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USA v. Ojudun
Case Number: 17-2348-cr
Judge: Amalya Lyle Kearse
Court: UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALSFOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
Plaintiff's Attorney: Daniel S. Noble, Anna M. Skotko, Assistant United States Attorneys
Defendant's Attorney: Ameer Benno, Adam D. Perlmutter
The present proceeding against Ojudun alleging his violations of
3 supervised release ("VOSR") arises from the January 12, 2017 stop by local police
4 officers in Summit, New Jersey, of a car (the "Car") driven by Anthony Gray, in which
5 Ojudun was a passenger. Ojudun moved to suppress any evidence resulting from the
6 stop, contending that the stop, the ensuing search of the Car, and his arrest, violated
7 the Fourth Amendment. As part of Ojudun's VOSR hearing, which was held in April
8 and June 2017, the stop and its aftermath were described principally in a suppression
9 hearing at which the only witness was Detective Christopher Medina of the Summit
10 Police Department ("SPD"), who had participated in the stop, the search, and the
11 subsequent arrests of Ojudun, Gray, and Jerry Cesaro, the Car's other passenger (see
12 Part I.B. below). Medina also described his postarrest interview of Gray. That
13 testimony and a videotape of the interview were introduced over Ojudun's hearsay
14 objection (see Part I.C. below).
15 Following the hearing, the district court, inter alia, found the testimony
16 of Medina to be credible and found that his observations of the Car and Cesaro
17 provided reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify the stop of the Car. Ojudun has not
1 argued that any of the court's factual findings in this regard are clearly erroneous;
2 rather, he challenges its conclusions of law as to the constitutionality of the stop of the
3 Car and the ensuing search and seizures. He also challenges the court's ruling that
4 Gray's hearsay statements were admissible under Fed. R. Evid. Rule 804(b)(3), the
5 exception for statements that are contrary to the declarant's punitive interest.
6 A. Ojudun's Prior Conviction
7 Relevant events leading to Ojudun's prior conviction are not disputed
8 and/or are matters of record. In 2011, the United States Postal Inspection Service
9 began investigating a bank fraud scheme that involved deposits of counterfeit checks
10 at banks located in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Some scheme
11 participants would open bank accounts using their own identities and would provide
12 their account information and personal identification numbers to other participants,
13 who would then deposit counterfeit checks into the accounts. Thereafter, participants
14 would obtain money from the accounts by withdrawing cash at Automated Teller
15 Machines ("ATMs"), or using debit cards at retail locations, or purchasing money
16 orders at United States Post Offices.
1 Ojudun and Gray were among the participants in the scheme. Ojudun
2 deposited counterfeit checks and withdrew cash from ATMs and local bank branches,
3 and he recruited others to do so. Gray supplied scheme participants with counterfeit
4 checks and drove them to various banks in order to cash them.
5 In 2012, Gray, following his plea of guilty, was convicted of bank fraud.
6 He was sentenced principally to time served, plus three years of supervised release.
7 In 2014, Ojudun was convicted, following his plea of guilty, of conspiracy to commit
8 bank fraud. He was sentenced to 40 months' imprisonment, to be followed by three
9 years of supervised release. Ojudun's three-year supervised-release term began upon
10 his release from prison in May 2016.
11 B. SPD's January 2017 Stop of the Car and Arrest of Ojudun
12 Medina's testimony at the suppression hearing included the following.
13 1. The Stop
14 Around noon on January 12, 2017, Medina and SPD Detective Sergeant
15 Mike Treiber (the "Officers") were driving in the center of Summit, a town in which
16 the vast majority of the cars were registered in New Jersey, when they noticed the
1 Car, a black BMW with New York license plates, drive about 100 feet past a Chase
2 Bank branch and double park. (See Hearing Transcript, April 19, 2017 ("April Tr."),
3 at 20-24.) A "disheveled looking" white male--later identified as Cesaro--whose gaunt
4 face, dirty clothing, and general appearance were, in Medina's experience, "consistent
5 with somebody who uses drugs" (id. at 24), exited the Car, "meander[ed]" toward the
6 bank, walking diagonally in the street rather than crossing and using the sidewalk
7 (Hearing Transcript, June 16, 2017 ("June Tr."), at 44; see id. at 50-51), and entered the
8 rear door to the bank (see April Tr. 29). The Car drove off; the Officers, whose
9 suspicions were aroused as to the possibility of bank fraud or narcotics trafficking,
10 promptly parked in the first parking spot in the bank's parking lot--one of several
11 available spaces--and watched the bank's rear entrance. They saw Cesaro exit the
12 bank, and at about the same time saw the Car reappear and again drive about 100 feet
13 past the bank, and stop. Cesaro, again walking diagonally in the street rather than
14 crossing to use the sidewalk, entered the Car, which drove off after remaining
15 stationary for some 30-60 seconds. (See id. at 28-31; June Tr. 55-58.)
16 The Officers followed for a time, then signaled the Car to pull over and
1 2. The Questioning, the Search, and the Arrests
2 After the Car stopped, Medina went to the passenger side, identified
3 himself as an SPD detective, and asked the driver--Gray--for credentials. Gray
4 produced a registration, an insurance card, and his driver's license, but as he was
5 rummaging for the documents, Medina asked how the men had wound up in
6 Summit; Gray responded that they had taken a wrong exit and had gotten lost trying
7 to go to the mall in nearby Short Hills, New Jersey. (See April Tr. 36; June Tr. 78.)
8 Medina then asked how they all knew each other; Gray said the front seat passenger-
9 who was Ojudun--was his friend and that the back seat passenger was his "uncle."
10 (April Tr. 36.) But when Medina asked what Gray's uncle's name was, Gray just said
11 "What?" which Medina's training and experience caused him to view as a stalling
12 tactic--a view enhanced by Cesaro's appearance and his odd path to and from the
13 bank, as well as by the driver's failure to avail himself of any of the empty spaces in
14 the bank's parking lot or to stop in front of the bank to drop Cesaro off or pick him
15 up, instead of twice proceeding 100 feet past the bank. Upon Gray's apparently
16 evasive response, Medina told Cesaro to get out of the Car.
17 Medina took Cesaro to the rear of the Car and attempted to have him
18 place his hands on the rear of the Car. Cesaro instead resisted, kept one hand in his
1 pocket, and elbowed Medina in the ribs. Medina grabbed Cesaro and threw him to
2 the ground. While subduing Cesaro, Medina saw the Car's brake lights flare and,
3 fearing that the Car was about to either flee or back over him, yelled a warning to
4 Treiber. Treiber pulled his pistol and pointed it toward Gray, telling him to turn off
5 the engine, and summoned backup police officers.
6 When more officers arrived a few minutes later, Treiber holstered his
7 gun, and Gray and Ojudun were taken out of the Car. Cesaro was placed under
8 arrest for assaulting Medina and was searched incident to that arrest. (See June
9 Tr. 17.) In Cesaro's pockets, Medina found, inter alia, the remnants of a crack pipe that
10 had broken when Cesaro was taken to the ground; a credit card in the name of one
11 Frank Langendorf (see id. at 26); a New York State prison inmate identification card
12 bearing Cesaro's name and picture (see April Tr. 40-41); and a Pennsylvania driver's
13 license in Langendorf's name but bearing a picture of Cesaro (see id. at 41). One of the
14 backup SPD officers took a cell-phone photograph of Cesaro and went into the bank
15 with it to determine what Cesaro had done there.
16 Meanwhile, Medina asked Gray, as the Car's driver, whether he would
17 consent to a search of the Car. Neither Gray nor Ojudun had been arrested at this
18 point. (See June Tr. 17.) Gray gave his consent.
1 When, in a normal speaking voice, Medina asked Gray for consent to
2 search the Car, Ojudun--seated on the curb at the rear of the car--was no more than
3 five feet away; and at no point did Ojudun reveal that the Car belonged to his
4 girlfriend, or state that Gray was not authorized to drive it or to consent to its search,
5 or say that Ojudun himself objected to the search. After Gray gave his consent,
6 Medina, at the rear of the car to search the trunk, told Gray that he could have the
7 search halted at any time if he chose. Ojudun, still seated on the curb at the rear of
8 the Car, said nothing. (See June Tr. 18-19.) No one present suggested that Gray
9 lacked authority to consent to a search. (See id. at 19; April Tr. 44-46.)
10 In searching the Car, officers immediately found, on the seat that had
11 been occupied by Ojudun, an envelope containing two checks made payable to Frank
12 Langendorf. (See June Tr. 18.) In the meantime, the officer who had taken Cesaro's
13 picture to show to bank employees learned that Cesaro had cashed a $2,845.46 check
14 that was payable to Frank Langendorf and had displayed a Pennsylvania driver's
15 license in that name. (See id. at 19-21.) Based on the discovery of the two Langendorf
16 checks on Ojudun's seat and the information provided by the bank as to the
17 Langendorf check just cashed by Cesaro, the officers then "placed everybody under
18 arrest." (Id. at 24-25.)
1 When Ojudun was searched incident to his arrest, the officers found that
2 he had cash in two pockets. In one, he had $233 in worn bills that looked to have
3 been in circulation for some time. (See id. at 25-26.) In the other, he had fresh bills
4 totaling exactly $2,845. (See id. at 25.)
5 In the continuing search of the Car, officers found in the center console
6 an envelope containing pedigree information for Langendorf. They also found a
7 paper that contained "what looked to be practicing of signatures of Mr. [F]rank
8 Langendorf which matched the endorsed portion of the check cashed by Mr. Cesaro."
9 (June Tr. 26). SPD officers contacted the police department in nearby Millburn, New
10 Jersey, where Langendorf resided, and learned that he had several times complained
11 of identity theft. Millburn police arrived at the scene of the arrests in Summit and
12 confirmed that the occupants of the Car possessed information belonging to the real
13 Frank Langendorf.
14 C. Gray's Postarrest Statements Incriminating Ojudun
15 At SPD headquarters, Medina conducted an interview of Gray, which
16 was videotaped. As described in greater detail in Part II.B. below, after initially
17 denying all knowledge of a fraud scheme, Gray eventually admitted that he had been
1 promised $100 by Cesaro to drive Ojudun and Cesaro to the bank in order to cash a
2 check. Gray said he saw Ojudun give the check to Cesaro to take into the bank.
3 Although Gray had waived his Miranda rights for the interview, it was
4 established at the VOSR hearing that he would be unavailable to testify because of his
5 assertion of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. (See June
6 Tr. 4-5.) Ojudun moved to exclude any evidence as to Gray's statements as hearsay.
7 D. The District Court's Rulings
8 1. On the Challenge to the Stop
9 At the close of the June hearing, the district court denied Ojudun's
10 motion to suppress evidence seized as a result of the stop of the Car. It found
11 Medina's testimony to be "very credible" and concluded, based on the totality of the
12 circumstances, that the "accumulation of facts" resulting from the Officers'
13 observations of, inter alia, the unusual movements of the Car and of Cesaro--described
14 in Part I.B.1. above--provided a "very solid basis" for reasonable suspicion to support
15 the initial stop of the Car. (June Tr. 108). The court stated that its conclusion was "not
16 based upon one fact but based upon an accumulation of facts . . . in their totality . . . ."
17 (Id. at 108-09.)
1 2. On the Challenge to the Search for Lack of Consent
2 Just prior to the start of the suppression hearing, Ojudun filed a
3 declaration challenging the government's position that there had been a valid consent
4 to search the Car. Ojudun presented evidence that the Car belonged to his girlfriend,
5 stated that he had not consented to the search, and offered to call his girlfriend to
6 testify that she had not authorized Gray to drive her car or to consent to its search.
7 The government conceded with respect to ownership and the fact that the owner and
8 Ojudun did not give consent. (See April Tr. 13.) The district court noted that the
9 question remained whether Gray had apparent authority to consent to a search and
10 whether it was reasonable for the Officers to believe he had authority.
11 After the suppression hearing, the court found "no information to
12 suggest that Gray was not in control of the vehicle and didn't have apparent authority
13 over [it]." (June Tr. at 110.) Even though Gray was not the Car's owner, the court
14 found that he had apparent authority and control over it, as he was driving it when
15 it was first seen stopping at the bank, when it had rounded the block and returned to
16 the bank, and when it was driven away after picking up Cesaro. Although Medina
17 could have learned by examining the Car's registration that it belonged to someone
18 other than Gray, the court concluded that that information would not have dispelled
1 the appearance that Gray was authorized to drive and exercise control over the Car.
2 Gray gave Medina the requested documents (see, e.g., Ojudun brief on appeal at 22
3 (the Car's registration "w[as] immediately handed over")) without providing any
4 indication that he did not have permission or authority to use or exercise dominion
5 over the Car. And when requested, he promptly gave his consent to the search,
6 giving no indication that he lacked authority to do so.
7 Ojudun himself during the events of January 12 made no mention of the
8 fact that the Car was owned by his girlfriend; he did not in any way indicate that
9 Gray lacked permission to drive the Car, or to exercise full authority over it, or to
10 consent to its search. The district court found that Ojudun "was in sufficient
11 proximity" to hear, inter alia, both Medina's request that Gray consent to a search and
12 Medina's ensuing statements to Gray that, even having given his consent, Gray could
13 have the search terminated at any time; the court found that "there was no
14 suggestion by . . . Ojudun or anyone that Mr. Gray did not have authority to consent
15 to search . . . ." (June Tr. 113.) The court concluded that Medina had reasonably relied
16 on Gray's apparent authority to consent to the vehicle search. (See id. at 110-13; June
17 23, 2017 Endorsement Order confirming oral ruling.)
1 3. The Admission of Gray's Postarrest Statements
2 At the start of the June session of the VOSR hearing, the district court
3 denied Ojudun's motion to exclude evidence of Gray's interview statements to
4 Medina. The court ruled that all of Gray's statements were within the Rule 804(b)(3)
5 exception for statements against the declarant's penal interest. (See Part II.B. below.)
6 II. DISCUSSION
7 On appeal, Ojudun contends that the district court erred (A) in denying
8 his Fourth Amendment motion to suppress on the grounds that the Officers lacked
9 reasonable suspicion to stop the Car and that Gray lacked authority to consent to the
10 search, and (B) in concluding that Gray's hearsay statements incriminating Ojudun
11 were admissible under Rule 804(b)(3) as statements against Gray's interest. We reject
12 Ojudun's Fourth Amendment contentions but find merit in his Rule 804(b)(3)
14 A. The Fourth Amendment Challenges to the Stop and the Search
15 Ojudun's contentions that the district court erred in rejecting his Fourth
1 Amendment challenges to the stop and search of the Car do not require extended
2 discussion. In considering challenges to the denial of a suppression motion, we
3 review the district court's factual findings for clear error and its conclusions of law de
4 novo. See, e.g., United States v. Medunjanin, 752 F.3d 576, 584 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 135
5 S. Ct. 301 (2014). Ojudun has not argued that any of the court's factual findings
6 described in Part I.D. above are clearly erroneous; and we see no error of law.
7 It is well established that, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, a
8 "government law enforcement agent may subject an individual to an investigative
9 stop upon a reasonable suspicion that the individual is, has been, or is about to be
10 engaged in criminal activity. . . . The agent is said to have a reasonable suspicion
11 when he is in possession of 'specific and articulable facts which, taken together with
12 rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant [the] intrusion.'" United States
13 v. Villegas, 928 F.2d 512, 516 (2d Cir. 1991) (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21 (1968));
14 see generally United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 884-86 (1975) (the
15 interception of a moving vehicle, causing it to stop for questioning, is not so intrusive
16 that probable cause is required, so long as it is supported by specific articulable facts
17 that, together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant suspicion
18 that the vehicle contains persons who are engaging in or are about to engage in
1 unlawful activity). The "touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness."
2 Florida v. Jimeno, 500 U.S. 248, 250 (1991). "Reasonableness, in turn, is measured in
3 objective terms by examining the totality of the circumstances." Ohio v. Robinette, 519
4 U.S. 33, 39 (1996).
5 As described in Part I.D.1. above, the district court applied these
6 principles in evaluating the Officers' assessment of their observations of the unusual
7 conduct described in Part I.B. above. We see no error in the court's conclusion that
8 the stop of the Car was supported by reasonable suspicion, and we affirm the denial
9 of Ojudun's challenge to the stop substantially for the reasons stated by the district
11 Although Ojudun makes an additional argument that the record does not
12 support a finding that the Officers had reason to stop the Car for a violation of local
13 traffic laws, we need not address that argument, as the district court sufficiently
14 rested its decision on the ground described above.
15 It is also well established that the Fourth Amendment does not forbid a
16 warrantless search of private property pursuant to consent, voluntarily given, by the
17 owner of the property, see, e.g., Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 222 (1973), or
18 by "another person who has authority to consent by reason of that person's 'common
1 authority over or other sufficient relationship to the premises,'" United States v. McGee,
2 564 F.3d 136, 138 (2d Cir. 2009) ("McGee") (quoting United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S.
3 164, 171 (1974)), or by a person who in fact lacked authority to consent but who
4 "reasonably appeared to the police to possess authority to consent to the search,"
5 McGee, 564 F.3d at 139. The requirement imposed by the Fourth Amendment's
6 touchstone of reasonableness "is not that the[ officers] always be correct, but that they
7 always be reasonable." Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177, 185-86 (1990). Thus, where
8 the person who gave consent did not have actual authority, the question is "whether
9 the officers reasonably believed that [he] had the authority to consent." Id. at 189.
10 In challenging the district court's conclusion that Gray had apparent
11 authority to consent to the search of the Car and that it was reasonable for the Officers
12 to believe that he had authority, Ojudun argues that "no reasonable officer in
13 Medina's position would have assumed that Gray had . . . authority" to consent to a
14 search (Ojudun brief on appeal at 22); but he points to no evidence other than the fact
15 that the Car's registration was in a name other than that of Gray. While Ojudun states
16 that "Gray had only temporary access to the vehicle, . . . could not regularly access the
17 vehicle, . . . and did not have permission to drive the vehicle" (id.), not one of those
18 limitations was observable by the Officers, and, as the district court found (see Part
1 I.D.2. above), none was hinted at by Ojudun on January 12. Gray was the only person
2 the Officers observed driving the Car; when asked for license and registration, Gray
3 "immediately handed [them] over" (Ojudun brief on appeal at 22); and although
4 Gray's consent to search the car was requested and discussed within earshot of at
5 least Ojudun, none of the occupants of the car suggested in any manner that Gray, the
6 driver, lacked authority to consent to a search. We conclude that the district court did
7 not err in ruling that it was reasonable for the Officers to believe that Gray had such
9 B. The Challenge to the Admission of Gray's Postarrest Statements
10 Gray's postarrest interview by Medina was some 27 minutes long. At the
11 beginning, Gray claimed that he had come to New Jersey simply to visit an outlet at
12 the Short Hills mall that sold new or lightly used sneakers. For approximately the
13 first half of the interview, Gray denied his involvement in any fraudulent scheme and
14 persisted in proclaiming that single benign purpose. However, as Medina testified,
15 Gray eventually conceded "that he knew that they were leaving the Bronx to come to
16 that bank and that they were going to cash the check" (June Tr. 32).
1 1. Gray's Videotaped Statement
2 The videotape reveals that Gray said he became the driver for the
3 January 12 trip because he was a professional driver and preferred driving to being
4 driven. And although he said he had never heard of Ojudun or Cesaro engaging in
5 fraudulent banking activity before, Gray eventually admitted that he had known from
6 the start of the trip that Ojudun's and Cesaro's intentions were to cash a check at the
7 bank in Summit. (Gray also said near the start of the interview that he had never
8 been involved previously in any activity of this sort; but toward the end he admitted
9 that he had previously been "arrested" for this kind of conduct. See generally Part I.A.
10 above.) Gray said that Ojudun had called him on the morning of January 12 to make
11 plans to drive to New Jersey, that Ojudun already had possession of Ojudun's
12 girlfriend's car, and that Cesaro promised to pay Gray $100 to drive.
13 Gray said he knew when he got into the Car that the plan was to go to
14 Summit to cash a check. He said, however, that he had no conversation with Ojudun
15 or Cesaro as to the banking aspects of the trip; that he did not participate in selecting
16 the bank at which the check would be cashed and did not know why the bank in
17 question had been chosen; that he did not know the source of the checks or how
18 many such checks were in the Car; that he did not know the provenance of Cesaro's
1 identification; that he did not know how much money Cesaro or Ojudun respectively
2 would receive from the check; and that he did not see, or know that, Cesaro gave
3 Ojudun money from the cashed check.
4 Gray said that when he stopped the Car to let Cesaro get out to go to the
5 bank, he saw Ojudun give Cesaro a check. Gray said he did not know exactly what
6 Cesaro was going to do in the bank once Gray dropped him off, although he knew the
7 general plan was to cash a check. Gray said he was not paying close attention to the
8 scheme because his principal purpose in driving to Summit was to look at sneakers
9 at the mall. He said he only knew they were to go to the mall after the check was
11 2. The District Court's Ruling
12 Over Ojudun's objection that the evidence of Gray's statements was
13 hearsay, the district court admitted the videotaped interview, and Medina's
14 description of it, ruling that it fell within Fed. R. Evid. 804(b)(3)'s exception for
15 statements against the declarant's punitive interest. The court reasoned as follows:
16 When somebody is sitting there, while it is true that Mr. Gray 17 starts off talking to the interviewing officer and pushing back 18 about any involvement, eventually, he concedes involvement, though 19 he does, I agree, try to push more involvement off on others than he 22
1 accepts for himself. But he puts himself there and he starts to concede 2 some of the relevant facts. That at the very least is a statement 3 against interest for a conspiracy claim. So it doesn't have to be 4 what is actually charged for it to be a statement against interest 5 but he is putting himself in the vicinity and in the circumstances 6 where he's driving somebody in this car cause he knows how to 7 drive to a location where he understands there's going to be bank fraud. 8 So now while he may say, hey, I wasn't the really, the bad doer-9 and I'm summarizing . . . . [t]hat is a statement certainly against 10 his interest. He could not have thought that that statement was 11 something that could not result in a potential criminal penalty. 12 Perhaps a lesser criminal penalty than others might have suffered 13 or feared but a statement as against interest can be construed at 14 the level of a violation. But here we are not even talking about 15 that. We're talking some form of criminal conduct that would be 16 well above that level.
17 (June Tr. 5-6 (emphases added).)
18 Although a district court's decision to admit evidence is reviewed for
19 abuse of discretion, see, e.g., United States v. Saget, 377 F.3d 223, 231 (2d Cir. 2004)
20 ("Saget"), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 1079 (2005); United States v. Jones, 299 F.3d 103, 112 (2d
21 Cir. 2002); United States v. Tocco, 135 F.3d 116, 127 (2d Cir. 1998), the court "abuses or
22 exceeds the discretion accorded to it when (1) its decision rests on [(a)] an error of law
23 (such as application of the wrong legal principle) or [(b)] a clearly erroneous factual
24 finding, or (2) its decision . . . cannot be located within the range of permissible
25 decisions," Jones, 299 F.3d at 112 (internal quotation marks omitted). In light of the
1 following legal principles, we have several difficulties with the court's decision in this
3 3. Statements Against Penal Interest
4 Rule 804 provides that the hearsay rule does not exclude evidence of a
5 statement against an unavailable declarant's penal interest if the
6 statement [is one] that:
7 (A) a reasonable person in the declarant's position would have 8 made only if the person believed it to be true because, when made, it . . . 9 had so great a tendency . . . to expose the declarant to . . . criminal 10 liability; and
11 (B) is supported by corroborating circumstances that clearly 12 indicate its trustworthiness, if it is offered in a criminal case as one that 13 tends to expose the declarant to criminal liability.
14 Fed. R. Evid. 804(b)(3). The threshold questions are whether the offered "statement"
15 of the declarant would be perceived by "a reasonable person in the declarant's shoes"
16 to be "detrimental to his or her own penal interest," Saget, 377 F.3d at 231.
17 First, although the word "statement" might be read broadly to refer to a
18 declarant's "entire confession," Williamson v. United States, 512 U.S. 594, 599 (1994), it
19 must instead, in light of the principles underlying the Rule, be construed to refer to,
20 and to require assessment of, each assertion individually, see id. at 600-01. 24
1 Rule 804(b)(3) is founded on the commonsense notion that reasonable 2 people, even reasonable people who are not especially honest, tend not to 3 make self-inculpatory statements unless they believe them to be true. 4 This notion simply does not extend to the broader definition of 5 "statement." The fact that a person is making a broadly self-inculpatory 6 confession does not make more credible the confession's non-self7 inculpatory parts. One of the most effective ways to lie is to mix 8 falsehood with truth . . . .
9 Id. at 559-600 (emphases added). Thus,
10 [t]he district court may not just assume for purposes of Rule 804(b)(3) 11 that a statement is self-inculpatory because it is part of a fuller 12 confession, and this is especially true when the statement implicates 13 someone else. "[T]he arrest statements of a codefendant have 14 traditionally been viewed with special suspicion. Due to his strong 15 motivation to implicate the defendant and to exonerate himself, a 16 codefendant's statements about what the defendant said or did are less 17 credible than ordinary hearsay evidence."
18 Williamson, 512 U.S. at 601 (quoting Lee v. Illinois, 476 U.S. 530, 541 (1986) (emphases
20 Second, as to any particular statement, "[t]he question under Rule
21 804(b)(3) is always," in light of all surrounding circumstances, "whether the statement
22 was sufficiently against the declarant's penal interest that a reasonable person in the
23 declarant's position would not have made the statement unless believing it to be true."
24 Id. at 603-04 (internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added). Thus, while some
25 parts of a declarant's statement may be clearly self-incriminatory, "other parts, . . .
1 especially the parts that implicated [the defendant, and] did little to subject [the
2 declarant] himself to criminal liability," are not within the scope of Rule 804(b)(3)(A).
3 Id. at 604; see id. ("A reasonable person in [the declarant's] position might even think
4 that implicating someone else would decrease his practical exposure to criminal
5 liability, at least so far as sentencing goes. Small fish in a big conspiracy often get
6 shorter sentences than people who are running the whole show, . . . especially if the
7 small fish are willing to help the authorities catch the big ones."). Accordingly, the
8 court must "inquire whether each of the statements in [the declarant's] confession
9 was truly self-inculpatory." Id. (emphases added). A particular statement by the
10 declarant is not within "the penal interest exception" if it incriminated the defendant
11 "exclusively." United States v. Wexler, 522 F.3d 194, 202-03 (2d Cir. 2008).
12 In light of these principles, we have several difficulties with the district
13 court's treatment of the Gray interview. First, the court did not focus on each of his
14 statements individually to determine which of them would reasonably have been
15 viewed as so exposing him to criminal liability as to fall within Rule 804(b)(3)(A).
16 Rather, as shown above, the court commented generally on Gray's statement as a
17 whole. To be sure, several of his statements were plainly contrary to his own penal
18 interest. He admitted--eventually--that he knew when he got into the Car at the start
1 of the trip that the plan was to go to the bank in Summit to cash a check, and he
2 admitted that he was going to be paid $100 by Cesaro to drive Ojudun and Cesaro
3 there. These statements were contrary to Gray's punitive interest, as the district court
4 correctly noted that admitting to "driving somebody in this car . . . to a location where
5 he understands there's going to be bank fraud" (June Tr. 5 (emphasis added))
6 provided evidence that could lead to Gray's conviction for conspiracy to commit
7 financial fraud. The fact that these statements also tended to implicate Ojudun, who
8 had procured the Car, and Cesaro, who had cashed the check, did not lessen their
9 detriment to Gray's interest because his statement was evidence of his foreknowledge
10 of and assistance in the commission of the crime. But these statements were but a
11 small part of Gray's overall interview.
12 Second, the court did not at all address the Gray statement that was most
13 damaging to Ojudun, Cesaro having been the person who promised Gray $100 and
14 physically cashed the counterfeit check. Gray said that when he stopped the Car to
15 let Cesaro out to go to the bank, Ojudun gave Cesaro the check. This was a statement
16 that tied Ojudun squarely to the execution of the fraud, without in any way further
17 implicating Gray. We cannot say that this statement fell within the scope of Rule
1 Third, even where the court has properly found that a particular
2 statement is against the declarant's own penal interest within the meaning of Rule
3 804(b)(3)(A), the court must then determine whether there are "corroborating
4 circumstances that clearly indicate," Fed. R. Evid. 804(b)(3)(B), "both the declarant's
5 trustworthiness and the truth of the statement," United States v. Lumpkin, 192 F.3d 280,
6 287 (2d Cir. 1999). For those conditions to be satisfied, "the inference of
7 trustworthiness from the proffered 'corroborating circumstances' must be strong, not
8 merely allowable." United States v. Salvador, 820 F.2d 558, 561 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 484
9 U.S. 966 (1987).
10 Here, most of Gray's statements, made to a law enforcement official,
11 were designed to minimize his involvement in the planned fraud and to deflect
12 responsibility onto Ojudun and Cesaro. Even after he abandoned his initial claim of
13 total innocence, he claimed, as detailed in Part II.B.1. above, total ignorance about,
14 inter alia, bank selection, the presence of counterfeit checks in the Car, cash in the Car,
15 provenance of fraudulent identifications, division of proceeds, and the source of the
16 checks. The thrust of Gray's statements, once Medina persuaded him that it would
17 be in his interest to abandon his claim of innocence, was that he knew Ojudun and
18 Cesaro planned to cash a check. The record does not indicate that the district court
1 made any inquiry as to whether there were corroborating circumstances to indicate
2 clearly that such of Gray's statements as fell within Rule 804(b)(3)(A) were
3 trustworthy to the extent that they were made to a law enforcement official and
4 sought to deflect responsibility onto Ojudun.
5 In sum, we conclude that the district court, in holding Gray's entire set
6 of statements to be within the scope of Rule 804(b)(3), erred in failing to make a
7 particularized assessment of the various individual assertions, in failing to determine
8 whether the relevant assertions were sufficiently corroborated as required by Rule
9 804(b)(3)(B), and in failing to recognize that the Gray statement that was most
10 damaging to Ojudun was not within Rule 804(b)(3) because it did not implicate Gray
11 at all.
12 Although the government contends that any error with respect to the
13 admission of Gray's post-arrest statement was harmless, we disagree. The district
14 court stated that "[t]he post arrest statement of Mr. Gray indicates that Mr. Gray knew
15 that the check would be given from Mr. Ojudun to Mr. Cesaro and that Mr. Cesaro
16 then we know as a matter of fact exited the vehicle, went into the bank and passed the
17 check." (June Tr. 114.) In view of the district court's reliance on a portion of Gray's
1 statement that was not against his penal interest, the error under Rule 804(b)(3) was
2 not harmless.
3 Accordingly, we vacate the judgment and remand for the court to
4 conduct the required particularized analyses. The court should determine which of
5 Gray's statements could properly be admitted under Rule 804(b)(3), and in light of the
6 admissible evidence, determine whether the VOSR charges against Ojudun have been
7 established by a preponderance of the evidence.
8 4. Rule 32.1 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
9 Finally, we note that, as to such of Gray's statements as are not within the
10 scope of Evidence Rule 804(b)(3), the court may consider whether they may properly
11 be admitted instead pursuant to Rule 32.1(b)(2)(C) of the Federal Rules of Criminal
12 Procedure. While the Sixth Amendment right of confrontation that is applicable in
13 a criminal trial does not apply in a proceeding for probation revocation, parole
14 revocation, or revocation of supervised release because such a proceeding "is not a
15 stage of a criminal prosecution," United States v. Aspinall, 389 F.3d 332, 342 (2d Cir.
16 2004) ("Aspinall") (supervised release) (internal quotation marks omitted), abrogated
1 on other grounds by United States v. Fleming, 397 F.3d 95, 99 n.5 (2d Cir. 2005); see
2 Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 480 (1972) (parole); Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778,
3 782 (1973) (probation), the accused in such a revocation proceeding enjoys certain
4 protections under principles of due process, such as "the right to confront and cross
5 examine adverse witnesses (unless the hearing officer specifically finds good cause
6 for not allowing confrontation)," Morrissey, 408 U.S. at 489.
7 This more limited right of confrontation is embodied in the Criminal
8 Rules provision that the defendant in a revocation hearing "is entitled to . . . an
9 opportunity to . . . question any adverse witness unless the court determines that the
10 interest of justice does not require the witness to appear." Fed. R. Crim. P.
11 32.1(b)(2)(C). The balancing analysis envisioned by this Rule "need not be made
12 where the proffered out-of-court statement is admissible under an established
13 exception to the hearsay rule." Aspinall, 389 F.3d at 344; see, e.g., Jones, 299 F.3d at 113.
14 But for statements that would be inadmissible as hearsay under the Federal Rules of
15 Evidence, determinations as to good cause and the interests of justice "require the
16 court to balance the defendant's interest in confronting the declarant against . . . the
17 government's reasons for not producing the witness and the reliability of the
1 proffered hearsay." United States v. Carthen, 681 F.3d 94, 100 (2d Cir. 2012) (internal
2 quotation marks omitted), cert. denied, 568 U.S. 1092 (2013).
Outcome: We have considered all of parties' arguments in support of their