Court allows evidence against heroin suspect

A federal judge has reversed a magistrate’s ruling that statements a suspected heroin dealer made to an Eagan police detective during the investigation of a fatal drug overdose at the Quality Inn cannot be used as evidence in court because the detective failed to read the suspect his Miranda rights.
     “Because the Court concludes that [defendant Jared] Ruhl was not in custody when he was interviewed by [Eagan Police] Detective Schultz, the Court rejects the [magistrate’s] conclusion that Ruhl’s statements to Detective Schultz must be suppressed,” U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright wrote in her ruling on the case.
      Ruhl, who was living at the Quality Inn at 1950 Rahncliff Court at the time of the investigation, is facing federal criminal charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin, distribution of heroin, possession with intent to distribute heroin, unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, according to court records. The charges stem from an investigation that began after Ruhl called 911 seeking help for an unconscious man in his hotel room. The man, Nicholas Mercado, was later pronounced dead of a heroin overdose, according to court records.
     Ruhl was prohibited from carrying a firearm because of a 2000 kidnapping conviction, according to the court.
     Eagan police officers first questioned Ruhl when they arrived at the scene of the medical emergency. Both the magistrate and district court found that evidence discovered and statements Ruhl made at that time were admissible in court because Ruhl was not in police custody then.
     The two federal court rulings, however, disagreed about the legality of subsequent questioning of Ruhl by Eagan Police Sgt. Darrin Schultz in a closed hotel room.
     The disagreement stems from whether Ruhl was actually in police custody at the time the detective questioned him. If Ruhl were under arrest at the time, the law would have required police to advise him of his Miranda rights against self-incrimination and the right to a lawyer.
     The first judge to review the case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Franklin Noel, ruled that Ruhl was in police custody when Detective Schultz questioned him at the hotel. As a result, in the magistrate’s opinion, prosecutors could not use Ruhl’s statements to Schultz as evidence against him because police had not read his Miranda rights against self-incrimination.
   “The Court concludes that Ruhl was subject to custodial interrogation when Schultz interviewed him,” Noel wrote. “Nicholas Mercado had already been taken to the hospital and was deemed to be in critical condition. Schultz took Ruhl into a separate room and closed the door. During the interview, he had his gun holstered on his person and the hallway of the hotel outside of the hotel room had a heavy police presence. Schultz acknowledged this when he gave Ruhl, what Schultz described as, his ‘non-custodial’ warnings. Ruhl was not able to access his phone as it had either been taken from him when he was speaking with officers earlier or it had been left in the hotel room that was then frozen by the police as part of their investigation.”
   However, in a review of the ruling last week, U.S. District Court Judge Wilhemina Wright disagreed. “Because the Court concludes that Ruhl was not in custody when he was interviewed by Detective Schultz, the Court rejects the …conclusion that Ruhl’s statements to Detective Schultz must be suppressed.”