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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 19, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ALFONZO WILLIAMS, et al., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS BOOKING STATEMENTS Re: Dkt. Nos. 480, 488, 573, 589, 621

          William H. Orrick United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Nearly two years ago I granted defendant Antonio Gilton's motion to suppress his answer to a booking question concerning whether he was a member of a gang. The government appealed that decision, and I delayed ruling on similar motions brought by five other defendants. On December 5, 2016, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the prior order. United States v. Williams, 842 F.3d 1143 (9th Cir. 2016). Because the circumstances underlying each of the other defendants' motions justify suppressing their booking statements, I grant their motions as well.

         BACKGROUND

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Second Superseding Indictment describes a racketeering case against the Central Divisadero Playas (CDP) gang, an alleged enterprise that promotes and enhances itself through acts of murder, violence, narcotics trafficking, robbery, pimping and other criminal acts. Dkt. No. 139. Proof of membership in CDP is central to the government's ability to prevail in Count One of the Indictment.

         On September 1, 2015, I granted defendant Antonio Gilton's motion to suppress his answer to a booking question concerning whether he was a member of a gang. United States v. Williams, No. 13-CR-00764-WHO-1 (Dkt. No. 465), 2015 WL 5138517, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 1, 2015). I reasoned that the question was reasonably likely to elicit incriminating evidence and “was also inherently coercive, no matter the apparent benign motivation behind it[.]” Id. Since Gilton's response was elicited after he had asserted his right to counsel and no exceptions applied, the question violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, as articulated in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

         The government appealed that decision, and I delayed ruling on similar motions brought by defendants Esau Ferdinand, Monzell Harding, Jr., Paul Robeson, Barry Gilton, and Alfonzo Williams. See Dkt. Nos. 480, 488, 573, 589, 621. On December 5, 2016, the Ninth Circuit affirmed. United States v. Williams, 842 F.3d 1143 (9th Cir. 2016). I must now address the specific circumstances presented by each of the other defendants.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Defendant Esau Ferdinand

         Ferdinand challenges three sets of statements based on three sets of gang classification documents dated October 6, 2009, October 26, 2011, and March 5, 2012. Ferdinand Mot. at 4 (Dkt. No. 480). On October 6, 2009, Ferdinand was arrested and charged with participating in a criminal street gang, intimidation of a witness, and conspiracy. Id. He invoked his right to counsel. Id. During the booking process, a sheriff's deputy asked if he was affiliated with a gang, and Ferdinand replied “Uptown Fillmore.” Id. On October 26, 2011, Ferdinand was arrested on various charges, including a robbery and shooting incident that took place in April of that year. Id. The sheriff's deputy identified Ferdinand as an “Uptown Fillmore” gang member based on “Self Admission, ” and other factors including prior arrests, fellow officers' intelligence, and identifications by validated gang members. Id. at 5. On March 5, 2012, Ferdinand, who had been in continuous custody since 2011, was interviewed by another sheriff's deputy who completed another Classification Unit Information Report identifying Ferdinand as a “Central Davis Player CDP” [sic] gang member based on “direct admission of gang membership.” Id.

         B. Defendant Monzell Harding, Jr.

         Harding is the only one of eleven defendants whose only count is the RICO charge. Harding Mot. at 3 (Dkt. No. 488). The count is supported in the indictment by overt acts of an iPod robbery and witness intimidation. Id.

         On August 22, 2009, Harding was arrested for taking a vehicle without owner consent and driving without a license. Id. He was not given Miranda warnings upon his arrest. Id. The next day, a sheriff's deputy interviewed him as part of the booking process. He responded, “I am from Divis. I hook up with 800 block and Chopper City.” Dkt. No. 488, Ex. C [under seal]. The classification unit report lists Harding's gang membership as “800 block/Divis.” Harding's Mot. at 4. No charges were filed. On October 6, 2009, Harding was arrested for witness intimidation and gang-related conspiracy following his attendance at a preliminary hearing in the murder trial of co-defendant Charles Heard. Id. Officers questioned him, then Mirandized him, and continued questioning him. See Harding's Mot. for Suppression of Evidence Obtained on October 6, 2009 at 3-5 (Dkt. No. 1100).[1] The next day he was interviewed as part of the booking process. Harding Mot. at 4. The classification report indicates that Harding identified himself as “Uptown Fillmore.” Id. at 5. On August 8, 2011, Harding was arrested for theft from a locked vehicle. Id. The next day he was interviewed as part of the booking process and the sheriff's deputy listed Harding's gang as “Uptown Fillmore.” Id. No charges were filed. On November 9, 2011, Harding was arrested and held on a warrant for a robbery that had allegedly occurred in October 2011. Id. The next day he was interviewed as part of the booking process. Id. A sheriff's deputy completed a questionnaire indicating that Harding was a member of “Fillmore uptown.” Id. at 7. A case was filed but later dismissed. Id. at 6. On August 27, 2013, Harding was arrested for burglary and receiving stolen property; he was later ...


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