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Koh v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

April 25, 2019

JUNNE KOH, Petitioner,




         This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody. Dkt. #1. On March 17, 2016, the Undersigned entered Judgment in Petitioner's criminal case. United States v. Koh, CR15-98RSM, Dkt. #88 (W.D. Wash. Mar. 17, 2016). Petitioner was adjudged guilty of three offenses and sentenced to sixty months in prison. Id. Petitioner now seeks relief from that sentence on the basis that his arrest was in violation of his constitutional rights, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and that evidence of his possession of handguns should have been suppressed. Dkt. #1 at 4-8. The Court has determined that an evidentiary hearing is not necessary. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). After considering the briefing and the remainder of the record, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the § 2255 Petition.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         Petition Junne Koh immigrated from South Korea to Washington State with his family around 1979. In 1984, Petitioner killed one of his brothers and was convicted of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 123 months in prison. After completing his sentence, he was ordered removed, and was deported to South Korea in 1992. Shortly thereafter, Petitioner assumed his dead brother's identity and illegally reentered the United States.

         Petitioner's family apparently continued to live in Washington and in 2014, Petitioner returned to Washington to locate his family. When he could not locate them, he became concerned and contacted the Bellevue Police Department. Using his brother's name, Petitioner filed a missing persons report. Police contacted Petitioner at his parents' home to investigate the report and ultimately discovered that Petitioner possessed a handgun in the house and another handgun in a storage locker. Police also determined that Petitioner had obtained a Washington State Identification Card under his brother's identity. Law enforcement was not able to contact Petitioner in person until several months later, when he was arrested in Los Angeles, California.

         Petitioner was extradited to Washington where he confessed to law enforcement and was ultimately prosecuted for federal crimes. In defense, Petitioner argued, among other things, that the officers had acted unconstitutionally in their interaction at his parents' house and in their discovery of the handguns. Petitioner sought to suppress statements he had made to law enforcement and evidence obtained from his parents' house and his storage locker, including the handguns.

         Because the suppression hearing turned on law enforcement's investigation into Petitioner's missing persons report and the interactions between Petitioner and law enforcement during their contact at Petitioner's parents' home, additional background is necessary. Petitioner filed a missing persons report with the Bellevue Police Department in early June 2014, indicating that he had arrived in the area in February and had been unable to locate his family. He had recently been contacted by his mother who indicated that his family was in California but would not provide a specific location. Petitioner indicated that he suspected either that Jehovah Witnesses may have kidnapped his parents or that his parents' next-door neighbor may be involved. Through their initial investigation, law enforcement learned of the 1984 murder in the family and that the next-door neighbor found it unusual that he had not seen Petitioner's parents for several months. The neighbor also indicated that Petitioner had told him that Petitioner had purchased a rifle because he did not feel safe. The initial investigator indicated concern as to Petitioner's mental state.

         Bellevue Police Detectives Jerald Johnson and Andy Norton followed up on the initial investigation. Johnson learned that Petitioner's brother had apparently quit his janitorial job in February of 2014. Officers went to Petitioner's parents' house to contact Petitioner. The following relevant facts were presented to the Court during the suppression hearing:

Around 10:45 a.m. on June 17, 2014, Johnson and [Norton] drove to [Petitioner] at his parents' house. They arrived in an unmarked police vehicle and wore plain clothes with their firearms hidden. The detectives knocked on the door to [Petitioner's] residence and [Petitioner] answered. He identified himself as [his brother] and Johnson recognized him from the Washington State driver's license photo.
The detectives identified themselves, told [Petitioner] they were responding to his complaint about his missing parents, and asked if they could come in. [Petitioner] invited them inside. While they were all in the living room, [Petitioner] reiterated the information he had provided in the missing persons reports he submitted to the city council and police department, including that he suspected two Jehovah Witnesses and the next-door neighbor as being involved in his family's kidnapping. He said he suspected his neighbor because his neighbor had a California area code on his cell phone and the number [Petitioner's] family had called from in June had the same area code.
Johnson testified that [Petitioner] was “very polite and welcoming” and asked the officers to call him “Sam, ” which they did. Johnson said [Petitioner] was anxious to share information regarding his missing family. Johnson further testified that [Petitioner] seemed “nervous” and his hands were shaking. Johnson said that while [Petitioner] was “very intent in providing us with information related to” his family's disappearance, “he would get defensive when I'd ask him certain questions about the disappearance and some of his actions.” On cross-examination Johnson said [Petitioner] acted defensively when Johnson asked him why he had waited several months to report his family as missing and why he told his neighbor that his family was on vacation in California if [Petitioner] thought they were missing.
Johnson and Nelson also both testified that while they were discussing the situation, [Petitioner] said if he found out his neighbor was involved in the kidnapping of his parents, “he would go next door and shoot him.” Also during the interview, [Petitioner] sometimes went to a different room about four feet off the living room and returned with documents, some of which were in protective sleeves. One of the documents he provided to detectives was a pamphlet related to suicide prevention, which [Petitioner] said he took comfort in reading.
Nelson said that after [Petitioner] commented about shooting his neighbor, the detectives were “a little bit alarmed” that there might be a firearm in the house and were worried about their own safety. Based on [Petitioner's] comments, his production of the pamphlet on suicide prevention, and his demeanor, Johnson started accompanying [Petitioner] as he went to the other room to retrieve documents. Johnson would walk the approximate four feet to the bedroom door and then stand in the hallway while [Petitioner] went into the room. According to Nelson, Johnson started following [Petitioner] to “make sure that, just for our safety, that he wasn't getting a gun or anything like that.” As a result, Johnson noticed blankets and other items at the end of the hallway. At one point Johnson asked [Petitioner] if he could take a look around the house to if there was anything that might be related to the disappearance of [Petitioner's] family. [Petitioner] agreed and accompanied Johnson as he looked around the house. When they walked down the hallway, Johnson asked [Petitioner] why he had a sleeping area set up in the hallway. [Petitioner] responded that he slept there to avoid being kidnapped. Johnson also noticed padlocks attached to some of the doors in the hallway. [Petitioner] claimed he felt safer having padlocks on the doors so no one could come through bedroom windows without him knowing.
While looking at the bedding in the hallway, Johnson noticed in plain view a knife, and a handgun on top of a holster, sitting on the floor. Johnson picked up the firearm and the knife and brought them to Norton in the living room to hold. He also explained to [Petitioner] why he was taking the handgun, which turned out to be loaded.
Johnson said he confiscated the handgun and knife based on the report of [Petitioner's] missing family, which Johnson considered questionable; [Petitioner's] comments about potentially shooting his neighbor; the suicide-prevention pamphlet; seeing that [Petitioner] had been sleeping on the floor with padlocks on bedroom doors so no one could get to him; and also because [Petitioner] became annoyed whenever Johnson pushed him on certain details of his report, all of which Johnson thought raised safety concerns. When Johnson asked [Petitioner] if he had any other weapons, [Petitioner] said he had another firearm in a storage unit. After Johnson finished looking for information related to the missing persons report, he sought to confiscate the second firearm for community safety reasons, especially in light of the fact that there was a car in the driveway to which ...

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