The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant In the Interest of Z.T.T. Juvenile-Appellee
Appeal from the District Court La Plata County District Court
Case No. 15JD43 Honorable William L. Herringer, Judge.
Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant: Christian Champagne,
District Attorney, Sixth Judicial District Sean Murray,
Deputy District Attorney John-Patrick Sansom, Deputy District
Attorney Durango, Colorado
Attorneys for Juvenile-Appellee: The Walsh Law Firm, LLC
Jeffrey M. Walsh Steamboat Springs, Colorado Greenberg,
McGuinness & Alt, LLC Ingrid A. Alt Durango, Colorado
This interlocutory appeal requires us to answer whether a
defendant's confession to an Army investigator during
basic training was the product of coercion. We hold that,
when a defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his
Miranda rights, knew he was free to leave an
interview, and confessed to committing a crime during the
course of a conversational, friendly interview devoid of
coercive promises or threats, he gave his statements
voluntarily. We therefore reverse the trial court's
suppression order and remand for proceedings consistent with
Facts and Procedural History
In the fall of 2015, the victim, F.G.-age thirteen at the
time-told the La Plata County Sheriff's Office that seven
years prior, the defendant, Z.T., had forced her to give him
oral sex on several occasions at BMX bicycle races. At the
time of the alleged assaults, F.G. was six and Z.T. was
thirteen. Z.T., at the time that F.G. made the allegations in
2015, was in Army basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. A
La Plata County sheriff's deputy formally requested that
Agent Kevin Kendall of the Army's Criminal Investigations
Division ("CID") at Fort Benning interview Z.T.
about F.G.'s allegations.
Z.T.'s commanding officer escorted him to the interview.
Agent Kendall advised Z.T. of his Miranda rights and
that the interview concerned allegations of a "child sex
assault." Initially, Z.T. invoked his right to an
attorney and Agent Kendall said, "I'll let your
command know and they're going to come pick you up, and
then . . . whatever you want to do from there is pretty much
the gist of it." Z.T. then decided to revoke his request
for counsel and agreed to proceed without counsel. Z.T.
signed a waiver to that effect. Agent Kendall then spoke with
Z.T. for nine hours.
For the first three hours of the interview, Agent Kendall and
Z.T. discussed Z.T.'s childhood, family, friends,
experiences racing BMX bicycles, and sexual history. When
asked if he knew why he was being interviewed, Z.T. stated
that he did not know. Almost three hours into the interview,
Agent Kendall told Z.T. that F.G. was his accuser and what
F.G. had accused him of, and Z.T. denied ever touching F.G.
inappropriately. Agent Kendall rejected his denials with
statements such as, "This isn't going to go away,
" "There has to be more than that, " and
"These allegations are very specific, and kids don't
just make this stuff up." Agent Kendall then began
invoking Z.T.'s military career, stating:
We don't want this to . . . we don't want it to
affect your military career or affect your life at all . . .
help us understand what's going on . . . why she would
feel this way.
. . . .
The quicker we find out the truth, you know, the faster
we'll be able to take care of this and get it wrapped up
so that way it's not affecting your career. . . . Okay,
because I don't want this to affect your career. . . . I
don't want this to be hanging over you for the rest of
your life. . . . You know, mistakes happen . . . and people
do things, and they regret it later. They're like, crap,
I shouldn't have done that . . . the kid, you know,
steals a candy bar . . . and the guy that accidentally kisses
a girl and maybe she didn't want to be kissed.
After a long pause, Z.T. admitted to inappropriate sexual
contact with F.G. Specifically, Z.T. admitted to masturbating
with F.G. on his lap during a game of hide and seek. Agent
Kendall and Z.T. then discussed Z.T.'s strong religious
upbringing, and Z.T. described the overwhelming guilt he felt
from the improper sexual contact with F.G. Z.T. then also
admitted to other instances of improper sexual contact with
F.G., including oral sex, and discussed how guilty these
other acts made him feel. Afterward, Z.T. told Agent Kendall
that he would not have been honest with a more aggressive
interrogator, and thanked him, stating:
I honestly don't think if I had someone who was, all
right, you did it, what's going on, what'd you do,
where, why? Sir, I would have locked up. I don't think I
could have truthfully completed everything being hounded like
that sir. So I ...