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United States v. Goodpaster

United States District Court, D. Oregon

December 1, 2014


Page 1017

For S. Amanda Marshall, U.S. Attorney, and Jennifer J. Martin and Craig J. Gabriel, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Oregon, Portland, OR. Attorneys for United States.

For Defendant: Harold P. DuCloux III and Gerald M. Needham, Assistant Federal Public Defenders, Portland, OR. Attorney.

Page 1018


Michael H. Simon, United States District Judge.

Eric Goodpaster (" Goodpaster" or " Defendant" ) is charged with two counts of mail theft under 18 U.S.C. § 1709. Goodpaster was indicted by a grand jury on April 8, 2014, and questioned the next day, April 9, 2014. He now moves to suppress all statements he made during that interview. He argues that his statements were coerced and involuntary; that he was interrogated in custody without first being advised of his Fifth Amendment rights; that the government, as his employer, threatened to punish him for relying on his Fifth Amendment rights, thereby creating a " penalty situation" ; and that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. On October 29, 2014, the Court held an evidentiary hearing and oral argument to resolve the parties' factual disputes and clarify their legal arguments. Many of Goodpaster's arguments are without merit. For the reasons that follow, however, Goodpaster's motion to suppress is granted, based on his " penalty situation" argument under Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493, 87 S.Ct. 616, 17 L.Ed.2d 562 (1967), and its progeny.


At the evidentiary hearing on October 29, 2014, the Government called three witnesses: Special Agent (" SA" ) Louis Nalepa of the United States Postal Service (" USPS" or " Postal Service" ) Office of Inspector General (" OIG" ); SA Corey Byrd, also of the USPS OIG; and SA Dana Epperson, of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs OIG. Goodpaster called four witnesses: Michele Grigorioff, president of the Portland branch of the National Association of Postal Supervisors (" NAPS" ); Joseph Lahmann, president of the Oregon branch of NAPS; Jeff Harmon, who was a USPS customer service supervisor at the Detached Carrier Unit (" DCU" ) in Clackamas, Oregon, when Goodpaster was questioned; and Jami Goodpaster, Eric Goodpaster's wife and a postmaster at the Corvallis Post Office. Eric Goodpaster did not testify.

Based on the evidentiary hearing, the Court makes the following findings of fact:

Page 1019

1. This case arose out of a USPS OIG investigation into the theft of parcels containing prescription drugs mailed to veterans from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
2. The USPS OIG is an independent investigative agency with authority over internal affairs within the Postal Service. The USPS OIG investigates violations of both internal USPS rules and criminal laws. The USPS OIG derives its investigative powers from both the administrative authority of the USPS and from federal law-enforcement authority. It reports its findings to postal management and, when appropriate, to prosecuting officials.
3. The investigation of Eric Goodpaster began at least as early as February 20, 2013. At that time, Goodpaster was a customer service supervisor at the Salem Hollywood DCU in Oregon. At some point previously, including in October 2009, Goodpaster was either a postmaster or an officer in charge at the post office in Philomath, Oregon.
4. At some point between February 2013 and April 9, 2014, the date of the interview, the case was transferred from SA Irene Brown to SA Louis Nalepa of the USPS OIG. Also during that time, Goodpaster began working at the Clackamas DCU.
5. Several months before the interview, SA Nalepa placed surveillance cameras in the mail sorting room at the Clackamas DCU. For several months, cameras recorded Goodpaster taking parcels from the " left-notice" shelf and then walking directly into his office with them. In March 2014, SA Nalepa placed surveillance cameras in Goodpaster's office. A week later, when Goodpaster discovered the cameras, SA Nalepa removed them.
6. On April 8, 2014, a federal grand jury indicted Goodpaster for two counts of mail theft, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
7. On April 9, 2014, Goodpaster was working as the officer in charge at the Clackamas DCU. At 10:46 a.m., three agents--SA Nalepa, SA Byrd, and SA Epperson--entered Goodpaster's office. They were dressed in casual clothing with sidearms concealed. A fourth agent, SA Julie Walt, waited outside.
8. SA Nalepa led the interview, while SA Byrd took notes. SA Epperson was on hand to assist with any matters pertinent to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
9. The agents began by identifying themselves. SA Nalepa and SA Epperson testified that SA Nalepa then informed Goodpaster that he had been indicted. SA Byrd testified that he did not recall that having happened, and his notes do not reflect that information being given to Goodpaster.
10. Soon after entering, SA Nalepa handed Goodpaster a document informing him of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). SA Nalepa read aloud each of the enumerated rights and had Goodpaster place his initials next to each right stated on the form to indicate that he understood it. At the end of the process, Goodpaster, SA Nalepa, and SA Byrd all signed and dated the form. In addition,

Page 1020

SA Nalepa and SA Byrd marked the time as 10:51 a.m. Dkt. 33, Gov. Ex. 1.
11. Shortly thereafter, Goodpaster indicated that he wanted " to take [the matter] to [the] MSPB board." Dkt. 33, Gov. Ex. 5 (notes of SA Byrd). The MSPB is the Merit Systems Protection Board, an independent, quasi-judicial agency to which federal civil servants can appeal disciplinary actions and adverse employment decisions.
12. SA Nalepa was unsure what Goodpaster was requesting--legal counsel, a union representative (to which he was entitled upon request, under the union contract), or something else. SA Nalepa informed Goodpaster that Goodpaster was free to request assistance but that SA Nalepa could not give Goodpaster advice. Goodpaster did not explain himself further or pursue the matter at that time.
13. The interview proceeded for approximately one hour. SA Nalepa and SA Byrd described to Goodpaster the evidence they had amassed against him, including the video evidence. SA Epperson informed Goodpaster of the consequences of his thefts on other veterans who needed their prescription medicines. Goodpaster was remorseful and explained that he had injuries from his own military service that caused him pain. He confessed that he had become addicted to his medication and, approximately a year and a half ago, had begun stealing packages from the mail that contained medications belonging to and intended for others.
14. At some point during the interview, SA Nalepa informed Goodpaster that his wife, Jami Goodpaster, was also being interviewed in connection with the thefts.
15. At another point during the interview, the questioning was interrupted by SA Walt, knocking at the door. With her was Jeff Harmon, Goodpaster's coworker, who was relaying a request from Michele Grigorioff, an NAPS representative, to speak to Goodpaster about representation. SA Nalepa informed Mr. Harmon that Goodpaster had not personally asked for an NAPS representative and that Ms. Grigorioff's request was therefore denied.
16. At the end of the interview, SA Nalepa offered Goodpaster the opportunity to write a statement. Goodpaster asked if he first could have a cigarette break to consider. At 11:42 a.m., accompanied by SA Epperson and SA Walt, Goodpaster left the building to smoke a cigarette.
17. Goodpaster returned at 11:46 a.m. and began to draft his confession. At 12:07 p.m., he completed and signed it. SA Nalepa and SA Byrd signed the confession as well. Dkt. 33, Gov. Ex. 2.
18. Goodpaster was then handcuffed, placed under arrest, and taken to the Multnomah County Detention Center.
19. On October 6, 2009, almost five years earlier, Goodpaster had signed a " Statement for Postmasters and Officers-in-Charge," certifying that he had read Subchapter 660 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (" ELM" ) and that he understood that if he violated

Page 1021

it, he could be subject to administrative discipline and punishment under the law. Dkt. 33, Def. Ex. 3.
20. Subchapter 660 includes a provision requiring Postal Service employees to " cooperate" in USPS OIG investigations and a warning that failure to cooperate could result in " administrative discipline."
21. As SA Nalepa and Jami Goodpaster both testified, such discipline could include the loss of one's job with the USPS. SA Nalepa also testified that he knew of no postal employees who had been fired for not cooperating in an investigation.
22. At no point during the interview did any of the agents provide Goodpaster with a " Garrity warning." The USPS OIG policy, and the agents' practice, is to provide only Miranda warnings in custodial settings. Because Goodpaster was not free to leave, only the Miranda warning was given.
23. Jami Goodpaster, who was interviewed the same day, was provided with a form entitled " Acknowledgment of Rights (Garrity)." Dkt. 33, Gov. Ex. 10.
24. At no point during the interview of Eric Goodpaster did any of the agents say that Goodpaster had an obligation to cooperate, remind him of the possibility of sanctions for failing to cooperate, or in any other way threaten him with penalties for refusing to answer questions.

The Court finds credible the testimony of all the witnesses who testified at the October 29, 2014 evidentiary hearing and resolves ...

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