Inmate's statements at hearing can be used in prosecution, judge rules

April 24, 2012|By DON AINES |

HAGERSTOWN — A Washington County Circuit Court judge has ruled that a detention center inmate’s statements during a disciplinary hearing can be used by the state in prosecuting him on accusations he conspired to distribute prescription drugs in the jail.

Ronald Eugene Wilson II, 35, was charged on Nov. 5, 2011, with distribution of Suboxone, which is used to treat opiate addiction, as well as criminal conspiracy to distribute Suboxone and other charges in a case that also involved a former correctional deputy at the jail.

Defense attorney David Harbin filed a motion to suppress statements Wilson made during a Nov. 8, 2011, disciplinary hearing in which he pleaded not guilty to possession or trafficking of contraband, but admitted to administrative charges conspiring and planning to commit a “Category 1 Prohibited Act,” according to court records.

The deputy who conducted the hearing found Wilson guilty of all three administrative charges and imposed disciplinary sanctions, court records said.

The deputy had advised Wilson at the beginning of the hearing of his “inmate rights,” which included the right to remain silent and the right to have a “representative” speak for him. However, “silence may be used to draw an adverse inference against you,” according to the inmate rights statement.

“The disciplinary hearing was not a custodial interrogation, nor were coercive tactics used to impel him to speak,” Judge John H. McDowell wrote in his opinion.

A hearing was held before McDowell on April 5 during which Harbin argued that Wilson should have been read his Miranda rights and that the hearing violated his right against self-incrimination.

Assistant State's Attorney Viki Pauler argued that disciplinary hearings are not criminal proceedings and do not require a defendant be read his Miranda rights.

“Incarceration does not, in and of itself, render any questioning by law enforcement officers a custodial interrogation,” McDowell wrote. “Miranda applies where there is a deprivation of freedom or application of coercive pressure such that a person might be compelled to speak.”

At the April 5 hearing McDowell expressed concerns about statements from a disciplinary hearing being used in a criminal prosecution, but his opinion cited U.S. Supreme Court rulings that  found it was permissible.

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