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United States v. Rhodes

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 12, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
RHIONNA RHODES, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOY FLOWERS CONTI, District Judge.

On October 15, 2013, defendant Rhionna Rhodes ("defendant") filed a motion to review detention order pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3145(b). (ECF No. 148.) After a de novo review of the proceedings before the magistrate judge, as well as a review of the pleadings in this case, the pretrial services report prepared by the pretrial services officer, the arguments of counsel, and the hearing held on October 24, 2013, this court denied defendant's motion and ordered that defendant be detained without bond pending trial. This Memorandum Opinion sets forth the reasons for the court's decision, which were detailed on the record.

I. Background

A. Procedural History

On September 25, 2013, a grand jury returned a one-count indictment at criminal action number 13-252 charging defendant, Luis Carde ("Carde"), and nine others with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, and one kilogram or more of heroin, from January 2011 to September 2013. (ECF No. 60.) The offense at count one of the indictment carries a statutory minimum term of imprisonment of not less than ten years and a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of life. (ECF No. 61 at 2-3.) For a second felony drug conviction, if an information is filed pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, the statutory minimum term of imprisonment is twenty years to a maximum of life. (Id.) For a third felony drug conviction, if an information is filed pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, the statutory minimum term of imprisonment is life. ( Id. at 3.)

A detention hearing was held on October 7, 2013. At the hearing, the magistrate judge determined by clear and convincing evidence that defendant posed a risk of danger to the community and entered an order of detention for defendant pending trial. (ECF No. 160 at 70.) After defendant moved to revoke the order of detention, this court held a de novo hearing on October 24, 2013. After reviewing the transcript of the October 7, 2013 detention hearing, and taking into consideration the evidence and proffers of evidence presented at the October 24, 2013 hearing, the court denied defendant's request for bond.

B. Offense History

At the detention hearing before the magistrate judge on October 7, 2013, the government presented the testimony of Jason Binder ("Binder"), a detective with the Allegheny County Police Department involved in the investigation of the alleged drug trafficking activities of defendant, Carde, [1] and their co-defendants. (H.T. 10/7/13 (ECF No. 160) at 7.) The conspiracy charged in this case is referred to as the "Carde drug trafficking organization." (Id.) Binder testified:

• Seven kilograms of cocaine, seven pounds of methamphetamine, and more than 1.2 million dollars were recovered as a result of the investigation. ( Id. at 7-8.)
• Vehicles were also seized as part of the investigation. ( Id. at 10.) An Acura vehicle was seized that belonged to or was at defendant's residence. (Id.) There was a trap compartment in the Acura, and a loaded magazine for a firearm was found inside the trap compartment. (Id.) A trap compartment must be added to a vehicle and is often a hydraulic compartment, double locked, and concealed within a vehicle. (Id.)
• The investigation involved wiretap communications. ( Id. at 7.)
• Carde received his drug supply through Angel Rodriguez ("Rodriguez"), also known as "TO, " who obtained the supply from Edred Melendez ("Melendez"), also known as "Flaco." ( Id. at 8.)
• Carde received heroin in an unbagged form known as "raw heroin." (H.T. 10/7/13 (ECF No. 160) at 7.)
• Defendant oversaw the bagging of the heroin as part of the Carde drug trafficking organization. ( Id. at 9.) A confidential informant charged in this case informed law enforcement that he or she participated in bagging heroin and confirmed that defendant oversaw the bagging process. (Id.)
• Law enforcement learned via the wiretap communications that Carde was out of town in June 2013. ( Id. at 10-11.) One of the telephones subject to the wiretap was an anonymous telephone. ( Id. at 11.) Carde left the anonymous telephone with defendant when he was out of town. (Id.) In late June 2013, defendant was intercepted communicating with various individuals via the anonymous telephone, including one of Carde's cocaine customers. (Id.) Defendant spoke with Carde's cocaine customer about the logistics of supplying the customer with cocaine. (Id.)
• In July 2013, Carde was arrested by the Pittsburgh Police for attempted homicide based upon an altercation at a night club. ( Id. at 12.) Carde was charged with stabbing and disemboweling the victim. (Id.) Carde has been in jail at the Allegheny County Jail on those charges since July 2013. (Id.)
• A review of Carde's communications from the Allegheny County Jail revealed defendant was meeting with Carde at the Allegheny County Jail and Carde sent letters to defendant from jail. (Id.) During a search conducted of defendant's home incident to her arrest, law enforcement retrieved letters Carde sent to defendant from the Allegheny County Jail. ( Id. at 12-13.)
• The review of Carde's communications from the Allegheny County Jail and the letters Carde sent to defendant "indicated that [defendant] was the most trusted member of the Carde organization and that he wanted her to handle the drug end of the business for him while he was incarcerated." ( Id. at 13.)

The government entered four letters into evidence to show defendant was the most trusted member of the Carde organization. Exhibit 1 is a letter from Carde to Jason Beggarly, an alleged member of the Carde drug trafficking organization and co-defendant in this case. The pertinent part of Exhibit 1 provides:

I'm having Ree call u n get w u so u can give her homies # they stopped by n gave u. So she can get in touch w them n relate 2 me everything they say! All I need u is 2 verify that that's who I want 2 deal with them! I don't want NO ONE else talking or doing anything w them but her!... I only want her talking with Papo or Flaco.

Binder testified this passage "indicates that Jason Beggarly was attempting to communicate with Flaco and Papo in order to obtain cocaine and possibly other drugs and Carde did not want it to go that way, that he wanted [defendant] to deal with Papo and Flaco." (H.T. 10/7/13 (ECF No. 160) at 14.)

Exhibit 2 is a letter from Carde to defendant found in defendant's home during the search that occurred incident to her arrest. The pertinent part of Exhibit 2 provides:

I talked 2 Jason 2 day ima need 2 c u against on Wed. I guess my homies stopped by and left a number or something and told him that u all could stop by after u guys hollered at me. I want u on that ASAP! Only u though when u talk 2 them! Ima write Jay n explain to give u da number so u call n meet them where ever and then u can come ...

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