SCRANTON – Federal agents who interviewed Luzerne County Housing Authority member Gerald Bonner were not required to read him his Miranda rights against self incrimination because he was not in custody, federal prosecutors said in court papers filed Thursday.
Bonner, 66, of Mountain Top, is seeking to suppress statements he made to agents who interviewed him in August about his alleged role in helping fellow Housing Authority board member William Maguire illegally obtain $1,400 from a contractor.
Bonner was indicted Sept. 1 on a charge of corrupt receipt of a reward for official action. Maguire pleaded guilty to the identical charge at a hearing held Thursday.
Maguire has admitted he accepted the $1,400 to reimburse himself for expenses related to a trip he took to Florida in January on Housing Authority business.
Maguire sought the money, with Bonner’s help, from the contractor because he was reluctant to seek reimbursement from the county due to “unfavorable news coverage” he was receiving related to an investigation of alleged abuses of county debit cards, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Houser said in the court filing.
Bonner has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. In a court motion filed last week, Bonner’s attorney, Michael Butera, sought to suppress statements Bonner made to authorities because the agents did not advise him he had a right to remain silent.
In response, Houser says Bonner was interviewed at his home on Aug. 13 and admitted to the agents that he solicited the money from the contractor on Maguire’s behalf.
Houser contends the agents were not required to read Bonner his rights because that statute only comes into play if a person is in police custody. Bonner was at his home and was free to leave; therefore, it’s clear he was not in custody.
U.S. District Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie has scheduled a hearing on the suppression motion for Dec. 16 in federal court in Scranton.