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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 27, 2017




         Defendants Donald McDuffin Williams (“Williams”) and Rashon Pratt (“Pratt”) (collectively “Defendants”)[1] have both been charged, via a twelve-count Third Superseding Indictment (ECF No. 145), with Sex Trafficking Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1594(c) (Count One); Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud, or Coercion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a) (Counts Two & Three); Interstate Prostitution Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Count Five); Interstate Transportation for Prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2421 (Counts Six, Seven & Eight); Enticement to Travel Interstate for Purposes of Prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(a) (Count Nine); and Use of Interstate Facilities to Promote an Enterprise Involving Prostitution Offenses, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a)(3) (Count Eleven). Williams alone has been charged with additional counts of Actual and Attempted Sex Trafficking of a Minor, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1591(a) & 1594(a) (Count Four); Use of Interstate Facilities to Promote an Enterprise Involving Prostitution Offenses, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a)(3) (Count Ten); and Access Device Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(4) (Count Twelve).

         The Defendants have filed a series of pretrial motions, seeking to suppress certain physical evidence and statements obtained in connection with the investigation of this case. A two-day hearing on the pending motions was held on February 15, 2017 and February 16, 2017, during which time this Court heard testimony from law enforcement officers involved in the investigation. Following that hearing, the parties submitted supplemental briefing (ECF Nos. 138, 139, et seq.). For the reasons stated herein, Defendant Williams' Motion to Suppress Statements (ECF No. 65) is now GRANTED with respect to his statements to law enforcement during a two-hour interrogation, beginning at 10:07 p.m. on November 12, 2015, over sixteen hours after his arrest. All other motions are held sub curia, pending the scheduling of a second motions hearing.


         In the early morning hours of November 12, 2015, a security guard at the TA Truck Stop in Jessup, Maryland encountered a prostitute named “Rose, ” who informed him that she was “tired of her lifestyle” and “wanted help.” Feb. 15, 2017 Hearing Tr., pp. 115-16. The security guard proceeded to call Howard County Police Officer Desmond Tubman for assistance at approximately 4:36 a.m., and Officer Tubman arrived at the truck stop shortly thereafter. Id. at 116-17. Rose told Officer Tubman that Defendant Donald McDuffin Williams (“Williams”) was her “pimp” and that he was waiting outside in a gray van. Id. at 118-19. After briefly questioning Williams as to why he was waiting at the truck stop, Officer Tubman handcuffed him and detained him in his patrol vehicle while “human trafficking” detectives traveled to the scene. Id. at 122-25. He did not read Williams his Miranda rights.[2] Id. at 134-35. Detective Joshua Mouton, of the Howard County Police Department's “vice and narcotics unit, ” arrived at the truck stop around 5:50 a.m. Id. at 171-73. He also briefly spoke to Williams without reading him his Miranda rights. Id. at 140, 176. At approximately 5:55 a.m., Officer Tubman transported Williams to the Howard County Detention Center, “[t]wo minutes across the street, ” for booking. Id. at 126, 176.

         At Central Booking, Williams was placed in an isolation cell, pending the completion of Detective Mouton's investigation. February 16, 2017 Hearing Tr., p. 32-33. Although detainees at the Howard County Central Booking facility are normally permitted to communicate with others, including attorneys, during their confinement, Detective Mouton specifically instructed that Williams be “put on ice.” Id. This meant that Williams was prohibited from making calls and from speaking to anyone, including a lawyer. Id.

         Detective Mouton and his partner, Detective James-Wintjen, proceeded to question the prostitute at the truck stop, who had earlier gone by the name “Rose, ” but by that time called herself “Amanda.”[3] Id. at 175, 177. Amanda explained that a large man named “Shawn/Sean” had first introduced her to Williams and “that there were other girls involved with this group, ” working out of the Lord Baltimore Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. Id. at 177. She explained that Williams' sister was also involved in the operation, mostly “hang[ing] around the room with them, drink[ing] and smok[ing] and tell[ing] them what to do, ” and that Williams connected girls with “johns” via coded advertisements posted under the name “X-Factor” on, a website well known to human trafficking investigators. Id. at 177-180.

         After investigators finished speaking with Amanda, they transported her to a facility for victims of human trafficking, where she would have housing and access to counseling, if needed. Id. at 180-81. However, as Detective Mouton walked Amanda out of the truck stop, Amanda spotted the man she knew as “Shawn/Sean” and Williams' sister coming toward them. Id. at 181. Detective Mouton took Amanda to a waiting patrol car, but then returned to the building with Detective James-Wintjen and Officer Tubman to question the two individuals. Id. The man, “Shawn/Sean, ” was later identified as Defendant Rashon Pratt, and the woman was identified as Tiffany Lowery, Williams' now deceased sister. Id.

         Detective Mouton approached Pratt and told him that he needed to speak to him. Id. at 183. He indicated to Pratt that he would feel “more comfortable” putting him in handcuffs, and Pratt did not resist. Id. at 183-84. Once Pratt was handcuffed, the other two officers left the area. Id. Without reading Pratt his Miranda rights, Detective Mouton began questioning him about the alleged human trafficking operation at a table in the far corner of the truck stop restaurant. Id.; February 16, 2017 Hearing Tr., p. 102. Detective Mouton has subsequently acknowledged that Pratt was not free to leave at this time. February 16, 2017 Hearing Tr., p. 98. Pratt revealed to Detective Mouton that he knew Williams and “Rose, ” but stated that he was not involved in human trafficking. February 15, 2017 Hearing Tr., p. 184. However, he did show Detective Mouton messages on his phone, which included a picture Detective Mouton recognized from prior his investigations as an “X-Factor” ad. Id. at 184-186. At about 7:55 a.m., Officer Tubman transported Pratt to the Howard County Detention Center for booking. Id. at 128. Detective Mouton proceeded to the Lord Baltimore Hotel to conduct further investigation.

         At 10:07 p.m. that night, approximately seventeen hours after Williams was initially detained, Williams was questioned by Detectives Mouton and James-Witjen. Id. at 36. Detective Mouton has indicated that the holding cells at Central Booking are brightly lit and that he was unaware of the last time Williams had slept at the time of the interrogation. Id. at 34-38. Additionally, Detective Mouton did not know the last time that Williams had taken his blood pressure medication. Id. at 38. Detective Mouton did not offer Williams any food or drink. Id. at 38. Williams signed a Miranda waiver form provided by Detective Mouton. Id. The detectives then proceeded to interrogate Williams for approximately two hours, during which time he made inculpatory statements. Id. at 37. Detective Mouton completed a statement of charges and statement of probable cause for Williams at 3:55 a.m. on November 13, 2015. Id. at 40. Williams finally appeared before a Maryland District Court Commissioner for his initial appearance at 11:39 a.m. on November 13, 2015, about thirty hours after his arrest. Id. at 2; see also Gov't Ex. 1.


         Defendant Williams has moved “to suppress any and all statements, admissions and confessions allegedly given by [him] . . . which the government proposes to use as evidence against him at trial.” Mot. to Suppress Statements, p. 1, ECF No. 65 (emphasis added). In supplemental briefing filed since this Court's motions hearing on February 15 and 16, 2017, Williams now specifically challenges the admissibility of inculpatory statements that he made to law enforcement during a two-hour interrogation, following sixteen hours of isolated confinement, on the day of his arrest. See Supp. Mots. Briefing, p. 8, ECF No. 138. He objects that any inculpatory statements he may have made at that time were “involuntary” and “obtained in violation of his right to prompt presentment.” Id. at 8-17.[4]

         Rule 5(a)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that “[a] person making an arrest within the United States must take the defendant without unnecessary delay before a magistrate judge, or before a state or local judicial officer, ” with limited exceptions (emphasis added). Additionally, 18 U.S.C. § 3501(c) provides that a law enforcement officer's delay in bringing an arrestee before a judicial officer may be excused, but only “if the confession was made voluntarily and ‘within six hours' following the arrest or other detention.” United States v. Alvarez-Sanchez, 511 U.S. 350, 350 (1994) (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3501(c)) (emphasis added). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has confirmed in United States v. Claridy, 601 F.3d 276, 284-85 (4th Cir. 2010) that “a confession must be suppressed if (1) it was made prior to the arrestee's presentment to a magistrate judge; (2) the presentment to a magistrate judge was unreasonably or unnecessarily delayed; and (3) the confession was made more than six hours after the arrest or detention” (citing Corley v. United States, 556 U.S. 303, 321-22 (2009)) (emphasis added).

         As discussed supra, Williams was detained by Howard County investigators in the early morning hours of November 12, 2015 and was transported to the Howard County Detention Center for booking at approximately 5:55 a.m. He was held in isolation for the entire day and was prohibited from contacting an attorney. Over sixteen hours later, at about 10:07 p.m., Howard County detectives began an approximately two-hour interrogation, during which time Williams made inculpatory statements. It was not until 11:39 a.m. the following morning, about thirty hours after his arrest and well in excess of the ...

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