NEWPORT CITY -- A young defendant facing 23 criminal charges is asking the court to suppress the statements he made to a Newport City Police officer prior to being issued his Miranda warnings.
At multiple arraignments over the past year, Joshua Mandigo, 18, has pleaded not guilty to serious charges like burglary, operating a vehicle without the owner's permission, possessing stolen property, and attempting to obstruct justice in order to intimidate or impede a witness.
He's facing 16 counts of violating conditions of release, 15 of which refer to Mandigo allegedly breaking his court-ordered 24-hour curfew. One of those counts is for allegedly possessing a knife.
The motion to suppress is filed in a case in which Hoagie's owner Chris Duncan observed, on security footage, two people rummaging around in his business after hours Feb. 12. In that case, Mandigo is alleged to have taken part in the burglary, to have taken Duncan's Chevy Tahoe without permission, and to have stolen about $300 from a cash box at the restaurant.
Also in that case, filed by Newport City Police officer Royce Lancaster, Mandigo is also alleged to have been in possession of Charles Dumas' stolen .308 Savage rifle and cigarettes stolen from the East Main General Store.
Lancaster wrote in his affidavit that Mandigo, when questioned, admitted that he knew what was stolen from Hoagie's, that he was in the Tahoe when it was stolen, that the stolen cash box had been dumped over a bank on the way to Orleans, and that he'd obtained cigarettes he knew were stolen from the burglar.
The motion to suppress was filed by Jill Jourdan and Zach Weight of Northeast Kingdom Law Aug. 15. The public defenders wrote that the circumstances of the interrogation violated Mandigo's Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution and his Article 10 rights under the Vermont Constitution.
Over a nine-day investigation, Lancaster made it obvious to numerous witnesses, through statements and questions, that Mandigo was a suspect in the burglary, Jourdan and Weight wrote.
When Lancaster went to Shannon Webb's Outlook Street home Feb. 21, it was because he was aware Mandigo lived there, and all of his questions to Webb revolved around Mandigo's role as a suspect.
When Mandigo was picked up for questioning Feb. 21, he was patted down for weapons in the presence of two police officers, transported by cruiser to the police department, and escorted to the processing room before being told he was free to leave.
"Mr. Mandigo sat in this police-dominated atmosphere for a total of six hours," the attorneys wrote.
The issue, the attorneys wrote, is whether the court believes the circumstances rise to the level of a custodial interrogation. If the court finds so, then absent the reading of Miranda rights to Mandigo, his statements must be suppressed.
Mandigo was brought in and told by Lancaster that there was video showing him burglarizing the restaurant. Lancaster told Mandigo repeatedly to be honest.
After an hour, Lancaster told Mandigo he needed to see if Mandigo would be arrested or cited and released, and Lancaster placed Mandigo in handcuffs and told him he was not free to leave.
Forty-five minutes later Lancaster returned to read the charges to Mandigo and tell him he needed to speak to a judge about bail.
Three hours after the interrogation began, another officer entered the room and administered Mandigo's Miranda warnings.
Mandigo sat in handcuffs for another three hours before being brought to Northern State Correctional Facility.
"It is clear that Mr. Mandigo was subjected to a custodial interrogation," Jourdan and Weight wrote.
Quoting from U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Jourdan and Weight wrote that it is "obvious that such an interrogation environment is created for no purpose other than to subjugate the individual to the will of the examiner" and that custodial interrogations "contain inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual's will to resist and to compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely."
State's Attorney Alan Franklin responded by writing, "Here, the defendant was told at the outset, when brought to the police station for questioning, that he was free to leave, and that he understood."
"It [is] difficult to find a custodial interrogation occurring when the individual is told he was free to leave," Franklin wrote.
At a hearing last Wednesday, after Franklin and Weight agreed to submit the processing room footage, Judge Timothy Tomasi said, "I think it's a horrible way to proceed on a motion like this."
If the state was not planning on proceeding with "actual evidence from an actual person," Tomasi said he would need a supplemental outline of facts regarding the motion from the state.
Basing the decision on just his viewing of the footage would force the court to make its own arguments for each side, something not within the court's purview, Tomasi said.
Mandigo, whose juvenile crimes from 2012 were adjudicated in juvenile court when he was in the custody of the Department for Children and Families, has been held without bail since Aug. 29 after situations in which his parents and friends of the family were unable to force his compliance with conditions of release.
So far, Tomasi has not found suggested custodians appropriate for Mandigo's release.