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United States of America v. Ernest Hanson

January 25, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Roberts United States Magistrate Judge


Defendant ERNEST HANSON moves for suppression of evidence of his statements admitting possession and the presence of a weapon in his residence. He also moves to suppress the seizure of two firearms from his residence on December 4, 2010. Hanson is charged in an Indictment with being a felon in possession. He contends that any of his admissions were involuntarily made including his consent to enter and search the residence. He also contends that his statements were taken in violation of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The United States filed an opposition to the defendant's motion to suppress, Docket 16. An evidentiary hearing was conducted before the magistrate judge on January 11, 2012 and factual findings are set forth below.

Hanson argues that Trooper Dustin Jorgensen and Deputy U.S. Marshal Rochelle Liedike entered his house without permission, and without a search warrant or an arrest warrant. He asserts that his arrest was unlawful and the officers' questions to him about the presence of firearms in the house were asked in the absence of the Miranda warnings and his admissions were in any event involuntarily made. He claims that his consent to search was a mere acquiescence to authority and not voluntarily given.

For reasons stated below the magistrate judge recommends that the Motion to Suppress be granted in part and denied in part. The motion should be granted as to the defendant's statements and denied in all other respects.

Findings of Fact

On March 5, 2004, Ernest Hanson was convicted of Attempted Sexual Assault in the third degree in violation of AS 11.41.425(a)(i)(C) and AS 11.31.100. He was required to register with the State of Alaska Sex Offender Registry by virtue of that conviction which is defined as a "sexual offense." A.S. 12.63.100(6)(C)(i).

On December 4, 2010 Deputy U.S. Marshal Liedike and Alaska State Trooper Jorgensen were conducting a Village Crime Reduction and Community Orientation Policing Program in Alakanuk, Alaska. Under Alaska State law sex offenders are court-ordered to register and remain in compliance with the law. One of the individuals on the non-compliance list was Ernest Hanson.

This was a joint mission of the Marshal Service and Alaska State Troopers as a compliance check for the Sex Offender Registry under Alaska State law. According to Deputy Liedike the officers' contact with Hanson did not involve any investigation of federal criminal law.

Trooper Jorgensen is an investigator with the Technical Crimes Unit in the Alaska Bureau of Investigation. His basic job duties include investigating child exploitation cases, on-line enticement of a minor, and child pornography possession and distribution. On December 4, 2010 Trooper Jorgensen had a printout from the Alaska Police Security Information Network (APSIN), an Alaska database containing information about anyone who has come into contact with Alaska law enforcement. The APSIN printout indicated that Hanson was out of compliance with his sex offender registration. Trooper Jorgensen wore a standard State Trooper uniform and a coat displaying the Department of Public Safety badge as well as his law enforcement identification badge.

The U.S. Marshal's office in Anchorage has a person designated to review the sex offender registry list for non-compliance. Before proceeding on this trip, Deputy Liedike obtained a printout from that employee that indicated Hanson was not in compliance. Part of the mission was to determine whether the sex offender was living where he stated he was residing, whether there were any children living there, and whether the offender was meeting all of the requirements imposed upon him as a sexual offender. Deputy Liedike also depended upon the Village Safety Protection Officers (VSPO) to assist in identifying the residence of the suspected non-compliant offender in each community.

Deputy Liedike wore a U.S. Marshal's uniform with an outer jacket showing "U.S. Marshals," and a logo with a badge which was depicted across the back. She had information before arriving in the village of Alakanuk that Ernest Hanson lived in a house on Main Street. Alakanuk is located in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region. Prior to arriving in the village, Deputy Liedike reviewed a print out of Hanson's criminal history. The print out indicated a long history of alcohol related offenses. Deputy Liedike and Trooper Jorgensen, together with several VSPOs arrived at Hanson's residence on December 4, 2010.

Deputy Liedike and Trooper Jorgensen knocked on the door and Ernest Hanson opened it. The officers were identified by their clothing. They asked if they could talk with him. He said yes and by his conduct consented for the officers to come inside. The two officers entered the residence to talk with Hanson and learned that a family member had just fallen down the stairs in front of the house and was hurt. The occupants were waiting for the health aide from the Village to come pick her up. The officers said they would talk to Hanson after the situation had been resolved. The officers spoke casually to the injured relative and Hanson while waiting for the health aide(s) to arrive.

Several VSPOs entered the residence to assist in carrying the family member out of the house on a stretcher after a transport vehicle arrived. Afterwards, Deputy Liedike and Trooper Jorgensen came back into the residence to talk with Hanson. There was no one else in the house. The VSPOs left with the medical team. The officers did not ask Hanson for permission to remain or re-enter the house after the others left.

Inside the residence the officers informed Hanson that they were there to talk to him about the sexual offender registry. Hanson indicated that he understood. Trooper Jorgensen told Hanson that they were going around the Village talking to different people who were registered sex offenders and they wanted to determine the reason he was out of compliance.

The officers asked Hanson if he had any paperwork in regard to the registry. Hanson advised that he had been sending in his paperwork. Hanson produced some paperwork but the papers produced by Hanson showed that he was out of compliance by approximately two to three months. Hanson was unable to provide any paperwork saying he had registered recently. The Trooper told Hanson that because he was out of compliance he was committing a criminal offense and they would be taking him to jail. Hanson responded, "Okay. I understand."

Trooper Jorgensen did a pat-down search of Hanson after informing Hanson that he would be taken into custody. Hanson was told by the trooper that he would have to check him for sharp objects, grenades and other items. The Trooper performed a pat-down search over Hanson's coveralls and checked the pockets of the coveralls. The only time Hanson was asked to place his hands behind his back was when Trooper Jorgensen did the pat-down search of him. The defendant complied. Hanson was wearing bulky clothes and a one-piece Carhartt jumpsuit. The thick Carhartt jacket and coveralls made it difficult for the officer to determine what was underneath because of the thick padding of the clothing.

The residence consisted of a single room with part of the room sectioned off into a small bathroom across from the doorway. A kitchenette was to the right of the door and a bed was located to the left. The room was about 30 feet by 30 feet. The house also contained a boiler and water heater in the center of the home. It was a cold day outside, around minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The officers allowed Hanson to close up the house before leaving. Hanson was looking for his medication, a cell phone, boots and gloves. The officers asked him to turn off the radio, and Hanson also needed to turn the stove and lights off.

At one point Hanson reached for a bag and Deputy Liedike stopped him by putting her hand on the bag and on his hand. She stated: "You cannot be reaching for things. I don't know what is in the bag or what you have in the house. Do you have any weapons in the house?" Hanson responded, "No." The officers had not yet searched the house or the area around Hanson.

The Trooper noticed that Hanson was looking around in another part of the house. Hanson asked if he could retrieve the keys to a snow mobile so that it would not be stolen. He also needed to retrieve keys to the house to lock it up. Trooper Jorgensen told Hanson that they wanted to allow him to lock things up but they needed to know if he had any weapons in the house before they allowed him to walk around freely and turn things off. When Hanson went into the bathroom area to gather items, the Trooper noticed that there was a gun safe. He asked Hanson again if he had any firearms in the residence and he replied that he did. The Trooper asked where the firearms were located and he said they were under the bed in the bedroom. The Trooper then asked Hanson for permission to search in the area. Hanson gave his permission. Hanson was never told that he had a right to deny the officers entry into in his house or that he had a right to refuse a search of his house.

Trooper Jorgensen looked under the bed and located a shot gun and a rifle. At no time did the officers advise Hanson of his Miranda rights. The officers indicated on record at the evidentiary hearing that his was because they did not intend to interrogate him. Trooper Jorgensen wore a microphone that recorded the verbal statements of the parties in the residence.

One of the officers remained close to Hanson at all times because they were unaware of what items were in the house. The officers allowed Hanson to move around and show them where different items were located. Hanson gave information as to where objects were located such as his medication or cell phone, and the objects were retrieved by the Deputy Marshal. The Deputy Marshal turned off Hanson's radio and retrieved Hanson's keys.

Handcuffs were placed on Hanson just before the officers were ready to walk him out the door. Neither officer drew a weapon at any time. (It was cold outside and the officers wanted to make sure Hanson was dressed warmly for the weather.) It was possible that Hanson ...

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