United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Justin Wilke's
(“Wilke”) motion to suppress. Dkt. 50. The Court
has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in
opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and
hereby denies the motion for the reasons stated herein.
August 28, 2019, Wilke was charged by indictment with eight
counts relating to his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to
unlawfully remove and sell timber obtained in the Olympic
National Forest. Dkt. 1. Trial is set to commence on January
December 19, 2019, Wilke filed a motion to suppress. Dkt. 50.
On December 27, 2019, the Government responded. Dkt. 67.
Wilke did not reply.
indictment alleges that Wilke and co-defendant Shawn Williams
(“Williams”) conspired to unlawfully fell and
sell valuable maple trees growing in the Olympic National
Forest between April and August 2018. Dkt. 23. The indictment
further alleges that on August 3, 2018, Wilke, co-defendant
Shawn Williams, and uncharged co-conspirator/witness Lucas
Chapman (“Chapman”) located one such valuable maple
tree but a bee's nest at the tree's base prevented
Wilke and/or Williams from harvesting the tree. Id.
¶ 13(f)-(i). Wilke and Williams are alleged to have
poured gasoline on the bee's nest, setting it afire.
Id. ¶ 13(i). Although Wilke, Williams, and
Chapman later attempted to extinguish the fire using water
bottles, the indictment alleges that it spread, ultimately
growing into a large forest fire known as the “Maple
Fire” which burned nearly 3, 300 acres of public land
and cost more than four million dollars to suppress.
moves to suppress statements made by Chapman. Dkt. 50.
Specifically, Wilke asks the Court to conduct an evidentiary
hearing to determine whether Chapman's statements were
voluntarily made before admitting them at trial. Id.
at 1. Because Wilke fails to allege sufficient facts to
establish coercion in Chapman's statements, and further,
fails to persuade the Court that the statements are
unreliable such that admitting them would violate Wilke's
own right to a fair trial, the motion is denied.
criminal defendant lacks standing to assert a violation of a
third party's Fifth Amendment right against
self-incrimination. However, because “illegally
obtained confessions may be less reliable than voluntary
ones, ” the introduction of another's coerced
confession can violate the defendant's own Fifth
Amendment right to due process at trial. Douglas v.
Woodford, 316 F.3d 1079, 1092 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing
Clanton v. Cooper, 129 F.3d 1147, 1157-58 (10th Cir.
1997); United States v. Mattison, 437 F.2d 84, 85
(9th Cir. 1970)). Thus, “[a] defendant may assert her
own Fifth Amendment right to a fair trial as a valid
objection to the introduction of statements extracted from a
non-defendant by coercion or other inquisitional
tactics.” United States v. Merkt, 764 F.2d
266, 274 (5th Cir. 1985) (footnote omitted).
defendant's due process rights are implicated when the
government introduces evidence “obtained by extreme
coercion or torture.” United States v.
Chiavola, 744 F.2d 1271, 1273 (7th Cir. 1984). The issue
is not whether the witness's own Fifth Amendment rights
were violated by the questioned interrogation, but rather,
“whether the government's investigation methods
resulted in a fundamentally unfair trial” for the
defendant. Id. at 1273.
threshold issue, the Government denies Wilke's assertion
that it will offer at trial statements from “at least
three law enforcement interviews of [Chapman], only one of
which has been disclosed.” Dkt. 67 at 6 (citing Dkt. 50
at 1). Instead, the Government counters that it interviewed
Chapman only twice, fully disclosed the substantive content
of Chapman's statements during those two interviews to
defense, and further, asserts that it will not rely on his
statements at trial because Chapman will provide live
testimony. Id. at ...