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United States v. DeCoteau

March 17, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KYLE RAY DECOTEAU, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Daniel L. Hovland, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE

Before the Court is the Defendant's motion to suppress evidence filed on January 28, 2009. See Docket No. 33. On February 6, 2009, the Government filed a response in opposition to the motion. See Docket No. 36. An evidentiary hearing was held on March 11, 2009. Persons who testified at the suppression hearing included FBI Special Agent Ryan O'Neil, Mabel DeCoteau, and Dr. Peter C. Peterson. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

On March 11, 2008, Bureau of Indian Affairs Special Agent Wayne Thomas received a report from the Turtle Mountain Child Welfare Services that a minor child had been sexually molested by the defendant, Kyle DeCoteau, within Indian country. On March 24, 2008, Agent Thomas and FBI Special Agent Ryan O'Neil interviewed DeCoteau regarding the alleged sexual abuse.

Agents O'Neil and Thomas met DeCoteau at the Belcourt Police Department in Belcourt, North Dakota at approximately 1:30 p.m. The agents wore plain clothes, and did not display their weapons. Agents O'Neil and Thomas led DeCoteau to an office where DeCoteau was provided a seat closest to the door. The door was left unlocked and slightly ajar during the interview. DeCoteau was not handcuffed or physically restrained in any manner.

Agent O'Neil first informed DeCoteau that he wanted to visit with him about a sexual assault that DeCoteau allegedly witnessed involving DeCoteau's girlfriend. This line of questioning took approximately 2-5 minutes. Agent O'Neil then informed DeCoteau that he also wanted to question him about allegations of sexual abuse made against DeCoteau. Before questioning DeCoteau, Agent O'Neil informed DeCoteau that the interview was voluntary, he was not under arrest, he would not be arrested at the conclusion of the interview, and he was free to leave at anytime. DeCoteau was not advised of his Miranda rights.

FBI Agent O'Neil then questioned DeCoteau as to whether he had any sexual contact with minors S.S. and R.L. DeCoteau repeatedly denied that he had any sexual contact with the young girls. However, DeCoteau said that one of the minors (R.L.) had acted in a provocative manner towards him. After further questioning by Agent O'Neil, DeCoteau admitted that it was "possible" something happened with one of the minors. Thereafter, DeCoteau admitted having sexual contact with S.S., a minor who was just six-years old at the time. Agent O'Neil testified that DeCoteau stated S.S. had guided his hand to her vaginal area, inserted his finger into her vagina, and he had pressed his penis against her vaginal area during the sexual encounter. DeCoteau also admitted that the young girl had grabbed his penis during the encounter. At some point during the interview, DeCoteau asked the agents if his grandmother could join him during the questioning. Agent O'Neil informed DeCoteau of their policy which prohibits a third party from participating in an interview unless the person has first-hand knowledge of the incident. Agent O'Neil said that DeCoteau said he understood why his grandmother could not be present.

Agent O'Neil next asked DeCoteau if he would be willing to provide a written statement concerning the sexual encounter. DeCoteau informed the agents that he could not read or write. Agent O'Neil asked DeCoteau if he would be willing to provide a tape-recorded statement and DeCoteau agreed to do so. An eight-minute recorded statement was taken. See Government Exhibit No. 1. The recorded statement is essentially a summary of what transpired during the initial interview of DeCoteau. At least twice during the audio recording, Agent O'Neil reminded DeCoteau that his statement was voluntary, he was not under arrest, and he was free to leave at anytime. At the conclusion of the interview, DeCoteau left the law enforcement center and returned to his vehicle. The undisputed evidence reveals that the entire interview lasted approximately thirty (30) minutes.

At the time of the interview, DeCoteau was 24-years old, a high school graduate, and was living in an apartment with his girlfriend and her two minor children. DeCoteau has been a ward of his mother since his eighteenth birthday pursuant to a Tribal Court order which established guardianship. His grandmother, Mabel DeCoteau, became a co-guardian on March 25, 2008, which was the day after the interview took place at the Belcourt Police Department. The evidence reveals that FBI Agent O'Neil was not aware of the defendant's guardianship status at the time the interview was conducted, nor was he aware of DeCoteau's mental condition.

Mabel DeCoteau testified at the suppression hearing on March 11, 2009. Mabel DeCoteau is the defendant's grandmother and she resides in Belcourt, North Dakota. Mabel DeCoteau said the family became concerned about Kyle DeCoteau's mental functioning at an early age. During his pre-school years, DeCoteau was referred to specialists in Grand Forks for evaluation. Kyle DeCoteau was diagnosed with mild mental retardation at the age of five.

Mabel DeCoteau said that on March 24, 2008, Kyle DeCoteau was living at the Willow Manor Retirement Home in Belcourt. This is a housing unit for the elderly and physically or mentally disabled persons. She said Decoteau moved into that facility on December 27, 2007. DeCoteau was supposed to be living alone at the Willow Manor Retirement Home, but he had been living there with his girlfriend and her two young children since December 2007.

On March 24, 2008, Mabel DeCoteau said she and Kyle DeCoteau drove to the Belcourt Police Department along with DeCoteau's girlfriend and her two minor children. Mabel DeCoteau said Kyle DeCoteau and his girlfriend walked into the Belcourt Police Department while she remained in the car with the two children. Mabel DeCoteau was uncertain how long her grandson was in the police department, but she said it seemed like a long time. At some point that afternoon, Mabel DeCoteau walked into the Belcourt Police Department to check on her grandson. She was unable to locate him but she did have a brief conversation with another law enforcement officer she encountered by the name of Officer Rod Trottier. Mabel DeCoteau said she requested that Officer Trottier check on her grandson, which he did shortly thereafter. Mabel DeCoteau said her grandson was very fearful of law enforcement officers, and she could tell that he was upset after he returned to the vehicle at the conclusion of the interview.

The last witness who testified at the suppression hearing was Dr. Peter C. Peterson. Dr. Peterson is a clinical psychologist employed at Medcenter One in Bismarck, North Dakota. Dr. Peterson has been employed in that capacity for the past 25 years. Dr. Peterson testified he saw Kyle DeCoteau on December 3, 2008, and February 13, 2009, for a psychological evaluation. Dr. Peterson administered a battery of psychological tests and also reviewed DeCoteau's medical records, psychological evaluations, academic records, and psychological tests that were administered to DeCoteau in school.

Dr. Peterson said Kyle DeCoteau was diagnosed at an early age with mild mental retardation and attention deficit disorder. Dr. Peterson said a diagnosis of mild mental retardation is primarily based on an individual's IQ. A person is classified as mildly retarded if they have an IQ in the range of 50-75. Dr. Peterson said he administered a battery of psychological tests to DeCoteau on December 3, 2008. Those tests confirmed that DeCoteau has mild mental retardation. DeCoteau has a verbal IQ of 56, a performance IQ of 67, and a full-scale IQ of 57.*fn1 Dr. Peterson said DeCoteau's reading and spelling skills are at the pre-kindergarten level, and his math skills are at a first grade level. Dr. Peterson confirmed that DeCoteau is unable to read or write, although he graduated from high school.

According to Dr. Peterson, DeCoteau is of low intelligence. Dr. Peterson said he conducted a follow-up evaluation on February 13, 2009, which again confirmed DeCoteau had a full-scale IQ of 57. Dr. Peterson said DeCoteau has serious comprehension problems and he would probably be unable to understand what Miranda warnings meant if they were given to him. However, Dr. Peterson acknowledged that DeCoteau would be able to understand when told he was free to leave an interview at any time.

On June 3, 2008, DeCoteau, was charged in a four-count indictment with aggravated sexual abuse of a child in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153 and 2241(c), and abusive sexual contact with a child in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153 and 2244(a)(5). See Docket No. 1. DeCoteau has moved to suppress statements he made to Agents O'Neil and Thomas. DeCoteau contends ...


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