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Tate v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

October 24, 2016

GABRIEL AUGUSTINE TATE, Appellant (Defendant),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Sweetwater County The Honorable Nena James, Judge

          Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; David E. Westling, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel. Argument by Mr. Westling.

          Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Caitlin F. Young, Assistant Attorney General; Joshua C. Eames, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Eames.

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          DAVIS, Justice.

         [¶1] A jury found Gabriel Tate guilty of numerous counts of first degree sexual assault, of battery, and of unlawful contact without bodily injury. He appeals those convictions, claiming that certain statements he made while in custody should have been suppressed because of a Miranda violation. He also contends that he was not provided a speedy trial. We affirm.


         [¶2] 1. Did the district court err in denying Tate's motion to suppress statements he made to a nurse during a sexual assault examination?

         2. Was Tate denied a speedy trial as required by W.R.Cr.P. 48 and the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution?


         [¶3] Because the facts surrounding the sexual assault are not pertinent to this appeal, we will provide only a brief summary of the terrible event. A woman ("E.W.") invited Tate to her house one evening while he was passing through Rock Springs. They had previously met when Tate was dating E.W.'s friend, and after that they kept in contact through social media. While their time at E.W.'s house began affably, by the evening's end E.W. had been threatened, choked, beaten, urinated on, and sexually violated in various ways. Tate documented his sadistic behavior by taking pictures throughout the incident with a cell phone and sending them to others. After he left, E.W. called police and reported the incident.

         [¶4] Tate was arrested on June 17, 2014. Before being interviewed by law enforcement while in custody, he was read his Miranda rights, and he was also provided a document setting forth those rights and a waiver of them. Tate stated that he understood his rights, orally agreed to waive them, and signed the waiver. He then spoke with three separate law enforcement officers about the incident.[1]

         [¶5] Approximately three hours after he had been read his Miranda rights and law enforcement interviews began, Tate was transported to the local hospital for an examination to obtain biological samples pursuant to a search warrant. At the hospital, Tate signed a written consent form that confirmed that he agreed to participate in the examination, that he understood the evidence being collected could be used in a potential criminal prosecution, and that he could refuse any portion of the examination.

         [¶6] After he signed the consent form, a sexual assault nurse examiner began the examination. At the beginning, she asked Tate a few open-ended questions-basically why he was there for an examination and why a police officer was present. Tate later volunteered incriminating statements about the incident with E.W. He indicated that he had played head games with her to get her to have sex with him, that he had threatened her that he had family who would hurt her if she didn't have sex or said anything afterward, and that he was "ex-military and a bad ass."[2] A police officer was present for the examination, but did not participate in the discussion.

         [¶7] On June 19, 2014, the State filed an information charging Tate with four counts of first degree sexual assault, one count of kidnapping, and one count of unlawful contact without bodily injury. A public defender was appointed the same day. Tate waived his right to a preliminary hearing on June 24, and the matter was bound over to the district court. The next day, June 25, his attorney filed Tate's first demand for a speedy trial. Arraignment in the district court was scheduled for June 30.

         [¶8] When Tate appeared for arraignment, his attorney expressed concerns about his client's competency and fitness to proceed, and requested that proceedings be stayed pending an evaluation by the Wyoming State Hospital. The district court agreed to enter an order for the requested examination, and instructed defense counsel that the order should require the evaluation to be done within thirty days.[3] Because of the concerns about his fitness to proceed, Tate was not arraigned. This was quite proper, because the court had no way of knowing if Tate could enter a knowing and voluntary plea without the benefit of an evaluation.

         [¶9] Unfortunately, roughly three months passed before Tate's attorney filed the required written motion for an order for the evaluation and suspension of proceedings on September 24, 2014.[4] The district court granted that motion two days later, ordered the competency examination to be conducted at the Wyoming State Hospital, and suspended proceedings pending the completion of the examination and the resulting report.

         [¶10] The state hospital evaluated Tate on December 23, 2014, and submitted a report finding him fit to proceed on January 8, 2015.[5] On February 11, 2015, Tate was arraigned and pled not guilty to all charges. On the same day, he filed a second demand for speedy trial. Trial was set for April 7, 2015.

         [¶11] A hearing was held on February 20 concerning the State's intent to offer W.R.E. 404(b) evidence of a prior alleged sexual assault, and the district court entered an order which is not challenged in this appeal. However, during that hearing, there was discussion about the State obtaining transcripts from a proceeding against Tate in a different state. On March 16, the State requested that the trial date be continued to allow prosecutors more time to track the transcripts down. The district court agreed to the request and reset the trial for July 6, 2015. The defense did not object to the continuance.

         [¶12] On April 1, 2015, the State moved to amend the information to include an additional eight counts arising from the incident with E.W. It proposed to add five additional counts of first degree sexual assault and two counts of battery. The district court held a hearing on the motion and allowed the amendment, and the State filed the amended information on May 29.

         [¶13] Tate moved to suppress the statements he made to the nurse during the examination following his arrest a week before trial. He alleged, inter alia, that his rights under Miranda v. Arizona had been violated. A suppression hearing was held the next day, and the district court denied the motion. It reasoned that the statements were admissible because: (1) the nurse was not acting as an agent of the police as she was following independent medical protocols and procedures; and (2) Tate had been previously advised of his Miranda rights by law enforcement and had waived those rights just hours before he spoke with her.

         [¶14] A four-day jury trial began on July 6, 2015. On July 9, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts, except one kidnapping charge. The district court sentenced Tate to eight to twenty years in prison on each of the nine first-degree sexual assault counts, with all to be served consecutively. With regard to the misdemeanor counts, he was also sentenced to six months in jail for the two battery charges and the unlawful contact without bodily injury charge, to be served concurrently with the sentences for the felony sexual assault charges.[6] Judgment and sentence was entered on August 11, 2015.

         [¶15] Tate timely perfected this appeal.


         1. Suppression of ...

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