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United States v. Pruden

February 23, 2005


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware (D.C. No. 02-CR-142) District Judge: Honorable Joseph J. Farnan Jr.

Before: Roth, Smith, and Becker, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Becker, Circuit Judge


Argued: November 18, 2004


Calvin Pruden appeals his conviction and sentence for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 922. Pruden argues that a critical statement he made to law enforcement agents was obtained in violation of his Miranda rights, because it was given the day after he had been read those rights. He also argues that the District Court erred in requiring, as a condition of his supervised release, that he obtain mental health counseling at the discretion of his probation officer.

We find that Pruden effectively waived his Miranda rights. The Miranda inquiry here requires us to decide not only whether Pruden knew and understood his rights when they were first read to him, but also whether any intervening event cast any doubt on his ability to consider, fully and intelligently, the effect of exercising or waiving those rights. Although some twenty hours passed between the time that Pruden was read his rights (and made of an earlier statement, which followed a valid Miranda waiver) and the questioning that led to his confession, we conclude that Pruden was clearly aware of his rights, and that no intervening events prevented him from making a knowing and intelligent waiver. We therefore affirm Pruden's conviction.

However, we agree with Pruden that the District Court erred in imposing the mental health condition. Conditions on supervised release must be reasonably related to specified statutory purposes, and there is no evidence in the record that links this condition to any of the enumerated purposes. Additionally, the District Court granted Pruden's probation officer the discretion to decide whether Pruden would have to undergo mental health counseling. This was an impermissible delegation of the judicial power: while probation officers may have discretion to decide the details of a defendant's mental health treatment, they may not be given the authority to decide whether or not such treatment will be required. We will therefore vacate this condition on supervised release.

I. Facts and Procedural History

On two occasions in June 2002, Pruden visited a New Castle, Delaware, gun shop and attempted to purchase a firearm. Pruden had an extensive record of state felony convictions, mainly for drug-related crimes, and was forbidden from possessing firearms. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). He was also on probation for a drug conspiracy conviction. Apparently to avoid the strictures of § 922(g)(1), Pruden convinced friends to accompany him to the gun shop and make the purchase for him. On the first occasion, Stephanie Crawley filled out an application to buy a gun, but this application was declined for undetermined reasons. Pruden returned two days later with another friend, Tiffany Ash, who successfully purchased a.40 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol with $400 in cash that Pruden had given her. She turned the gun over to him. Pruden, in turn, apparently gave it to still another friend named Willie Andrews, known as "Cheddar." Andrews was also a former felon and therefore a § 922(g)(1) prohibited person. In August 2002, Crawley and Ash were interviewed by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF); after initial denials, they admitted to the facts set forth above.

Pruden was arrested by ATF agents at a routine meeting with his probation officer on January 14, 2003. He was questioned by ATF Special Agents Jason Kusheba and Veronica Hnat. Before questioning, Agent Kusheba asked Pruden if he was willing to talk, and upon receiving an affirmative answer, read Pruden the Miranda warnings. Pruden said that he understood his rights, and did not ask any questions or request a lawyer. Agent Kusheba again asked Pruden if he was willing to answer questions, and Pruden agreed. The agents then questioned Pruden for about half an hour. He admitted that he had gone to the gun shop with Crawley and Ash, and that he had picked up and examined some guns on each occcasion, but he denied that either woman had attempted to buy a gun for him. He claimed instead that they were purchasing for themselves. Agents Kusheba and Hnat then took Pruden to a federal detention center, where he spent the night.

The next morning, January 15, 2003, Kusheba and a different partner drove Pruden from the jail to the courthouse for an initial hearing. Agent Kusheba explained the booking procedures to Pruden, and informed him that the prosecutor planned to ask the magistrate judge to detain him before trial. Kusheba also "indicated to [Pruden] if there was anything he had, additional that he had to say, that now was the time to do it because, once he got to the initial appearance, it would be too late." He then reminded Pruden that he had read him his Miranda rights, and asked Pruden if he remembered them as Kusheba had read them. Pruden responded that he remembered his rights, did not ask Kusheba to repeat them, and agreed to answer questions during the ten-minute ride to the courthouse. Pruden admitted that Andrews had asked him for help in obtaining a gun, and that he had asked Ash to go with him to the gun shop to buy a gun for Andrews. Kusheba did not record this conversation.

Pruden was charged with aiding and abetting a straw purchase of a firearm, see 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6), and being a felon in possession of a firearm, see 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). At trial, Ash and Crawley testified about their visits to the gun shop with Pruden, and Kusheba testified to the contents of Pruden's two statements. Pruden timely moved to suppress these statements, claiming that they were not given pursuant to a knowing and voluntary waiver of his Miranda rights, but the District Court denied his motion. Pruden did not testify, and the jury convicted him on both counts.

Prior to Pruden's sentencing, the Probation Office prepared a Presentence Report (PSR). The PSR reflects that Pruden has a lengthy record of juvenile and adult convictions, including numerous convictions for loitering and trespass, which the government claims often suggest drug trafficking. The PSR also describes Pruden's difficult childhood. His mother was a cocaine addict who was in prison for most of Pruden's childhood, and he did not meet his father until he was seventeen years old. He was raised by his grandmother, on welfare and with very little supervision, until her death in 1988, when Pruden was about twelve years old. After his grandmother's death, Pruden took to the streets and raised himself, spending large parts of his teen years in juvenile facilities and completing his GED at one of them.

The PSR does not report any mental health problems. It describes Pruden's mental state as follows:

According to the defendant, he has never been evaluated or treated for a mental or emotional illness, and to the best of his knowledge no one within his immediate family has ever suffered from mental illness. Record obtained from the Glen Mills School for Boys reflects, the defendant had a psychological evaluation performed on January 22, 1993 [when Pruden was sixteen years old]. The psychologist concluded, Mr. Pruden did not suffer from any mental health deficiencies and was of low average intelligence. Presently, Mr. Pruden reports being in a good frame of mind and not in need of mental health treatment.

Pruden claimed that he used marijuana occasionally, had never used other illegal drugs, and was developing a drinking problem.

The District Court imposed a sentence of 21 months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. This sentence is within the range recommended by the United States Sentencing Guidelines.*fn1 The sentence included a number of conditions on Pruden's supervised release, one of which requires Pruden to "participate in a mental health treatment program at the discretion of his probation officer." This condition was not recommended in the PSR or requested by the government. The District Court explained at sentencing only that the conditions on supervised release "are put on there for one reason: To give you the help you need when you get back on the street. They're not punitive. They're assistance. I hope you take them that way, sir."

Pruden timely appealed the District Court's denial of his motion to suppress his January 15 statement, and the imposition of the mental health treatment condition on his term of supervised release. We ...

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