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State v. Bojang

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

April 26, 2016

Mustapha Bojang.

Providence County Superior Court, William E. Carnes, Jr., Associate Justice, P1/09-1119A.

For State: Lauren S. Zurier Department of Attorney General.

For Defendant: Kara J. Maguire Office of the Public Defender.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.


Paul A. Suttell, Chief Justice.

The defendant, Mustapha Bojang, appeals from his conviction of first-degree child molestation. In this appeal, we revisit the defendant's argument that the statements he made after his arrest and during his interrogation at the Woonsocket Police Department should have been suppressed by the trial justice as the product of illegal coercion by the detectives who interrogated him. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

I Facts and Procedural History

In State v. Bojang, 83 A.3d 526 (R.I. 2014) (Bojang I), this Court remanded this case to the Superior Court for additional factfinding and credibility determinations regarding both the events that transpired during an unrecorded portion of defendant's interrogation and the voluntariness of defendant's confession. On remand, the parties waived their opportunity to present additional evidence, and the trial justice made oral findings of fact and credibility determinations based on his review of the testimony provided during both the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress and the jury trial. In this section, we recount the facts and travel of this case that are relevant to the present issues on appeal-namely, the testimony and evidence regarding defendant's interrogations and the statements that he made during these interrogations, as well as the travel of defendant's motion to suppress these statements. For a complete summary of the facts that led to defendant's conviction, we refer the reader to Bojang I.[1]

In the spring of 2009, a grand jury returned an indictment charging defendant with eight counts of first-degree child molestation, allegedly perpetrated against one of the young daughters of the friends with whom defendant was living at the time (the complainant), in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-37-8.1. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the statements he had made after his arrest and during his interrogations at the Woonsocket Police Department, claiming that the statements were coerced and not made voluntarily. A trial justice of the Superior Court held a hearing over two days in April 2010, at which he heard extensive testimony from one of the detectives who had arrested and interrogated defendant as well as brief testimony from the patrolman who had transported defendant to the police station after his arrest.[2]

At the suppression hearing, Det. Kevin Hammann testified that, on February 2, 2009 at 9:40 p.m., he was one of two detectives who executed the arrest warrant for defendant at a residence in Woonsocket. Detective Hammann stated that defendant was calm throughout his arrest. Detective Hammann testified that defendant's interrogation was conducted in two parts: the first occurred at approximately 10:10 p.m. in a room that did not have video or audio recording equipment, and the second occurred at approximately 10:50 p.m. in a room that did have video recording equipment. Detective Hammann testified that this second interrogation was video-recorded in its entirety. Detective Hammann further testified that defendant read, initialed, and signed a form acknowledging his Miranda rights[3] (rights form) in each interrogation room before the detectives began asking questions. Detective Hammann also testified that defendant had not, at any point, either asked for an attorney, a break from the questioning, or for the detectives to stop the interrogation.

With respect to the first (unrecorded) interrogation, Det. Hammann testified that, after initially denying any sexual contact with the complainant, defendant admitted to kissing her one time and to inserting his finger in her vagina one time. According to Det. Hammann, these statements were made after he told defendant that the complainant had, that morning during an interview at the Child Advocacy Center, alleged repeated instances of rape. Detective Hammann admitted that he had spoken to defendant about his immigration status and that he had discussed calling the immigration authorities. According to Det. Hammann, the other detective in the room, Ronald LaBreche, was standing near the door during the first interrogation. Detective Hammann admitted that Det. LaBreche yelled at defendant at one point, but he also repeatedly stated that he could not recall many details of the first interrogation, such as whether Det. LaBreche swore at defendant several times. Detective Hammann admitted that "it [was] possible" that Det. LaBreche had banged on the table during the first interrogation. Detective Hammann denied that defendant was assaulted at any time during this first interrogation.

Detective Hammann also testified that, after defendant admitted to some sexual contact with the complainant, defendant agreed to go to the room that was equipped with recording equipment. The video-recorded second interrogation (the DVD) was admitted during Det. Hammann's testimony. The first two minutes of the DVD showed defendant sitting alone at a table before the detectives entered. After the detectives entered the room, the DVD showed defendant reading, initialing, and signing a rights form. Next, the DVD captured an interrogation in which defendant admitted to three separate sexual encounters with the complainant, as well as to kissing her. The defendant specified that he had inserted his finger into her vagina one time, that he had rubbed her naked body on his naked body one time, resulting in his orgasm, and that he had rubbed her against him on another occasion when they were both fully clothed. The defendant denied any penile penetration. The DVD showed that the second interrogation ended approximately thirty minutes after it began and that defendant was again left alone in the room for approximately two minutes before he was instructed to follow someone (off camera) out of the room and the recording ended.

At the conclusion of the testimony, the trial justice rendered a bench decision denying defendant's motion to suppress, finding that the state had proven by clear and convincing evidence that defendant's confession was not the product of coercion and that defendant had "knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his constitutional rights." The trial justice noted that, based on Det. Hammann's testimony, defendant was in the first interrogation room for approximately thirty minutes and that defendant had signed the second rights form forty minutes after he had signed the first form. The trial justice also specifically commented on Det. Hammann's demeanor during the hearing:

"The Court did notice before it was even pointed out by opposing counsel that there was a difference in dynamics timing responses [sic] when [Det.] Hammann would respond to [the prosecutor], * * * as opposed to what was happening with [defendant's attorney], all of which ...

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