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United States v. Rang

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

March 26, 2019

ROBERT RANG, t/n Robert Joseph Rang, Defendant, Appellant.


          Seth Kretzer and Law Offices of Seth Kretzer on brief for appellant.

          Anne Paruti, Assistant United States Attorney, and Andrew E. Lelling, United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.

          Before Lynch, Circuit Judge, Souter, [*] Associate Justice, and Kayatta, Circuit Judge.


         In July 2017, a jury convicted Robert Rang under 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b) of attempted coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity for which Rang could be charged. Rang appeals his conviction, arguing that the district court erred by denying in part his motion to suppress statements made during an interrogation. Rang also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. For the following reasons, we affirm his conviction.



         Eight-year-old Minor A[1] met Rang online while playing the multiplayer video game Call of Duty on PlayStation.[2] Minor A and Rang (who was then approximately twenty-five years old) played together nearly every other day for an extended period of time and communicated orally via headsets with microphones. Minor A told Rang his age and grade in school. Rang told Minor A that he lived in Pennsylvania, which was true, and worked at Sony, which was not. Minor A knew that Rang was an adult.

         In March 2014, Rang and Minor A became "friends" on Facebook. Rang asked for and obtained Minor A's home phone number and home address. Rang called Minor A's home phone to talk to him and sent Minor A messages through TextNow, an online messaging application that Rang instructed Minor A to download. Rang gifted Minor A PlayStation cards, ranging from $20 to $50, that could be used to buy PlayStation games or to purchase items within games. Rang also let Minor A access his "PSN" membership, which allowed Minor A to play certain games for free. Rang used his fictitious position at Sony to manipulate Minor A, such as by telling Minor A that Sony would block Minor A's PlayStation account access unless Minor A played exclusively with Rang.

         When Rang and Minor A played private games together, Rang called Minor A "babe," and on numerous occasions said that he loved Minor A. Rang also talked to Minor A about masturbation, a term with which Minor A was unfamiliar. Rang explained masturbation to Minor A and told Minor A to search online for specific videos of men masturbating. On October 28, 2014, Rang sent the following messages to Minor A[3]: "Omg I love u so much ur making my dick ao hard"; "Can we masturbate babe im so hard we can do it super fast if not it's okay"; "Ok and its ok i understand u don't want to it's ok not mad i'll do it later by myself i wish i had a few pics of you naked."

         On October 30, 2014, Rang wrote:

[I] really want to play with u since Friday u wont be home or on and also i might be comming out with in the month of nov-ember to see u i really want to be with u in person i really really really want us to live together that would make me more happy then u will ever know.

         Minor A testified that he thought Rang was planning to visit him.


         On December 29, 2014, upwards of ten law enforcement officers executed a federal search warrant at Rang's Pennsylvania home. Rang's father let the officers into the home, where they found Rang on the second floor and handcuffed him. Michael Connelly, a United States Postal Inspector, and Robert Smith, a Massachusetts State Trooper, led Rang to the third-floor attic for questioning. The interrogation that followed began at 8:41 a.m. and lasted two hours and twenty-two minutes, the audio of which was recorded.[4]

         At the beginning of the interrogation, Connelly told Rang that "one of the things that we have to do and we want to make sure that you understand is just make sure you understand your rights." Rang was then given printed Miranda warnings to read. As Rang read the rights, he said, "This is just Miranda rights," and "I know my Miranda rights." The following colloquy then took place between Smith and Rang:

SMITH: Let me, if you don't mind. I'll read them aloud to you as well, okay?
Cause I want to make sure you've got through it thoroughly. You're able to read these okay without eyeglasses?
RANG: I understand. I've been arrested before. I kind of know.
SMITH: All right, but just cause I want to make sure you got through this ...

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