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United States v. Gunderson

March 4, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ADAM GRANT GUNDERSON, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hayes, Judge

ORDER

The matter before the Court is Defendant's motion to vacate judgment and grant new trial. (Doc. # 48).

BACKGROUND FACTS

On June 21, 2008, at approximately 4:45 p.m., Defendant approached the primary inspection area at the Interstate 8 Border Patrol Checkpoint in Pine Valley, California. Defendant was the driver and sole visible occupant of a 1993 Mercedes Benz. As Defendant approached primary inspection, Border Patrol Agent Juan Carlos Sarantes noticed that the rear of the vehicle appeared riding low.

Defendant came to a stop at primary inspection and continued to talk on his cell phone. Agent Sarantes asked Defendant to state his citizenship. Defendant continued to talk on his cell phone and did not respond to Agent Sarantes. Agent Sarantes asked again and Defendant stated that he was a citizen of the United States. Agent Sarantes asked if he could search the trunk of the vehicle and Defendant responded yes but told Agent Sarantes that the trunk was not working. Agent Sarantes asked what was wrong with the trunk and Defendant responded "I don't know." (Transcript at 89). Agent Sarantes asked if he could open the trunk and Defendant responded "Go ahead, if you can." Id.

Agent Sarantes pressed on the handle of the trunk and opened the trunk. Agent Sarantes observed two individuals in the trunk. Agent Sarantes asked the two individuals inside the trunk if they were illegal aliens and one of them responded that he was. Agent Sarantes closed the trunk, returned to the Defendant, and asked "who are the people in the trunk?" (Doc. 27 at 2). Defendant responded "I don't know." (Doc. # 31at 3). Agent Sarantes instructed the Defendant to exit the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to secondary. Defendant was arrested.

At approximately 10:15 p.m., Defendant was advised of his Miranda rights and invoked his right to remain silent.

On July 16, 2008, a federal grand jury in the Southern District of California returned an indictment charging Defendant with two counts of transporting and moving an illegal alien within the United States in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Sections 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii).

On July 17, 2008, Defendant was arraigned on the Indictment and entered a plea of not guilty.

Prior to trial, Defendant moved to suppress any statement made to Agent Sarantes after the agent "found undocumented aliens hidden in trunk." (Doc. # 27 at 2). The Government stated in response "[i]n its case-in-chief, the Government does not intend to use statements made by Defendant after Agent Sarantes discovered the aliens in the trunk." (Doc. # 30 at 3).

On October 14, 2008, the Court held a motion in limine hearing at which Government counsel confirmed that the Government did not intend to use any statement made by the Defendant after the agent had opened up the trunk and discovered people in the trunk of the vehicle. Government counsel stated that the Government would seek to use Defendant's statement "if the Defendant were to take the stand." The Court asked Defense Counsel for her position in that regard. Defense counsel stated:

Counsel for Defendant: I think for impeachment, it's admissible. My motion was on Miranda grounds, so.

The Court: Is it fair to say the, your motion only dealt with whether Miranda was complied with?

Counsel for Defendant: Correct.

The Court: And not voluntariness? So your issue is Miranda.

The Government didn't comply with Miranda, so they can't use it in their case-in-chief. But your motion does not address the issue of whether they could use it for cross-examination or in rebuttal?

Counsel for Defendant: That's right, your Honor.

The Court: All right. And so there is no opposition from the Government that the motion be granted with respect to the motion being suppressed in the government's case in chief, so I will grant that ...


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