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United States v. Young

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 20, 2017



          William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Defendant Timothy Andrew Young has been representing himself since his initial appearance, with court-appointed standby counsel from the Office of the Federal Public Defender. He has expressed a desire to continue to represent himself in these criminal proceedings and at his upcoming trial. For the reasons that follow, however, the court will terminate Defendant's self-representation and appoint standby counsel to represent him in this matter.

         II. Background

         On June 22, 2016, Defendant was indicted on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (Doc. 3). He was arrested pursuant to a warrant and appeared initially before the court on July 22, 2016. (Doc. 9). That day, Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson ordered Defendant detained pending a detention hearing to be held on July 26, 2016. (Doc. 10).

         On July 25, 2016, the Government filed a motion to determine Defendant's competency to stand trial. (Doc. 14). In that motion, the Government averred the following:

On July 22, 2016, the defendant was arrested pursuant to a valid arrest warrant. During the transport between the defendant's residence and the courthouse the defendant spoke about the Corporation of America and claimed the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania ordered a “hit” on him. When the defendant was being brought into the courtroom, he refused to proceed through the gate claiming that he couldn't enter the bar. . . . At the initial appearance the defendant was disruptive, argumentative[, ] and interruptive. The defendant did not recognize the authority of the Court or the Chief Magistrate Judge presiding over his appearance. Indeed, the defendant kept asking the Chief Magistrate Judge for his documents providing him with the authority to address the defendant's case. . . . The defendant declined defense counsel.

(Id. at 1-2 (paragraph numbering and formatting omitted)). The Government's motion for a competency evaluation was granted the following day after Defendant's detention hearing. (Doc. 17). Defendant was also ordered detained pending trial, and the Federal Public Defender was conditionally appointed as standby counsel, as Defendant expressed a desire to represent himself. (Docs. 16, 18).

         Beginning July 26, 2016, Defendant began filing multiple-often nonsensical[1]-pro se notices and letters. Many of these filings reference the so-called “sovereign citizen” ideology[2] and call into question the court's authority and the charges against him. (See, e.g., Docs. 19, 20, 23, 38, 40, 41, 52). Many of Defendant's filings also include the allegation that he has no prior felony conviction, and thus he is innocent of the instant charges against him and must be released immediately. (See, e.g., Docs. 23, 38, 41).

         Although not required, the Government provided a formal response to Defendant's allegations regarding the absence of a prior felony conviction. The Government explained that although Defendant had been convicted of a state-law “misdemeanor” for making terroristic threats, his crime was a misdemeanor of the first degree under Pennsylvania law that carried with it a potential term of imprisonment of up to five years.[3] (Doc. 39). Therefore, under the plain language of the federal criminal statute at issue, and pursuant to well-settled case law, Defendant could indeed be classified as a felon in possession under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) because “the Supreme Court has clearly established that it is the potential sentence that controls and not the one actually imposed.” (Id. at 4 (quoting United States v. Essig, 10 F.3d 968, 973 (3d Cir. 1994) (quoting Dickerson v. New Banner Inst., Inc., 460 U.S. 103, 113 (1983)))).

         On November 3, 2016, the Government filed a status report indicating that the court-ordered forensic mental health evaluation had been completed. (Doc. 27). The comprehensive forensic report noted that although Defendant appeared to adhere to the sovereign citizen ideology, there was no objective evidence to show that he was mentally incompetent to stand trial. (Doc. 35 at 6-11). Both the Government and standby counsel for Defendant agreed with this assessment. (Doc. 27 at 2; Doc. 30 at 2).

         In light of the examination results, Defendant was arraigned and entered a not guilty plea to the indictment, again expressing his desire to represent himself. (Docs.31, 32). Trial was scheduled for early 2017, but the Government and standby counsel filed several motions to continue, delaying trial for several months until the current trial date of August 7, 2017, was set. (Docs. 36, 42, 44, 47, 48).

         On June 14, 2017, the court held a hearing pursuant to Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975), to confirm, on the record, Defendant's desire to waive his right to counsel and proceed to trial pro se, and also to confirm his understanding of the potential implications of such a choice (“Faretta hearing”). Defendant's behavior at the Faretta hearing, which will be discussed in more detail below, and his behavior at the previous initial appearance, have convinced this court that Defendant has effectively waived his right to represent himself. Therefore, the court will terminate Defendant's self-representation, and will appoint standby counsel to represent him.

         III. ...

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