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United States v. Baez

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 9, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
EDDIE BAEZ, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.

         On October 26, 2016 Eddie Baez was charged with possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B) and 846. The following day, the United States Pretrial Services office submitted its report to the magistrate judge in advance of Baez's detention hearing. The report recommended that Baez be released on bail with several conditions, including that he live with his parents in their home in Philadelphia. On November 15, 2016, after hearing argument, the magistrate judge granted the Government's Motion for Pretrial Detention. On November 22, 2016 Baez filed an appeal from the magistrate judge's detention order and a motion to set bail. On January 20, 2017 Pretrial Services updated its original report, reaffirming its recommendation that Baez be eligible for bail. The Court held a hearing on January 31, 2017[1] and for the reasons that follow grants the motion for bail.

         I.

         On October 24, 2016 U.S. Postal Inspector Paul Zavorski intercepted a USPS Priority Mail package addressed to “Fam. Diaz, 3646 Frankford Ave., Phila., PA 19134” with a return address of “Calmen Diaz, Virginia Valley x2 Calle, San Anton, 00777.” The package was mailed from Juncos, Puerto Rico, which postal inspectors know to be a common narcotics trafficking area. The package's return address did not exist in any law enforcement database, a common trait of packages containing controlled substances. Pursuant to a search warrant, postal inspectors opened the package and found a wooden box wrapped in yellow gift wrap. The box, formed from five glued wooden panels topped with a nailed-in wooden panel, was filled with carbon paper and spray foam. Embedded in the spray foam were two heavily wrapped brick-shaped objects containing approximately two kilograms of a white powdery substance which field tested positive for cocaine. The inspectors repackaged the wooden box with sham white powder (“sham parcel”) in preparation for a controlled delivery.

         On October 25, 2016 the controlled delivery was conducted and an individual (whose identity is known to law enforcement) received the package at 11:35 a.m. at 3646 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia. Postal records show that in the six months prior to this delivery, four other Priority Mail packages were delivered to this address, all with similar characteristics to the intercepted package (weighing approximately eight pounds and containing handwritten address labels listing the recipient as “Fam Diaz” and using a fictitious return address). Ten minutes later, the individual took the package to a residence at 3631 Frankford Avenue. Postal records show that in August, two other similar Priority Mail packages from Caguas, Puerto Rico were delivered to this address. Around 1:30 p.m. law enforcement observed as Baez drove to this address, picked up the package and returned with it to his home at 639 Garland Street. Postal records show that in August and September, four other Priority Mail packages originating from Caguas or Juncos were delivered to Baez's address, all with the aforementioned characteristics.

         Later that day, law enforcement executed a search warrant on 639 Garland Street. Baez was the only person present (and the only person observed entering and exiting that day). Law enforcement discovered a non-factory hidden compartment in the back of a leather couch which contained the sham parcel (the wooden box wrapped in yellow gift wrap) which had been removed from the Priority Mailing packaging, a second wooden box wrapped in yellow gift wrap containing two bricks of cocaine, two digital scales, plastic bags typically used in distributing narcotics and a shoe box containing approximately $99, 800 in cash. They also found in the basement a large cardboard box containing pieces of spray foam, carbon paper and wooden panels.

         Around 10:00 p.m. Baez was read his Miranda rights in Spanish and agreed to answer questions. He said he had spent most of the day sleeping and had only left the house twice, once at noon to pay a bill at Walmart and again at 3:00 p.m. to visit a relative at his mother's house. When investigators told him that he was seen on Frankford Avenue that day (receiving the sham parcel), Baez claimed to have no knowledge of that activity. At approximately 10:15 p.m., he said he felt uncomfortable answering any more questions and requested assistance from an attorney. Baez was indicted on all charges by a federal grand jury on December 21, 2016.

         II.

         The Bail Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3142, governs pretrial detention. The Act provides that “[i]f, after a hearing . . . the judicial officer finds that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and the community, such judicial officer shall order the detention of the person before trial.” Id. § 3142(e). There is a rebuttable presumption “that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of the community if the judicial officer finds that there is probable cause to believe that the person committed an offense for which a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed in the Controlled Substances Act.” Id. Here, there is probable cause to believe that Baez violated 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B), and 846, supported both by the grand jury's indictment and the facts proffered by the Government. See United States v. Suppa, 799 F.2d 115, 119 (3d Cir. 1986) (holding that an indictment is sufficient to support a finding of probable cause triggering the rebuttable presumption).

         Section 3142(g) of the Bail Reform Act sets forth the factors the Court must review to determine if Baez has rebutted the presumption that there are no conditions which will assure his appearance at trial and protect the community. These factors are:

(1) The nature and circumstances of the offense charged, including whether the offense is a crime of violence or involves a narcotic drug;
(2) The weight of the evidence against the person;
(3) The history and characteristics of the person, including-
(A) the person's character, physical and mental condition, family ties, employment, financial resources, length of residence in the community, community ties, past conduct, history relating to drug or alcohol abuse, criminal history, ...

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