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United States v. Wright

United States District Court, D. Utah

July 20, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff
v.
ALBERT EARL WRIGHT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION REGARDING OF RELEASE WITH CONDITIONS

          Evelyn J. Furse United States Magistrate Judge.

         District Judge David Nuffer Magistrate Judge Evelyn J. Furse On July 19, 2018, Mr. Albert Earl Wright appeared before the Court for an initial appearance and arraignment on an indictment charging a credit union robbery under 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a).

         I. Entitlement to a Detention Hearing

         When asked about whether the Court could release Mr. Wright, the Government moved for a detention pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(2)(A), namely that Mr. Wright posed a serious risk of flight. In support of its motion for a detention hearing, the Government proffered a January 5, 2018 warrant issued for failure to appear on misdemeanor charges for possession or use of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia. Defense counsel argued that one failure to appear did not rise to the level of serious risk of flight and that Defendant did not know about the hearing date, causing him to miss it. Therefore, argued Defense Counsel, the Government was not entitled to a detention hearing, and the Court had to release Mr. Wright on conditions.

         The Court agrees that if it finds the Government has not met the threshold conditions under § 3142(f), it cannot hold a detention hearing and thus cannot detain the Defendant. The Third Circuit in United States v. Himler, 797 F.2d 156, 160 (3d Cir. 1986) quoted from legislative history of § 3142, stating that the § 3142(f) “circumstances for invoking a detention hearing in effect serve to limit the types of cases in which detention may be ordered prior to trial, ” permitting detention only “upon proof of a likelihood of flight, a threatened obstruction of justice or a danger of recidivism in one or more of the crimes actually specified by the bail statute.”

         In United States v. Ploof, 851 F.2d 7, 10-11 (1st Cir. 1988), the First Circuit held

[T]he structure of the statute and its legislative history make it clear that Congress did not intend to authorize preventive detention unless the judicial officer first finds that one of the § 3142(f) conditions for holding a detention hearing exists. To conclude otherwise would be to ignore the statement in the legislative history that the “circumstances for invoking a detention hearing in effect serve to limit the types of cases in which detention may be ordered prior to trial, ” see S. Rep. No. 225, 98th Cong., 2d Sess. 20, reprinted in 1984 U.S. Code & Admin. News 3182, 3203; see also United States v. Salerno, ___ U.S. ___, 107 S.Ct. 2095, 2101, 95 L.Ed.2d 697 (1987) (“The Bail Reform Act[1] carefully limits the circumstances under which [preventive] detention may be sought to the most serious of crimes”), and to authorize detention in a broad range of circumstances that we do not believe Congress envisioned.

See also United States v. Chavez-Rivas, 536 F.Supp.2d 962, 965-67 (E.D. Wisc. 2008) (“Unless the case falls within one of the above categories in § 3142(f), the court may not detain the defendant.”); see accord United States v. Rogers, 371 F.3d 1225, 1232 (10th Cir. 2004) (finding certain charges fall within crimes of violence under § 3142(f)(1) and overturning district court's decision finding no entitlement to a detention hearing).

         No case law appears to provide guidance about the quantum of evidence needed to show a serious risk of flight sufficient to warrant the holding of a detention hearing. The Court found the proffer of the January 2018 failure to appear for court sufficient to warrant a detention hearing under § 3142(f)(2)(A) given the recency of the failure.

         As to the merits, the Government contended it sought Mr. Wright's detention because he poses both a risk of flight and nonappearance based on his criminal record, his drug addiction, and the current charges. The Court considered the oral arguments of counsel, the Pretrial Services Report, and the information proffered during the hearing. The Court finds Mr. Wright both a risk of nonappearance and a risk of danger to the community, but a combination of conditions can reasonably assure both appearance back at court and the safety of the community.

         II. The Law

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of excessive bail. U.S. Const. amend. VIII. 18 U.S.C. § 3142 governs a defendant's release or detention pending trial. This statute requires the court order the defendant released on his own recognizance or on an unsecured bond pretrial, “unless the judicial officer determines that such release will not reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required or will endanger the safety of any other person or the community.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(b). If the court determines either personal recognizance or an unsecured bond will not reasonably assure either end, 18 U.S.C. § 3142(c)(1)(B) requires the court impose the least restrictive further condition that will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant and the safety of the community.

         The Court shall order detention of a defendant pending trial if it finds “no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and the community.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e). The Government bears the burden of proving the defendant poses an uncontrollable risk of danger to the community by clear and convincing evidence and/or an uncontrollable risk of nonappearance by a preponderance of the evidence. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(2)(B); United States v. Cisneros, 328 F.3d 610, 616 (10th Cir. 2003).

         Importantly, nothing in the statute modifies or limits the presumption of the defendant's innocence prior to trial. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(j). “‘The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law.'” T ...


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