By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
- — A federal judge Thursday denied the suppression motion of a man accused of making and possessing child pornography.
The ruling hinged on whether U.S. District Court Judge Arthur J. Schwab believed the testimony of a state police trooper and an FBI agent or the defendant, Earl D. Warner, as to what happened when authorities interviewed Warner April 3, 2012, in the state police barracks in Jackson Township.
Schwab said the accounts of Trooper Troy Owen and FBI Special Agent Thomas Carter were “more credible” than those offered by Warner and his mother.
The ruling means authorities will be able to use at trial admissions made by Warner that it is his voice that can be heard on a child pornographic video directing a girl, and that he took still photographs of naked girls.
Warner was asked to be interviewed and was told straight up that Armando Cruz had identified Warner as someone who had taken photographs of naked children, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn J. Bloch.
Defense attorney David B. Chontos said Carter had interviewed Warner about Cruz in February 2012 at Cruz’s home in Mercer.
According to the prosecution, Warner was met for the April 2012 interview in the lobby of the barracks by Owen.
Warner and his mother testified that Warner immediately requested a lawyer, but Owen said Warner did not request a lawyer and that he would not have conducted the interview if Warner had asked for a lawyer.
Owen escorted Warner to a small office, where Carter already was seated.
Warner was not handcuffed and was told that he was not under arrest, was free to leave at any time, and that he would be permitted to leave the station upon the conclusion of the interview.
Warner claimed the officials intimidated him.
Owen sat so close he could smell Owen’s breath and, at one point, got up and threw a chair against a wall, Chontos said.
Owen acknowledged “bouncing” his chair off the wall and storming out of the office as a tactic to get Warner to talk more openly with Carter.
Warner claimed he twice requested a lawyer and was denied, and got up to leave but Owen blocked his path.
Chontos called Owen and Carter “government zealots” who would do whatever they could to elicit the answers they wanted, even putting Warner in fear for his safety.
“The factual picture that the suppression hearing paints is that Warner’s ‘will was overborne in such a way as to render his confession the product of coercion,’ ” argued Chontos, quoting a 1991 court case.
Warner was in custody and was being interrogated, meaning officials had to inform him of his rights to silence and to not incriminate himself, Chontos said.
Bloch argued Warner’s story was “not credible.”
“Near the end of the interview ... Warner acknowledged the voluntary nature of the interview when he stated to the investigators that he had answered enough questions and wanted to leave,” she said.
“In proper order, the experienced investigators posed no additional questions, permitted Warner to leave and promptly escorted Warner back to the reception area.”
Warner was not in custody and never requested a lawyer, Bloch said.
Arthur specifically concluded that Warner did not request an attorney and was not in custody during the interview.
Cruz is serving a 35-year federal prison sentence for making child porn, and then will serve 8è to 20 years in state prison for attempting to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a young girl.