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United States v. Woodson

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

December 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
SONYA NICOLE WOODSON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF DETENTION

          DAVID L. HORAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         In the Order Accepting Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge Concerning Plea of Guilty, dated November 13, 2017, Chief Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn 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 Sonya Nicole Woodson 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 Sonya Nicole Woodson is not 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. 508.

         Background

         Defendant is set for sentencing before Chief Judge Lynn on February 28, 2018. See Dkt. No. 500. “[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).

         Defendant filed a motion for continued pretrial release in which she identifies the exceptional circumstances under 18 U.S.C. § 3145(c) that she contends justify her continued release post-conviction and in which she addresses whether she 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) pending sentencing. See Dkt. No. 587.

         The Court held a hearing on December 7, 2017 on the matters referred by Chief Judge Lynn, at which Defendant appeared in person and through counsel and the government's counsel appeared. See Dkt. No. 600.

         Legal Standards and Analysis

         As a preliminary matter, Defendant is subject to mandatory detention under Section 3143(a)(2) because she has, on a guilty plea, now been adjudged guilty of a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. See Dkt. Nos. 364, 365, 393, & 508. 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 she 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 she 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 she can, satisfy the Section 3143(a)(2)(A) showing 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. 393], 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 Court finds that Defendant has made the required showing that she is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community if continued on release. As Defendant explains in her motion.

Ms. Woodson is scheduled for sentencing on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. She entered her plea of guilty to Count 1 of the Indictment on October 17, 2017. She has been on conditions of release from August 24, 2016 to November ...

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