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United States v. Mitchell

ELR Citation: 22 ELR 21291
Nos. No. 91-1383, 966 F.2d 92/34 ERC 2109/(2d Cir., 06/08/1992)

The court holds that statements made by two district water system operators to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during a criminal investigation may not be suppressed in an action against them for falsifying the water supply's turbidity test results. The EPA Office of Criminal Investigations did not obtain the incriminating statements during a custodial investigation or through trickery and deception, and thus did not need to give Miranda warnings when its agents conducted interviews leading to the operators' indictments. The court holds that the operators were not entitled to Miranda warnings, because the operators were not in EPA's custody during the investigation when the statements were made. The operators willingly volunteered the information after EPA's agents displayed their credentials identifying them as criminal investigators. Although one operator claimed that he was intimidated by one agent's cold look and pressing questions, there is insufficient evidence that the agents' actions were coercing, intimidating, or were restricting the defendants' freedom to terminate the interviews. The court rejects the defendants' claim that they were legally required to cooperate with EPA's investigation, because the statute and regulatory authority they challenge is not the source of EPA's investigative authority. The court also holds that the agents' emphasis on cooperation and deemphasis on the criminal nature of the inquiry during the interviews were not violations of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, because they were not affirmative misrepresentations that tricked or deceived the operators into making incriminating statements.

Counsel for Appellant
Peter W. Hull, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
P.O. Box 570, Burlington VT 05402
(802) 951-6725

Counsel for Defendants-Appellees
Bonnie Barnes
Sessions, Keiner, Dumont, Barnes & Everitt
72 Court St., Middlebury VT 05753
(802) 388-4906

Mahoney, J. (before Pratt and McLaughlin, JJ.)