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United States v. Phounesavath

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

June 14, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
DANNY PHOUNESAVATH, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF DETENTION

          DAVID L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pursuant to the Order Accepting Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge Concerning Plea of Guilty, filed May 19, 2017, United States District Judge David C. Godbey has referred this matter to the undersigned United States magistrate judge for a hearing to determine whether it has been clearly shown that there are exceptional circumstances under 18 U.S.C. § 3145(c) why Defendant Danny Phounesavath should not be detained under 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2) and whether it has been shown by clear and convincing evidence that Defendant Danny Phounesavath is likely to flee or pose a danger to any other person or the community if released under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(b) or (c). See Dkt. No. 59.

         Background

         Defendant is set for sentencing before Judge Godbey on July 17, 2017. See Dkt. No. 60. “[W]hether a defendant should be released pending trial and whether a defendant should be released pending sentencing or appeal are distinct inquiries governed by different provisions of the Bail Reform Act.” United States v. Lee, 31 F. App'x 151, No. 01-30876, 2001 WL 1747632, at *1 (5th Cir. Dec. 4, 2001).

         “The provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 3143 govern release pending sentencing or appeal.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 46(c). 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2) dictates that the Court “shall order that a person who has been found guilty of an offense in a case described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of subsection (f)(1) of section 3142 and is awaiting imposition or execution of sentence be detained unless - (A)(i) the judicial officer finds there is a substantial likelihood that a motion for acquittal or new trial will be granted; or (ii) an attorney for the Government has recommended that no sentence of imprisonment be imposed on the person; and (B) the judicial officer finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person is not likely to flee or pose a danger to any other person or the community.” 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2).

         As ordered, Defendant filed a Motion for Continued Pretrial Release. See Dkt. No. 66. The Court held a hearing on January 12, 2017 on the matters referred by Judge Godbey, at which Defendant appeared in person and through counsel and the government's counsel appeared. See Dkt. No. 69.

         Legal Standards and Analysis

         As a preliminary matter, Defendant is subject to mandatory detention under Section 3143(a)(2) because he has, on a guilty plea, now been adjudged guilty of Possession of a Controlled Substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C). See Dkt. Nos. 40, 42, 56, & 59. That is “an offense in a case described in subparagraph (A) ... of subsection (f)(1) of section 3142, ” specifically, “an offense for which a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed in the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.).”

         Defendant therefore must be detained pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2) unless he meets the conditions of release set forth in Section 3143(a)(2) or 18 U.S.C. § 3145(c). Release of “a person who has been found guilty of an offense in a case described in [18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(A)] and is awaiting imposition or execution of sentence” requires that “the judicial officer finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person is not likely to flee or pose a danger to any other person or the community.” 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2)(B); see also United States v. Morrison, 833 F.3d 491, 506 (5th Cir. 2016) (“The decision to detain Jacqueline after conviction is a common one because of the presumption in favor of detention that attaches to a convicted defendant. See 18 U.S.C. § 3143.”); United States v. Lopez, 504 F. App'x 297, 298 (5th Cir. 2012) (“A defendant who has been convicted ‘shall ... be detained' pending sentencing ‘unless the judicial officer finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community if released.' Thus, there is a presumption against release pending sentencing.” (footnotes omitted)). As the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has repeatedly recognized, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 46(c) and Section 3143(a)(1) impose a burden on a convicted defendant seeking release pending sentencing to show by clear and convincing evidence that he or he is not a flight risk or a danger to the community. See 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(1); Fed. R. Crim. P. 46(c) (“The burden of establishing that the defendant will not flee or pose a danger to any other person or to the community rests with the defendant.”); United States v. Lockett, 549 F. App'x 269 (mem.), No. 13-11097, 2013 WL 6623771, at *1 (5th Cir. Dec. 17, 2013).

         Further, Defendant must meet the conditions of release set forth in Section 3143(a)(2)(A) or 3145(c). Defendant cannot, and does not claim that he can, satisfy the Section 3143(a)(2)(A) showings that either the judicial officer find that there is a substantial likelihood that a motion for acquittal or new trial will be granted or that an attorney for the government has recommended that no sentence of imprisonment be imposed on Defendant.

         18 U.S.C. § 3145(c) provides that “[a] person subject to detention pursuant to [18 U.S.C. §] 3143(a)(2) or (b)(2), and who meets the conditions of release set forth in [18 U.S.C. §] 3143(a)(1) or (b)(1), may be ordered released, under appropriate conditions, by the judicial officer, if it is clearly shown that there are exceptional reasons why such person's detention would not be appropriate.” As reflected in the Report and Recommendation Concerning Plea of Guilty [Dkt. No. 56], Section 3145(c) provides an alternative basis for pre-sentencing release under “exceptional circumstances, ” so long as Defendant also makes the required showing under Section 3143(a)(1) and 3143(a)(2)(B) - that is, by clear and convincing evidence that Defendant is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community if released under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(b) or 3142(c) pending sentencing. See United States v. Carr, 947 F.2d 1239, 1240 (5th Cir. 1991).

         The issue of Defendant's presentencing release begins and ends with whether “it is clearly shown that there are exceptional reasons why [Defendant's] detention [pending sentencing] would not be appropriate.” 18 U.S.C. § 3145(c).

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has explained that the “exceptional reasons” provision “was added to § 3145(c) with the mandatory detention provisions of § 3143(a)(2) and (b)(2) and was apparently designed to provide an avenue for exceptional discretionary relief from those provisions.” Carr, 947 F.2d at 1240. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit offers a working definition of “exceptional reasons”: “a unique combination of circumstances giving rise to situations that are out of the ordinary.” United States v. DiSomma, 951 F.2d 494, 497 (2d Cir. 1991). That court also explained that, in assessing reasons proffered as the basis for release under Section 3145(c), “a case by case evaluation is essential.” Id. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has similarly explained that “‘exceptional' means ‘clearly out of the ordinary, uncommon, or rare.'” United States v. Little, 485 F.3d 1210, 1211 (8th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). One court has explained that, “to avoid emasculating the mandatory detention statute[, ] ‘exceptional reasons review is limited to determining whether remanding the defendant to custody until sentencing would be tantamount to subjecting individuals to unjust detention.'” United States v. Thomas, No. 10-cr-229, 2010 WL 3323805, at *2 (D.N.J. Aug. 20, 2010) (quoting United States v. Christman, 712 F.Supp.2d 651, 655 (E.D. Ky. 2010)).

         District courts in this circuit have noted a variety of circumstances that do not rise to the level of exceptional. See United States v. Cyrus, No. 10-0228-04, 2010 WL 5437247, at *1-*2 (W.D. La. Dec. 27, 2010) (need to “secure his home and attend to other personal matters” were not exceptional reasons justifying release pending sentencing); United States v. Douglas, 824 F.Supp. 98, 99-100 (N.D. Tex. 1993) (defendant's cooperation with the government that subjected him to potential retaliation by co-defendants and his attempts at rehabilitation did not constitute exceptional reasons); United States v. Dempsey, No. 91-098, 1991 WL 255382, at *1-*2 (E.D. La. Nov. 19, 1991) (poor health, emotional and mental problems, and need to properly prepare his business and his family for his long absence were not exceptional circumstances); United States v. Scott, No. 1:95-CR-80-1, 1995 WL 723752, at *1-*2 (E.D. Tex. Nov. 22, 1995) (need to assist parent was a purely personal ...


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