested in the parking lot of a Days Inn motel in Hazelwood, Missouri. Williams' arrest came as a result of a sting operation in which law enforcement from several jurisdictions attempted to locate a missing minor female from Illinois, who police believed was being prostituted online. As a result of Williams' arrest, officers searched Williams' motel room where they found the missing minor female as well as a second minor female, condoms, and cellular phones, including a phone that a police officer acting undercover called earlier that day to arrange a paid " date" with the minor females.

After Williams was in handcuffs, St. Louis County detective Michael Slaughter approached Williams, told him he was being arrested on the charge of promoting prostitution, and read Williams his Miranda[2] rights. Detective Slaughter testified that Williams stated he understood these admonitions and agreed to waive his right not to speak to the detective. Williams asked Slaughter if his rental car, which was in the Days Inn parking lot, would be towed, and if he could remove some belongings from the vehicle. Slaughter asked Williams if there was anything illegal in the vehicle, and Williams responded that he had a registered firearm in the vehicle and gave Slaughter verbal consent to search the vehicle. Williams watched the search being conducted, and at no time communicated that he wanted to stop the search. Police found several items in the cabin and trunk of the vehicle, including a firearm, condoms, and the following electronic devices: a laptop computer, a digital camera, an external hard drive, a memory card and various DVDs and CD-rom disks.

Williams was subsequently transported to the St. Louis County police headquarters, where Slaughter and FBI agent Nikki Badolato interviewed him. During the interview, which was recorded, Slaughter summarized his contact with Williams prior to the start of the interview and stated that Williams had already been read his Miranda rights. Williams acknowledged and agreed with Slaughter's statements. Later in the interview, Slaughter asked Williams for consent to search the electronic devices recovered during Williams' arrest, and Williams voluntarily consented. Following this consent, and while the interview was ongoing, officers searched Williams' electronic devices. At no point during the interview did Williams withdraw his consent to search the electronic devices. A number of times during the interview Slaughter and Badolato left the room and then reentered to continue their questioning of Williams using information gathered from the search of the devices. More than five and a half hours into the interview, officers asked Williams for written consent to search the electronic devices, in order to memorialize the verbal consent Williams previously provided. Williams refused to sign the written consent-to-search, and requested a lawyer. The officers immediately stopped questioning Williams and terminated the interview. Officers subsequently secured search warrants for the electronic devices and storage disks found in Williams' rental car, and for the cellular phone found in Williams' motel room.

Williams later filed motions to suppress the physical evidence obtained as a result of his arrest, and the statements he made during the recorded interview. Williams argued that he did not consent to the officers' search of his rental vehicle; that he was not advised of, nor waived, his Miranda rights at the time of the interview; and that prior to the start of the recorded interview, Williams requested to call an attorney and that Slaughter coerced his statement by threatening to charge Williams with obstruction of justice if Williams did not agree to speak with the officers.

Williams was arraigned by a magistrate judge who, after a hearing on the motions to suppress, issued a written report and recommendation suggesting that Williams' motions to suppress be denied. Williams filed general objections to the magistrate judge's report, but after de novo review of the record, the district court adopted the report and recommendation. Williams filed second motions to suppress. After a second evidentiary hearing, the magistrate judge issued a second report and recommendation, again recommending denial of the motions to suppress. Williams did not file objections to the second report and recommendation.[3] The ...

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