United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Bill Simmers, Office of the U.S. Attorney, Williamsport, PA, for Plaintiff.
CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER, District Judge.
On October 4, 2012, the court held a detention hearing to determine whether
Jermaine Williams (" Williams" ), should be detained or released pending his sentencing hearing. The court determined that, for exceptional reasons, Williams's detention pending sentencing is not mandated by statute. This memorandum expands upon the court's ratio decidendi set forth on the record at the hearing.
I. Factual Background
On October 2, 2012, Williams pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute or possess with the intent to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base under 21 U.S.C. § 846. The court held a detention hearing on October 4, 2012, to determine whether Williams should be detained or released pending his sentencing hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for on or about January 11, 2013. At the detention hearing, the government requested immediate detention, arguing that such action is mandated by 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2). Defense counsel asserted that the court may release Williams pending sentencing upon a finding of " exceptional reasons" pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3145(c). In rebuttal, the government asserted that § 3145(c) provides such discretion only to the circuit court of appeals.
In support of Williams's " exceptional reasons" for release pending sentencing, defense counsel presented the following factual background, which the government does not dispute and which the court therefore adopts for purposes of the instant matter. Williams and his wife had a baby a little less than a year ago. As a result of complications during childbirth, Williams's wife requires surgery to repair an umbilical hernia. After surgery, Mrs. Williams will require six weeks of convalescence before she will be able to return to work. During this period of convalescence, Williams's employment income will be the sole means of support for his wife and their three young children. If Williams were incarcerated, his family would not be able to pay for their present residence, and they would become homeless. Defendant's Exhibit 1 is correspondence from a nurse practitioner on behalf of the Rochester General Health System, Department of Surgery, which confirms the medical necessity of Mrs. Williams's surgery. Further complicating their domestic difficulties, the couple has a 14-year-old-son with severe ADHD who is currently in counseling. Mr. and Mrs. Williams have endeavored to place their son into the Big Brother Big Sister program in anticipation of Mr. Williams's incarceration, but these efforts have not yet succeeded.
The court has had the benefit of discussions with the United States Probation Office concerning Mr. Williams's conduct during pre-trial supervision. From all accounts, Williams's conduct under supervision has been exemplary. Williams's Probation Officer confirmed that Williams has been on supervised release, including electronic monitoring, for two years without a single violation. He has communicated regularly with the Probation Officer. He has attended all court proceedings without incident despite residing a considerable distance from the courthouse. In addition, as noted, Williams is gainfully employed.
A. Applicable Statutory Provisions
Eligibility for release pending sentence or appeal is based on the requirements of the Bail Reform Act of 1984. Pub. L. No. 98-473, Title II, § 203(a), 98 Stat. 1976 (codified at 18 U.S.C. §§ 3141-3156 (1984)). The current detention language and " exceptional reasons" provisions at issue in this case were added to the Bail Reform Act as an amendment to the 1990 Crime Bill. See Crime Control Act of 1990,
Pub. L. No. 101-647, § 902, 104 Stat. 4826, 4827 (1990).
Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2), the court must detain a person found guilty of certain offenses pending sentencing. One of those offenses is " 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 )," including a conspiracy to distribute or possess with the intent to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base under 21 U.S.C. § 846 and § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii). See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(C). Under this provision, the court may order the person's release pending sentencing if (1) " the judicial officer finds there is a substantial likelihood that a motion for acquittal or new trial will be granted" or " an attorney for the Government has recommended that no sentence of imprisonment be imposed on the person; " and (2) " 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)(A) and (B).
Williams's guilty plea includes a waiver of his right to appeal, so there is virtually no likelihood that Williams will be granted an acquittal or a new trial. It is undisputed that the government will recommend a sentence of imprisonment. Therefore, the court would be required to order Williams's detention pursuant to § 3143(a)(2) in the absence of additional statutory authority. However, 18 U.S.C. § 3145 provides as follows:
(a) Review of a release order.— If a person is ordered released by a magistrate judge, or by a person other than a judge of a court having original jurisdiction over the offense and other than a Federal appellate court—
(1) the attorney for the Government may file, with the court having original jurisdiction over the offense, a motion for revocation of the order or amendment of the conditions of release; and
(2) the person may file, with the court having original jurisdiction over the offense, a motion for amendment of the conditions of release.
The motion shall be determined promptly.
(b) Review of a detention order.— If a person is ordered detained by a magistrate judge, or by a person other than a judge of a court having original jurisdiction over the offense and other than a Federal appellate court, the person may file, with the court having original jurisdiction over the offense, a motion ...