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United States v. Streitz

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

June 15, 2017




         Defendant James Joseph Streitz has moved to suppress statements made to law enforcement on July 21, 2016. The court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion on June 6, 2017. At the hearing, the court heard testimony from Montana Probation and Parole Officer Seth Weston, and Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Agents Steven Feuerstein and Scott Dvorak. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants the motion.

         I. Background

         On February 16, 2017, a grand jury indicted Streitz on one count of felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The charge against Streitz arises from an incident on July 3, 2016, when Streitz was a passenger in a car stopped for speeding. At that time, he was under felony supervision by Montana Probation and Parole Officer Seth Weston. Law enforcement ultimately obtained a search warrant for the car and found a Raven Arms .25 caliber pistol under the passenger seat where Streitz had been sitting.

         On July 6, 2016, as required by his probation conditions, Streitz called Weston and reported that he had contact with law enforcement when his girlfriend, Jennifer Mims, was pulled over for speeding. The next day, Billings Police Department Officer Martin called Weston and advised him that a gun had been found in Mims' car.

         On July 21, 2016, ATF agent Steven Feuerstein contacted Weston and told Weston he was interested in interviewing Streitz about the gun found in the car. Feuerstein wondered if Weston would schedule an appointment with Streitz so that Feuerstein could attend and attempt to interview Streitz. During his tenure in Montana, Weston had never called in a probationer to speak with law enforcement at the probation office. He called Streitz and offered "some sort of excuse" for Streitz to come to the office that morning at 10:00 a.m. The meeting was set up just for the purpose of the ATF agents interviewing Streitz; it wasn't the prearranged monthly meeting with Streitz. According to Weston, Streitz was required to come in to the office, if requested, as a condition of his probation. Weston did not tell Streitz the ATF would be at the office to interview him.

         When Streitz reported to the Montana Probation and Parole Office, as was typical practice, he signed the log book and pushed the buzzer to advise the secretary he had arrived. Weston retrieved Streitz from the lobby, led him through a keypad locked door, and brought Streitz to his office. Weston described his office as very small with a small window that looks out into the hallway. To the right of the doorway, two seats faced Weston's desk, which had a chair behind it facing the door. Weston sat Streitz down in one of the chairs facing his desk and told him, "I know what's going on and I know you know what's going on" and that he had two ATF agents there to talk to Streitz. Weston left his office. Weston did not tell Streitz he had to talk to the agents, nor did he tell Streitz he could decline to talk to them.

         ATF agents Feuerstein and Dvorak entered Weston's office and introduced themselves. Feuerstein told Streitz they wanted to talk to him about the gun found in Mims' car on July 3, 2016. Feuerstein told Streitz that he was not under arrest and he did not have to talk to them, but if he did not want to talk to them, he would need to check with his probation officer. Feuerstein then seated himself behind Weston's desk, Dvorak sat to the right of Feuerstein and Streitz sat on the other side of the desk, facing the agents, with his back to the office door. The door remained open. Feuerstein began the recorded interview. Streitz was not read his Miranda rights.

         During the recorded portion of the interview, Feuerstein reiterated that Streitz's probation rules did not allow him to have firearms. Streitz denied ownership of the gun and said that his girlfriend carried it for protection. When Streitz denied touching the gun, Feuerstein told Streitz he believed the agent on the case intended to send the gun away for fingerprint and DNA identification. Streitz then admitted that he had touched it when he found it in his girlfriend's purse.

         The agents talked with Streitz for less than half an hour about the other items found in the car, his girlfriend, and Streitz's living situation. Streitz was not restrained in any way, and there was no confrontation. No threats were made. No yelling occurred, and Streitz did not seem upset during the interview. At the end of the interview, Feuerstein advised Streitz that he could not tell Streitz what would happen one way or the other, but that Streitz could be looking at federal prison. He then concluded the interview.

         After Feuerstein turned off the recording device, Feuerstein and Dvorak left Streitz in Weston's office and left the building. Weston returned to his office and completed his monthly meeting with Streitz. He requested a urinalysis and set Streitz up for his next monthly meeting. Weston told Streitz that he was aware of the ATF investigation and that if Streitz had any concern for his freedom, he needed to stay in compliance with his probation. Weston concluded the meeting and escorted Streitz back to the lobby and Streitz left.

         Weston testified that the area between the lobby door and his office was a secured area where Streitz would not be allowed to walk alone. He stated that Streitz would not be able to leave his office without being escorted out.

         II. Discussion

         Streitz moves to suppress the statements he made to Feuerstein and Dvorak. He argues he was subjected to custodial interrogation without being given his Miranda ...

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