United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Susan D. Wigenton United States District Judge
before the Court is the sole remaining claim presented in the
motion to vacate sentence of Petitioner, Tommie Telfair. (ECF
No. 1). Petitioner filed his motion on or about October 25,
2013. (ECF No. 1). The Government filed a response (ECF No.
20), to which Petitioner replied. (ECF Nos. 24-25). Following
briefing and several other motions, this Court entered an
order and opinion denying all of Petitioner's claims
except for his claim that his statement was taken in
violation of his Miranda rights, and denied
Petitioner a certificate of appealability as to his
non-Miranda claims. (ECF Nos. 36-37). This Court
thereafter held an evidentiary hearing as to Petitioner's
Miranda claim on August 3, 2017. (ECF No. 57). For
the following reasons, Petitioner's sole remaining claim
is denied, and Petitioner is denied a certificate of
Court presented an extensive summary of the factual
background of this matter in its previous opinion, (ECF No.
36 at 1-18), it need not repeat that endeavor here. Instead,
only those facts and allegations which are relevant to
Petitioner's Miranda claim will be recounted. In
that opinion, this Court provided the following summary of
the allegations Petitioner had made in his initial motion
regarding his Miranda claim:
[i]n the affidavit attached to his § 2255 motion, . . .
Petitioner presents [allegations which contradict the trial
testimony of the various federal agents involved in this
case]. (Document 1 attached to ECF No. 1 at 4-7). Petitioner
alleges that it was Agent Greimel, and not Agent Post, who
interviewed Petitioner, despite the fact that Greimel
testified at trial that he was not present during the arrest
or questioning of Petitioner. Petitioner asserts that he told
the agents he was in pain and on the way to the doctor, but
was instead arrested and immediately placed in handcuffs,
contrary to testimony by Agent Post that Petitioner was not
handcuffed until he was taken to the DEA office in Newark.
Petitioner asserts that he was thereafter threatened with the
prosecution of his wife if he did not cooperate. Petitioner
asserts that he refused to cooperate with the DEA, and was
never provided with Miranda warnings. Petitioner
further asserts that when he refused to cooperate, Agent
Greimel insisted that Petitioner would either give a
statement, or one would be forged to incriminate Petitioner.
Petitioner alleges that he continued to refuse, and the
agents therefore forged his statement and arrested his wife.
Petitioner further asserts that, to the extent that he did
answer questions asked by an Agent Thomas, the agents
recorded false answers which in no way reflected the
statements that Petitioner gave. Petitioner further asserts
that he requested an attorney, but was denied one by the DEA
agents. Petitioner finally asserts that, during a lull in the
questioning, he heard his wife being questioned in another
interrogation room, including insults hurled at Petitioner by
the questioning agent. Thus, Petitioner contends that he
never received Miranda warnings, was in constant
pain from an injured hand being handcuffed, was the subject
of attempted coercion by Agent Greimel, and in any event
never made the statement used against him at trial.
(Id. at 4-8).
(ECF No. 36 at 25-26).
Court explained in its prior opinion, the trial testimony of
the various federal agents directly contradicted
Petitioner's account. (Id. at 24-25). At trial,
DEA Agent John Post testified that, on the day of
Petitioner's arrest, he and his fellow agents approached
Petitioner as he was exiting his home at approximately 3
p.m., that Post identified himself, told Petitioner he was
under arrest, and asked Petitioner if he wished to speak with
them. (Id. at 12). Post testified that Petitioner
was “very cooperative, ” and led the agents to
the door of his home, unlocked the door and entered a code
into an alarm system, and thereafter was cooperative.
(Id.). Post further testified at trial that
Petitioner was given Miranda rights, stated that he
understood those rights, was “very lucid [and] very
cooperative” and gave no indication that he didn't
understand, was injured, needed to see a doctor, or was
otherwise impaired. (Id. at 12-13). Post also
testified at trial that Petitioner was not handcuffed until
later, when he was taken to the DEA's Newark office.
(Id. at 13). Petitioner thereafter provided them the
statements that were used against him at trial.
(Id.). DEA Agent Gregory Arthur Hilton also
testified at trial, that Petitioner gave further information
at the DEA's office in Newark. (Id. at 11).
Petitioner's § 2255 hearing, three DEA agents
testified regarding their involvement in Petitioner's
arrest and interview - Agent Post, Agent Joseph Thompson, and
Agent Greimel. In his testimony at the hearing, Agent Post
largely reiterated the testimony he had provided at trial.
Specifically, Agent Post testified that Petitioner was
arrested outside of his home following surveillance of his
address. (Hearing Tr. at 7-9). Post stated that, at about 3
p.m., he and his fellow agents observed Petitioner leaving
his home with keys in hand; the agents then approached him,
identified themselves, and informed him he was under arrest,
although they did not then handcuff him. (Id. at
8). Post testified that Petitioner then stated that
he wished to cooperate, and led the agents into his residence
after Petitioner unlocked the door and turned off the alarm
system. (Id. at 9). Post then read Petitioner his
Miranda rights, which Petitioner stated he
understood and agreed to waive by speaking with the agents.
(Id. at 10). Post also testified that Petitioner was
cooperative and appeared to have no difficulty understanding,
that Petitioner did not appear in pain or injured, and that
Petitioner never told Post he was injured, in pain, or
otherwise incapacitated. (Id. at 10-11). Post then
testified as to the taking of Petitioner's statement,
providing information essentially in accord with his trial
testimony. (Id. at 11-19). Post also testified that
Petitioner never asked for a lawyer while speaking to Post,
that Petitioner was never threatened or otherwise coerced,
and that Petitioner's girlfriend was eventually arrested
and pled guilty to harboring a fugitive in relation to her
harboring Petitioner. (Id. at 19-21). On
cross-examination, Post admitted that he did not follow DEA
manual interrogation rules to the letter, and admitted that
he had not previously read the relevant sections of the DEA
manual, but had been well acquainted with and followed the
Court's Miranda requirements in dealing with
Petitioner. (Id. at 22-35). Agent Post on
cross-examination also stated that while Petitioner had
mentioned Paul Bergrin as having been his attorney in
relation to a written real estate document, Petitioner never
asked to speak with, contact, or otherwise consult with
Bergrin in relation to his arrest at that time. (Id. at
Agent Joseph Thompson then testified at Petitioner's
§ 2255 hearing. (Id. at 41). Agent Thompson
testified that he was present during Petitioner's arrest
and was “in and out of” the room while Agent Post
was interviewing Petitioner. (Id. at 47). Agent
Thompson testified that he heard Post provide Petitioner with
Miranda warnings at his home, and overheard parts of
Petitioner's statement to Post, although Post did not
read the rights from a DEA issued card and instead provided
them from memory. (Id. at 52). Thompson also
testified that he eventually took over the interview from
Agent Post after the return to the DEA's Newark Office.
(Id. at 43-47). Thompson further stated that
Petitioner was cooperative during the interview, that
Petitioner never advised he was in pain, never complained of
any injury, and “seemed coherent.” (Id.
at 43-44). Thompson testified that Petitioner never took a
note pad from him as had been alleged by Petitioner, and that
although Petitioner refused to sign a written statement, that
was not uncommon as even cooperative individuals
“almost . . . never” sign statements for fear
that a written, signed statement could endanger them with
other criminals. (Id. at 44-46). Following
Thompson's testimony, the Government also called Agent
Matthew Greimel, who testified that he was not involved with
Petitioner's arrest as he was “out sick” the
day of the arrest, a statement which Greimel supported with
his time sheet records. (Id. at 78-83).
thereafter testified on his own behalf at the hearing.
Petitioner stated that, at the time of his arrest, he was on
his way to the doctor to have an injured hand attended to,
and that he had unrelated back injuries at the time.
(Id. at 84-85). Petitioner also testified that he
had been on Tylenol with codeine and a medication called
Methocarbamol at or around the time of his arrest, and that
he had filled the prescription for those medicines in the
beginning of January 2007. (Id. at 88). Petitioner
further testified that, while taking those medications, he
felt “tranquilized, ” that he couldn't drive,
couldn't operate machinery, and felt “tired and
super, super duper high.” (Id. at 89). In
addition to testifying as to the medication he had allegedly
taken, Petitioner stated that he had never been given
Miranda warnings during his arrest. (Id. at
confronted with the allegations in his affidavit on cross
examination, a subject Petitioner did not discuss on direct
examination, Petitioner stated that he couldn't recall
whether the affidavit was accurate as it had been a
considerable period of time, and some of his court filings
had been prepared on his behalf by others. (Id. at
97). Petitioner further stated that he couldn't remember
all that he had put into his affidavit, although he
remembered signing and submitting it. (Id. at
97-101). Petitioner also stated that, aside from human error
the affidavit “should be correct.” (Id.
at 101). Petitioner admitted, however, that although he had
originally named Agent Greimel as the agent who accosted him
that he “didn't know whose name went to whose
face” when he wrote the affidavit, and expected the
Government to “correct” him as to the
inaccuracies in his own affidavit. (Id. at 102).
Petitioner then testified that he couldn't remember
whether it was Greimel or another agent who allegedly
threatened and accosted him. (Id. at 103).
Petitioner thereafter testified that he couldn't remember
much of what happened, and could not guarantee the accuracy
of his prior allegations, but was certain he had not been
Mirandized. (Id. at 103-109).
thereafter called Dr. Alberto Mario Goldwaser to testify
regarding the mental effects of the medications Petitioner
claims he had taken on the day of his arrest. (Id.
at 109). Dr. Goldwaser essentially testified that the drugs
which Petitioner had been prescribed, including a muscle
relaxant, Methocarbamol, and a pain killer, Tylenol with
codeine, both had the potential to make Petitioner tired and
slow his mental functions. (Id. at 126). According
to various medical sources, the doctor testified that the two
drugs could cause drowsiness, sedation, dizziness, or the
like. (Id.). Based on Petitioner's medical
records and these prescriptions, Dr. Goldwaser testified
that, “[h]ad [Petitioner] taken his medication, ”
the doctor would conclude “to a reasonable degree of
medical probability” that Petitioner's judgment
“wouldn't be as sharp” and Petitioner would
be “very easily convinced” to do thing to which
he otherwise was not predisposed. (Id. at 130-31).
The doctor, however, was not present, and thus couldn't
determine whether the medication was taken, or if it had
actually had any such effects upon Petitioner. (Id.
at 131, 138-39).