OLD FORGE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Almost six months after his arrest on March 31 for the alleged 2017 murder of Robert Baron Sr., defense attorneys for the accused, Justin Schuback, have filed motions to suppress evidence as they claim their client’s rights were violated.
On Thursday, September 14, Justin Schuback’s defense attorneys Bernard Brown and Jordan Leonard filed two motions to exclude or suppress evidence against their client.
The first motion is to exclude statements made by Schuback, claiming his right to counsel and right against self-incrimination were violated. The attorneys included the transcript of the interrogation with the motion, both can be read below.
Brown and Leonard filed the second motion, to suppress evidence used to track Schuback’s whereabouts through his phone, also known as Cell Site Location Information (CSLI)/Range to Tower (RTT) data, which they claim was obtained without a warrant based on probable cause, this motion can also be found below.
Once in custody, Schuback, (pictured above) who denies any involvement in the murder, was informed of his right to remain silent and his right to have an attorney present, immediately followed by an interrogation by two law enforcement officers, Pennsylvania State Trooper Greg Allen, and Lackawanna County Detective Sheryl Turner.
During the interrogation, trooper Allen and Detective Turner explained to Schuback how he needed to help himself by “coming clean” as he was 37 years old and looking at spending the rest of his life behind prison bars.
On page nine of the interrogation transcript, Schuback brought up not having any representation with him for the first time.
“I need a lawyer I guess,” said Schuback.
“What’s a lawyer gonna do for ya,” Allen asked.
“I don’t know. I’m not sayin’ I did this,” Schuback responded.
Schuback’s defense attorneys, Bernard Brown and Jordan Leonard explained that the interrogation was legally allowed to continue at that point because Schuback was “ambiguous” in invoking his right to counsel.
By stating “I guess,” Schuback was not specifically stating he wanted or needed a lawyer present at that moment, therefore the interrogation was able to continue.
However, on page 13 of the transcript, it states Schuback said twice that he needs a lawyer. Leonard says, at that moment the interrogation should have immediately stopped.
“Justin, you are the only person that can control your fate right now. Just you. Only you. Be that man,” Allen said.
“I need a lawyer,” Schuback replied.
“Be that man. What’s that?” Allen asked.
“I need a lawyer,” Schuback again stated.
According to the transcripts, Trooper Allen and Detective Turner continued to speak with Schuback until he agreed to go on with the interrogation. However, Allen did tell Schuback to answer him about wanting counsel present, the transcript read.
“I need you to answer me though. You asked… ah you wanted a lawyer. I need you to tell me I want to continue speaking to you guys,” Allen stated.
“I’ll talk to ya, but like I’m not admitting to nothing. Like I…. what do you want me to say,” Schuback said.
Brown and Jordan are looking to exclude or suppress a significant amount of the evidence against Schuback as they say the police violated his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments including the post-arrest interrogation and the Cell Site Location Information(CSLI)/Range to Tower (RTT) data evidence that police used to track Schuback for the six years Baron was “missing.”
The defense attorneys argue that law enforcement obtained the CSLI/RTT data for Schuback’s phone originally in 2017 through a court order, but, it violated Schuback’s rights because of a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case Carpenter v. United States which found that cellphone location privacy requires police to obtain a search warrant to access that information.
During the interrogation, Detective Turner told Schuback they’ve had the CSLI/RTT data for his phone since 2017. However, the RTT data was specifically requested because detectives wanted to go back over it with different, updated software.
The motion to suppress the CSLI/RTT data states that an affidavit in support of the order shows that the data request was not based on probable cause, but instead on Detective Turner having “reasonable grounds to believe that the records and other information sought by the Commonwealth are relevant and material to an ongoing missing/endangered person investigation.”
Brown and Leonard said the use of the data violated Schuback’s constitutional rights as the detectives should have obtained a new search warrant based on probable cause and they are looking to exclude this evidence from the trial.
The district attorney’s office must respond to the motions by September 29 and arguments from both sides will be heard on October 30 at 9:00 a.m.
Schuback was arrested six years after Baron disappeared on January 25, 2017. His remains were found near Pagnotti Park in Old Forge, which led police to charge Schuback with first, second, and third-degree murder, robbery, and theft.
As the interrogation continued, police explained to Schuback that by not “painting his picture” of what happened he was only hurting himself. Schuback responded by question how? When Detective Turner told him there were different degrees of murder charges, Schuback replied, “So, that’s what lawyers are for.”
“You’re getting charged,” Detective Turner said.
Schuback explained that he wasn’t doing anything, and he thought he needed a lawyer to speak for him.
“I don’t know what to say. I think I need like counsel. Like I don’t.. like somebody to talk to besides you guys telling me to say all this stuff.”
“Well, what questions do you have for us,” Detective Turner asked.
“I don’t know. That’s what lawyers are for. What’s the best way to do this,” Schuback questioned.
Trooper Allen then explained that there wouldn’t be any deals made for Schuback after they walked out the door and since he mentioned a lawyer again, and did not actually say he wanted to stop the conversation they were taking him back to another room and give him paperwork to read and think about as he was under arrest for murder.
“Detective Turner is going to give you some paperwork. Read it and really let it sink in your brain how screwed you are and what I want you to do is take this piece of paper. Come on let’s go,” said Trooper Allen.
Schuback has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and a pretrial date is scheduled for October 15, 2023, and a trial date is scheduled for January 15, 2024.