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United States v. Williams

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

May 16, 2019




         By Special Order 3-251, before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Reconsider Detention Order, filed April 26, 2019 (doc. 17). Sidney Ray Williams (Defendant) appeared in person and through counsel for a hearing on May 15, 2019. Based on the relevant filings, evidence of record in the prior detention hearing, and the applicable law, the motion to reconsider is GRANTED, and Defendant is ordered detained.


         Defendant was charged by criminal complaint dated March 5, 2019, with being a felon in unlawful and knowing possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). See United States v. Williams, 3:19-MJ-224-BN (N.D. Tex.), doc. 1. He was arrested in this district and made his initial appearance on March 7, 2019. See id., doc. 4. The Government moved to detain Defendant and for a continuance of the hearing, and the court granted the motion and ordered that Defendant be temporarily detained. See id., docs. 3, 7.

         On March 8, 2019, Defendant appeared in person and through his appointed counsel for preliminary and detention hearings. See id., doc. 8. Based on the testimony of the Government's witness, the Court found probable cause to believe that Defendant had committed the crime charged in the complaint. See id., doc. 10. It found that a law enforcement officer conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by Defendant on March 5, 2019, and observed that Defendant appeared to be wearing body armor and tactical gear, including two pistols and loaded handgun magazines. Id. The officer confirmed that Defendant had a prior felony conviction. Id. The two pistols turned out to be paintball guns, but the magazines were loaded .45 caliber handgun magazines, and Defendant had a single round of .9 mm ammunition in his pocket. Id. The Court found that marihuana was also recovered from the vehicle. Id. Defendant was transported to the Dallas County Jail, and as he was about to searched, he disclosed that he had a loaded .45 caliber handgun in his vest. Id. The officer located the loaded weapon, which had an obliterated serial number. Id.

         After considering the testimony of the witnesses, the arguments, the pretrial services report and the factors listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g), the Court found that the Government had met its burden to establish by clear and convincing evidence that there is no condition or combination of conditions which will reasonably assure the safety of the community and ordered Defendant detained. Id. (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3142 (f)(2) (setting forth standard as clear and convincing evidence)). It noted that Defendant's criminal history included convictions for drugs, robbery, and possession of a weapon in a penal institute, and in particular, it noted the fact that he had a concealed loaded handgun while being transported to jail, endangering the lives of the transporting officers. Id.


         Defendant seeks reconsideration of the order of detention to correct alleged manifest errors of law and fact. (doc. 17 at 1.) He contends that he was detained because he failed to volunteer information that would incriminate him in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, and that the Court erroneously found that he possessed marihuana at the time of arrest. (Id. at 4-6.)

         Although motions for reconsideration “are nowhere explicitly authorized in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, they are a recognized legitimate procedural device.” United States v. Lewis, 921 F.2d 563, 564 (5th Cir. 1991) (citing United States v. Cook, 670 F.2d 46, 48 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 982 (1982)); see also United States v. Brewer, 60 F.3d 1142, 1143 (5th Cir. 1995) (“a motion for reconsideration ... is a judicial creation not derived from statutes or rules”). Courts have “continuing jurisdiction over criminal cases and are free to reconsider [their] earlier decisions.” United States v. Scott, 524 F.2d 465, 467 (5th Cir. 1975). In the context of criminal proceedings, courts have applied the same legal standards as for motions for reconsideration in civil cases. United States v. Evans, No. 15-61, 2018 WL 6427854, at *2 (E.D. La. Dec. 7, 2018); United States v. Cramer, No. 1:16-CR-26, 2018 WL 7821079, at *2 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 8, 2018); United States v. Fisch, No. H-11-722, 2014 WL 309068, at *1 (S.D. Tex. Jan. 28, 2014).

         Where a motion for reconsideration challenges a final civil judgment, it is treated either as a motion to alter or amend the judgment under Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or as a motion seeking relief from judgment under Rule 60(b). Lavespere v. Niagara Mach. & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 173 (5th Cir.1990), abrogated on other grounds by Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1076 n. 14 (5th Cir.1994). Where a motion challenges an interlocutory order, it is considered under Rule 54(b). Contango Operators, Inc. v. U.S., 965 F.Supp.2d 791, 800 (S.D. Tex. 2013). Rule 54(b) provides that “any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties ... may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.” In deciding motions under Rule 54(b), district courts looked to Rule 59(e). See WorkSTEPS, Inc. v. ErgoScience, Inc., 88 F.Supp.3d 752, 758 (W.D. Tex. 2015). It “‘serve[s] the narrow purposes of allowing a party to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.'” Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 479 (th Cir. 2004) (quoting Waltman v. Int'l Paper Co., 875 F.2d 468, 473 (5th Cir. 1989)). This is precisely the standard that courts have used to consider motions for reconsideration in the criminal context. See United States v. Salinas, 665 F.Supp.2d 717, 720 (W.D. Tex. 2009) (finding that motions for reconsideration in criminal cases “serve the narrow purpose of allowing a party to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.”).

         As the Fifth Circuit has more recently made clear in the civil context, however, a “‘trial court is free to reconsider and reverse [an interlocutory order or] decision for any reason it deems sufficient, even in the absence of new evidence or an intervening change in or clarification of the substantive law.'” Austin v. Kroger Texas, L.P., 864 F.3d 326, 336 (5th Cir. 2017) (quoting Lavespere, 910 F.2d at 173). It has specifically noted the flexibility in Rule 54(b), which reflects courts' inherent power to provide relief from interlocutory orders and decisions “‘as justice requires.'” Id. at 337 (quoting Cobell v. Jewell, 802 F.3d 12, 25-26 (D.C. Cir. 2015)); Cabal v. Brennan, 853 F.3d 763, 766 n. 3 (5th Cir. 2017). Given the Fifth Circuit's finding of district courts' continuing jurisdiction over criminal cases and freedom to reconsider earlier decisions, Scott, 524 F.2d at 467, this more flexible standard likewise appears applicable in the context of a motion to reconsider a detention order.

         Here, Defendant claims that he was detained based on manifest errors of law and fact because he failed to incriminate himself in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights, and no evidence was presented at the hearing to show that he possessed marihuana at the time of arrest. He relies on the oral explanation of why he was being detained at the conclusion of the detention hearing to support his claim that he was detained because he failed to volunteer self-incriminating information:

But the significant thing to me here is that you get pulled over by a trooper who's clearly concerned that you've got this body armor and what appears to be two weapons on your belt, and they've confirmed that you've got felony convictions, and you're holding a loaded weapon inside your vest that you don't disclose until you're about to get searched to be booked in. That's a concern to me, ...because clearly you know they're looking at it. It's a safety issue. You put the lives of those officers in danger. You ran around carrying a gun and marijuana, and that is -- that's a -- ...

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