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United States v. Harris

February 3, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joy Flowers Conti United States District Judge


On December 18, 2009, Defendant Reggie Harris ("defendant") filed a motion to revoke order of detention. (Doc. No. 40.) This court held a hearing on January 12, 2010 and January 27, 2010, at which evidence and proffers of evidence were presented. Taking into consideration the evidence presented at the hearing, the pleadings and record in this case, and the arguments of counsel, this court denied defendant's request for release. This memorandum opinion and order sets forth the reasons for the court's decision, which were detailed on the record.


I. Procedural Background

On December 1, 2010, a grand jury returned a superseding indictment at Criminal No. 09-305 charging defendant in count three with conspiracy to retaliate against a witness or informant in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1513(f). (Doc. No. 30.) The maximum sentence for count three is a term of imprisonment of not more than twenty years. (Doc. No. 31.)

A detention hearing was held November 9, 2009. At the hearing, the magistrate judge determined that "there is probable cause for Mr. Harris to proceed to trial in this case.

Additionally, after conducting a detention hearing under the Bail Reform Act, I conclude that the facts require the defendant to be detained pending trial." (Tr. of 11/9/2009 Detention Hr'g (Doc. No. 40, Ex. 1) at 43.) The magistrate judge entered an order of detention for defendant pending trial. (Doc. No. 29.)

After defendant moved for review of the order of detention, this court held a de novo hearing on January 12, 2010, and January 27, 2010. After reviewing the transcript of the November 9, 2009 detention hearing and taking into consideration the evidence and proffers of evidence presented at the January 12, 2010 and January 27, 2010 hearing, the court denied defendant's request for bond.

II. Background of the Offense

At the hearing before the magistrate judge, the government proffered evidence and submitted an affidavit of probable executed by Anthony Barravecchio ("Barravecchio"), a task force agent of the DEA who was involved in the criminal investigation of the criminal case in which defendant is charged. (Tr. of 11/9/2009 Detention Hr'g at 4-6; Aff. in Supp. of Compl. (Doc. No. 18, Ex. 1) ¶ 1.) Barravechhio also testified at the hearings before the magistrate judge and this court. Based upon those sources, the following factual background was developed.

On October 9, 2009, a criminal complaint was filed alleging Corey Gadsden conspired to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin. An affidavit executed by Barravecchio supported the allegations with respect to Corey Gadsden. (Tr. of 11/9/2009 Detention Hr'g at 5; Aff. in Supp. of Compl. ¶ 4.) The affidavit included information provided by a confidential informant. It was later learned from a different confidential informant that Corey Gadsden "put a hit out," meaning that Corey Gadsden wanted to kill the informant who provided the information contained in the affidavit relating to Corey Gadsden. (Tr. of 11/9/2009 Detention Hr'g at 5; Aff. in Supp. of Compl. ¶ 5.) This second confidential informant knew the other confidential informant well. The second informant believed that Omar Gadsden, who is Corey Gadsden's brother, demanded $300,000 from him, in order to pay for a drug transaction that he entered into with Corey Gadsden and to compensate Corey Gadsden for the trouble associated with his arrest. This confidential informant believed that Omar Gadsden's words conveyed intent to kill both himself and the other confidential informant. (Aff. in Supp. of Compl. ¶¶ 4-8.)

On November 3, 2009, at approximately 4:00 a.m., the second confidential informant advised law enforcement officials that he heard gunshots outside the residence where he was staying. Law enforcement officials discovered that the residence and a neighboring residence were riddled with bullet holes. Omar Gadsden later called the second confidential informant, who believed that Omar Gadsden wanted to arrange a meeting to obtain $300,000 and to possibly harm him. (Id. ¶¶ 9-11.)

On the basis of the telephone call, law enforcement officers determined that Omar Gadsden was located at the Best Western hotel in Greentree, Pennsylvania. Law enforcement officers learned from hotel employees that Omar Gadsden was staying in room 215, and surveillance video revealed that two individuals, one of whom was defendant, left that room. The officers saw, in plain view, a firearm on the floor of a silver-colored Chevrolet Equinox parked in the hotel's lot. (Id. ¶¶ 12-14.) The law enforcement officers secured the weapon, and in the process of doing so, discovered an additional handgun and two live hand grenades. (Id. ¶ 14.) Bullet fragments found at the informant's residence have not yet been tested with the handguns recovered. (Tr. of 11/9/2009 Detention Hr'g at 23-25.) The officers found ski masks, Halloween masks, and a baseball bat in the vehicle. (Tr. of 1/12/2010 Detention Hr'g (Doc. No. 57) at 15.) The relevant events happened several days after Halloween. (Id. at 20.) A black jacket was found in the same automobile as the weapons. Video surveillance from a nearby K-Mart store revealed that defendant was wearing a jacket like the jacket found in the automobile and entered the store accompanied by Omar Gadsden. (Id. at 15-16.) The officials found in the vehicle a photograph that depicted defendant and Omar Gadsden together. This photo, however, was not produced to the court. (Id. at 17-18.)

Demarco James ("James") was a co-conspirator with respect to the drug conspiracy. After being arrested, James told authorities that, while in Pittsburgh, Omar Gadsden ordered him to drive to New Jersey, pick up defendant, and bring defendant to Pittsburgh. (Id. at 22-24.) James picked up defendant, and the two spoke briefly about the alleged conspiracy to retaliate against the witness. Barravecchio testified:

Q: You also testified -- it went by kind of fast. I didn't catch what your testimony was, but I believe it related to a comment by Mr. [James], and please correct me if it's incorrect, something about an exchange about someone not wanting to go to Pittsburgh to kill a witness and someone else saying I don't give a f-u-c-k?

A: Yes.

Q: Who said what in that exchange?

A: [James] didn't want to be a part of it as he was driving Reginald Harris here and Reginald's response was he didn't give a fuck.

Q: Okay. So Mr. [James] -- I don't want to rehash what was gone over in the previous hearing, but Mr. [James] was dispatched by Omar to pick up Reggie?

A: From what I understand.

Q: Not to transport him in Mr. [James]'s car but transport him in the Equinox?

A: It belongs to Omar's wife.

Q: Mr. [James] said it was his understanding that the purpose for the two of them to come to Pittsburgh was when they got here, to somehow participate in the killing of ...

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