Suspect in Beloit kidnapping appears in court
MADISON — The woman charged with kidnapping her 5-day-old nephew from Wisconsin and leaving him overnight in freezing temperatures outside an Iowa gas station said in federal court that she asked for a lawyer but wasn't granted one during FBI questioning.
Kristen Smith, 33, made her first statements Thursday since pleading not guilty to taking Kayden Powell from a Town of Beloit home where she was staying when she left in the middle of the night for her home in Aurora, Colorado, in February.
Hours later, Iowa police arrested Smith for an outstanding Texas warrant and took her to the county jail for processing. While there, FBI agents questioned her about the missing newborn and conducted a polygraph test. Attorneys disagreed Thursday about whether interviews with police and the FBI should be used in an eventual trial.
Defense attorney Matt Noel said none of Smith's interviews the first day with FBI agent James McMillan should be allowed in the courtroom because the FBI didn't read Smith her rights. Noel also says Smith was coerced into providing incriminating evidence without an attorney, and that Smith was forced into taking the polygraph test, which agents say showed Smith was being deceitful.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Pfluger said officers read Smith her rights before her arrest and later during questioning and the polygraph test. She also showed video clips of McMillan interviewing Smith.
The clips showed that Smith was upbeat and cooperative early on, and that she permitted agents to search her car and phone. McMillan told Smith her behavior was suspicious after she gave a wrong password to unlock the phone.
"If I was being difficult, I would be like, 'I don't want to talk to you. I want an attorney,'" Smith said, according to McMillan.
Smith said Thursday that the statement amounted to asking for an attorney. But McMillan said he understood the statement only to be an example of what Smith would do if she chose not to cooperate.
Pfluger said she won't use about two hours of the first day's interview because it's not pertinent to her case against Smith.
She wants U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker, who will rule in June, to admit into evidence the polygraph results and two later FBI interviews leading up to the point where police found the baby early Feb. 7 in a storage crate near the gas station where Smith was arrested.
But Noel argues that Smith should have had an attorney, based on her mention of one in the statement to McMillan, so none of the evidence from her first day in custody should be admissible.
FBI agents say they found a prosthetic pregnancy belly when they searched Smith's 2012 Dodge Durango. McMillan said he found messages between Smith and co-workers where Smith said she was expecting to deliver a baby soon.
Police also said Smith told them she was pregnant, but a pregnancy test at the jail was negative.
Also in court for the preliminary hearing was 18-year-old Brianna Marshall, the baby's mother. Marshall confirmed to The Associated Press that Smith is "a blood half-sister."