United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania
Joy Flowers Conti, Chief United States District Judge
On May 1, 2014, defendant Michael Jones (“defendant or Jones”) filed a motion for release on bail with conditions. (ECF No. 444.) After a de novo review of the proceedings before the magistrate judge, as well as a review of the submissions in this case, the pretrial services report prepared by the pretrial services officer, the arguments of counsel, and the hearing held on June 3, 2014, 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.
A. Procedural History
On February 25, 2014, a grand jury returned a superseding indictment at criminal action number 13-252 charging defendant in Count I with conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, Schedule II controlled substances, and 1 kilogram or more of heroin, a Schedule I controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. The superseding indictment contained three other counts and named twenty other co-defendants. (ECF No. 228.). On March 6, 2014, defendant was arraigned and charged with the offence at Count I. (ECF No. 228.) The offense at Count I carries a statutory minimum term of imprisonment of ten years, or for a second felony drug conviction a statutory minimum term of imprisonment of twenty years, or for a third or subsequent felony drug conviction a mandatory term of imprisonment of life.
A detention hearing was held on March 6, 2014. At the hearing, the magistrate judge determined that defendant posed a risk of flight and was a danger to the community and entered an order of detention for defendant pending trial. (ECF No. 351.) After defendant moved to revoke the order of detention, this court held a de novo hearing on June 3, 2014. After reviewing the transcript of the March 6, 2014, detention hearing, and taking into consideration the pretrial services report, as well as the arguments and evidence presented by the parties at the hearing held on June 3, 2014, the court denied defendant’s request for bond.
Based on the transcript of the detention hearing before the magistrate judge on March 6, 2014, the pretrial services report, and the testimony of Pamela Lee Lilly, the defendant’s mother, the following background was developed.
A federal grand jury indicted Jones for the offense at Count I. (ECF No. 454-2 at 1.) On the morning of February 26, 2014, Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) agents, Task Force Officers, and New Kensington police officers arrested Jones at 1012 Leishman Avenue, New Kensington, Pennsylvania (“defendant’s residence”). (Id. at 1.) Upon a search incident to arrest, Jones was found to be in possession of $3, 124.00 and a cell phone. (Id. at 2.) Following the arrest, Jones consented to a search of his residence. (Id. at 3, 15.) Present at the time of the search were defendant’s girlfriend and three of their five children. (Id.) During the search of defendant’s residence five firearms were discovered, three of which had rounds in the chamber. (Id. at 3-4.) The firearms were found within defendant’s residence in the following locations: a chambered pistol located in the dining room closet, a chambered assault-style semiautomatic rifle located in the upstairs master bedroom closet, a chambered pistol located in the top left drawer of a long dresser in the master bedroom, a pistol located in the right pocket of a jacket hanging on the door of the master bedroom, and a pistol located in the top drawer of a tall dresser in the master bedroom. (Id. at 3); (H.T. 3/6/14 (ECF No. 455) at 4-5.)
The following items were also found during the search of the defendant’s residence:
- A bullet-proof vest located in a small closet in the master bedroom;
- Several boxes of miscellaneous ammunition located on the top shelf in the master bedroom closet;
- Two knotted plastic baggies containing about 7 grams of cocaine: one located on top of the long dresser in the master bedroom and the other located next to one of the chambered pistols in the top left drawer of the long dresser in the master bedroom;
- One knotted plastic baggie containing marijuana located next to one of the chambered pistols in the same top left drawer of a long dresser in the master bedroom as one of the bags of cocaine;
- A box of “Glad” sandwich bags on top of the long dresser in the master bedroom;
- A digital scale on top of the long dresser in the master bedroom; and - Three additional cell phones, found throughout the residence.
(Id. at 3-5, 16); (H.T. 3/6/14 (ECF No. 455) at 4-6.) During the search of defendant’s residence law enforcement agents found two letters from Rhionna Rhodes, a co-defendant charged in the initial indictment, on top of the long dresser in the master bedroom. (ECF No. 454-2 at 4.) One of the letters read in part:
I know you know what’s going on. The whitey told them everything he knew. I wouldn’t even be involved in this shit if I didn’t try to go handle shit for y’all. I’m not on no wiretaps. They ain’t find shit in my house. All they got is him saying I came to him for other people and they want to know who. I have been in jail two months and my whole life has been a mess behind me not telling. You can get at my mom, you can have Yolanda call her or ...