Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Laurezo

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

June 12, 2019



         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Chief Magistrate Judge Carmen E. Garza's Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (the “PFRD”), (Doc. 69), filed May 2, 2019; Defendant Jade Tiffany Laurezo's Objections to the Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition Regarding Motion to Suppress Statements, (Doc. 73), filed May 16, 2019; the Government's Objections to Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition Regarding Defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements, (Doc. 72), filed May 16, 2019; Ms. Laurezo's Response to Government's Objections, (Doc. 80), filed May 31, 2019; and the Government's Response to Defendant's Objections, (Doc. 78), filed May 31, 2019. In the PFRD, the Chief Magistrate Judge recommended that Ms. Laurezo's Motion to Suppress Statements, (Doc. 27), be denied. (Doc. 69 at 21).

         The parties were informed that objections to the Chief Magistrate Judge's opinion were due within fourteen days of service of the PFRD in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Id. Ms. Laurezo and the Government both timely objected to the PFRD on May 16, 2019. (Doc. 72); (Doc. 73). In addition, both parties filed Responses on May 31, 2019. (Doc. 78); (Doc. 80). Following a de novo review of the Motion to Suppress Statements, PFRD, the Objections, and the Responses, the Court will overrule the Objections, adopt the PFRD, and deny the Motion to Suppress Statements.

         I. Background

         Defendant Jade Tiffany Laurezo is a native of the Philippines and was visiting the United States to complete a Federal Aviation Administration licensure exam. (Doc. 73 at 1); (Doc. 50 at 53). The facts of this case are fully set forth in Chief Magistrate Judge Garza's PFRD, detailing Ms. Laurezo's history in the United States, English language abilities, and the investigation that led to her arrest. (Doc. 69 at 1-7). The following is a brief recitation of the pertinent facts before the Court.

         On the morning of June 27, 2018, approximately eight law enforcement officers arrived at 3809 Zinnia Road in Roswell, New Mexico and executed a search warrant in connection with suspected possession of child pornography. (Doc. 51 at 25). The officers approached the home with their firearms positioned in the “low ready” position, and commanded Ms. Laurezo and the other occupants of the home to exit through the front door. Id. at 54. In compliance with the search warrant, law enforcement officers seized a number of electronic devices from the 3809 Zinnia Road residence, including Ms. Laurezo's Samsung DUOS cellphone. Id. at 32.

         On the afternoon of July 3, 2018, Sergeant Hector Ramirez and Deputy Will Seely arrived at the 3809 Zinnia Road residence and inquired if Ms. Laurezo would be willing to visit the Chaves County Sheriff's Department for an interview. (Doc. 51 at 70-75). After Ms. Laurezo agreed to undergo an interview and opted to drive separately, Deputy Seely and Sergeant Ramirez waited outside in their patrol units for roughly fifteen minutes until Ms. Laurezo left the home. Id. at 75. At first, Sergeant Ramirez and Deputy Seely both followed Ms. Laurezo en route to the Sheriff's Department, but as the driver began to take an intentionally indirect route, Deputy Seely stopped following the vehicle. Id. Sergeant Ramirez followed Ms. Laurezo and the driver, Donald Roberson, until their arrival at the Sheriff's Department. Id.

         Upon arriving at the Sheriff's Department, Ms. Laurezo was first interviewed by immigration officials to inquire about the effects of an arrest on her visa status. (Doc. 51 at 86-87). After her interview with immigration officials, Ms. Laurezo was escorted to a second interview room where she was met by Detective Raul Valderaz and Sergeant Doug Perham. (Doc. 36-1 at 1-8). Ms. Laurezo initially struggled to understand the Advice of Rights form presented to her by Detective Valderaz, but she eventually signed the form and agreed to be interviewed regarding the officers' investigation of sexual exploitation of a child. Id. at 8-16. At the end of the interview, Ms. Laurezo was placed under arrest for possession of child pornography. Id. at 114. Ms. Laurezo now moves to suppress her statements made to Detective Valderaz and Sergeant Perham during her July 3, 2018 interview. (Doc. 27).

         In the PFRD, the Chief Magistrate Judge found that Ms. Laurezo was in custody during her July 3, 2018 interview with law enforcement but she voluntarily waived her Fifth Amendment rights. (Doc. 69 at 21). As such, the Chief Magistrate Judge recommended that Ms. Laurezo's Motion to Suppress Statements be denied. Id. The Government has objected to the PFRD's conclusion that Ms. Laurezo was in custody during her interview and contends instead that she was free to terminate the interview and leave at any time. (Doc. 72 at 2-16). Ms. Laurezo makes no objection to the Chief Magistrate Judge's conclusion that she was in custody but instead argues she did not knowingly and voluntarily waive her Fifth Amendment rights. (Doc. 73 at 4-14). In addition, Ms. Laurezo alleges that because she was in custody during the July 3, 2018 interview, the statements she made before she was read her Miranda rights must be suppressed. The Court will address each argument in turn, beginning with the factual objections presented by both parties.

         II. Analysis

         When resolving objections to a magistrate judge's recommendation, the district judge must make a de novo determination regarding any part of the recommendation to which a party has properly objected. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Filing objections that address the primary issues in the case “advances the interests that underlie the Magistrate's Act, including judicial efficiency.” United States v. One Parcel of Real Prop., With Bldgs., Appurtenances, Improvements, & Contents, 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996). Objections must be timely and specific to preserve an issue for de novo review by the district court or for appellate review. Id. at 1060. Additionally, issues “raised for the first time in objections to the magistrate judge's recommendation are deemed waived.” Marshall v. Chater, 75 F.3d 1421, 1426 (10th Cir. 1996); see also United States v. Garfinkle, 261 F.3d 1030, 1031 (10th Cir. 2001).

         A. Factual Objections

         First, Ms. Laurezo has objected to the following factual findings presented in the PFRD: (1) Ms. Laurezo was in the United States “stud[ying] in pursuit of a Federal Aviation Administration certificate to train aircraft maintenance personnel for U.S. based customers, ” (Doc. 73 at 1); (2) after the search warrant was executed on June 27, 2018, “the occupants [of the home] were permitted to return inside, ” id. at 2; (3) “Ms. Laurezo agreed to speak with law enforcement at the sheriff's department, ” id.; (4) “Although she was offered a ride by Deputy Seely, Ms. Laurezo chose to drive separately with Donnie Roberson, ” id.; and (5) “She ultimately decided to forego a visit to her neighbor's home and instead proceeded directly to the Sheriff's Department, ” id.

         Ms. Laurezo contends the above facts “misrepresent[]” the “posture of Ms. Laurezo[‘s case]” or are not otherwise supported by the record. Id. Ms. Laurezo clarifies that she “reluctantly went to the Sheriff's office because she had no choice” and she “did not voluntarily forego a visit to the neighbor's home[, ] [s]he did not go because she was being followed.” Id. The Court finds that even if each of these facts were modified to represent Ms. Laurezo's framing of the case, the outcome and analysis would remain unchanged. For example, whether Ms. Laurezo was in the United States to simply study or to take an exam has no bearing on the Court's conclusion that her English proficiency is sufficient to voluntarily waive her Fifth Amendment rights. As such, the Court will overrule Ms. Laurezo's factual objections.

         The Government similarly seeks to reframe factual assertions presented in the PFRD to support its position. For example, it disputes how the PFRD “characterized” the interaction between law enforcement and Ms. Laurezo on July 3, 2018, (Doc. 72 at 7), and contends the Chief Magistrate Judge “omitted” certain facts from her analysis, (Doc. 72 at 8). The PFRD and hearing transcripts reflect that the Chief Magistrate Judge viewed video evidence, heard testimony from witnesses, and read transcribed statements presented by the Government during the hearing, pertaining specifically to the interactions between law enforcement officials and Ms. Laurezo on July 3, 2018. See, e.g., (Doc. 69 at 1-21). Thus, even if the Court were to modify the PFRD to reflect the more favorable language proposed by the Government, the conclusion and analysis in this case demonstrate a thorough review of the record and would remain unchanged.

         Notably, the Government highlights two facts derived from Ms. Laurezo's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, (Doc. 56), that were presented in the PFRD which it contends are incorrect. First, the Government argues there is no proof that Deputy Seely pointed his firearm at Ms. Laurezo during the execution of the search warrant on June 27, 2018. (Doc. 72 at 7). The Court agrees there is no direct evidence illustrating that Deputy Seely pointed his firearm at Ms. Laurezo. However, the lapel camera footage reveals that Deputy Seely's firearm was drawn when he approached the 3809 Zinnia Road residence and it remained in the “low ready position, ” pointed at the home and its occupants, until everyone inside the home had exited. See (Doc. 80 at 3). Thus, Ms. Laurezo's statement that Deputy Seely “was one of the deputies that had pointed a gun [at her] when the search warrant was executed, ” is a reasonable inference. See (Doc. 56 at 2). The Court will therefore overrule the Government's objection.

         Next, the Government notes the officers were not in uniform when they questioned Ms. Laurezo. (Doc. 72 at 5, note 3). The Court agrees that all of the law enforcement officers who interviewed Ms. Laurezo were in civilian clothing on July 3, 2018.[1] See (Doc. 51 at 91); (Gov. Ex. 49); see contra (Doc. 80 at 4) (Ms. Laurezo's Response) (“[T]hree uniformed men were waiting for her in the initial interview room.”). The Court is mindful that the Tenth Circuit will “accept the district court's factual findings” and seeks to preserve the most accurate record for any future proceedings. See United States v. Jones, 523 F.3d 1235, 1239 (10th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). Therefore, for purposes of keeping an accurate record, the Court will modify the Chief Magistrate Judge's PFRD to reflect that the officers and immigration officials who interviewed Ms. Laurezo were not in uniform on July 3, 2018. In all other respects, the PFRD's factual recitation of this case remains unaltered.

         B. Custodial Analysis

         The Government first argues the PFRD “emphasized the subjective mindset of [Ms.] Laurezo and the officers, both of which are not relevant to the custody analysis.” (Doc. 72 at 3). Specifically, the Government contests the relevance of two facts set forth in the PFRD: (1) the police officers' previously formed intent to “charge [Ms. Laurezo] with a crime, ” even before she arrived at the police station; and (2) Ms. Laurezo's confusion regarding the “distinction between the immigration officials and ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.