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United States v. Sauls

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division

April 12, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Allison Amanda Sauls, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         On July 19, 2016, Defendant was indicted on nine (9) counts of wire fraud. (ECF No. 2 at 26-28.) On August 16, 2016, Defendant was arraigned (ECF No. 97) before Magistrate Judge Shiva Hodges, and Magistrate Judge Hodges released Defendant on a personal recognizance bond without supervision. (ECF Nos. 97, 100.) On March 22, 2017, a Superseding Indictment was filed. (ECF No. 204.) On November 2, 2017, Defendant pleaded guilty to Count Fourteen (14) of the Superseding Indictment (ECF No. 204). (ECF No. 331.) As a result of Defendant's guilty plea, the undersigned modified Defendant's conditions of release and ordered her to be under pretrial supervision with standard conditions and a curfew of 9:00pm to 6:00am.[1] (ECF No. 333.)

         On February 13, 2018, the United States Probation Office (“USPO”) petitioned the court to order the Clerk of Court (“Clerk”) to issue an Arrest Warrant for Defendant due to a violation of her conditions of bond. (ECF No. 386.) The USPO presented information to the court that Defendant violated the conditions of her bond as a result of being arrested on February 6, 2018 and charged with larceny/failure to return rented objects, and fraudulent appropriation, value $10, 000 or more. (Id.) On February 13, 2018, the court ordered the Clerk to issue an Arrest Warrant for Defendant (ECF Nos. 387, 388), and set a bond revocation hearing for February 20, 2018 (ECF No. 390).

         At the February 20, 2018 hearing, the court did not revoke Defendant's bond, but instead modified Defendant's bond conditions to include thirty (30) hours of community service. (ECF No. 396.) On March 8, 2018, Defendant's Attorney James M. Griffin (“Griffin”) moved to withdraw as Defendant's Counsel. (ECF No. 401.) The court set a hearing for March 29, 2018 on Griffin's Motion to Withdraw (ECF No. 401). (ECF No. 407.) On March 23, 2018, the Government filed a Motion for Arrest Warrant and Hearing on Revocation of Bond under seal. (ECF No. 410.) On March 28, 2018, Defendant's other attorney Karen C. Simmons moved to withdraw. (ECF No. 412.) At the March 29, 2018 hearing, the Government moved to unseal its Motion for Arrest Warrant and Hearing on Revocation of Bond, which the court granted. (ECF Nos. 413, 414.) Additionally, the court granted both of Defendant's Attorney's Motions to Withdraw. (ECF Nos. 401, 412.) At the conclusion of the hearing, the court issued an Arrest Warrant for Defendant, ordered that the case be referred to a Magistrate Judge for appointment of counsel, and stated that a bond hearing was to be held at a later date to be determined by the court. (ECF Nos. 416, 417.) On the same day, Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett appointed a Federal Public Defender for Defendant. (ECF No. 422.)

         On March 30, 2018, Defendant filed a Motion for Bond Reinstatement. (ECF No. 423.) On April 3, 2018, Magistrate Judge Hodges held a hearing on the Government's Motion for Arrest Warrant and Hearing on Revocation of Bond (ECF No. 410), and Defendant's Motion for Reinstatement of Bond (ECF No. 423). (ECF No. 427.) At the conclusion of the hearing, Magistrate Judge Hodges denied Defendant's Motion for Reinstatement of Bond (ECF No. 423). (Id.) On April 5, 2018, Defendant filed a Motion for Reconsideration of Denial of Bond. (ECF No. 434.) On April 6, 2018, the Government responded to Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 434). (ECF No. 438.)

         Before the court is Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration of Denial of Bond (ECF No. 434). For the reasons stated below, the court DENIES Defendant's Motion.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         “When the district court acts on a motion to revoke or amend a magistrate judge's pretrial detention order, the district court acts de novo and must make an independent determination of the proper pretrial detention or conditions of release.” United States v. Covington, No. 2:14-CR-00006, 2014 WL 504880, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. Feb. 7, 2014) (quoting United States v. Stewart, 19 Fed.Appx. 46, 48 (4th Cir. 2001) (per curiam) (unpublished)).

         A judge must order the pretrial release of a person on personal recognizance or the execution of an unsecured appearance bond, subject to conditions set by the court, unless the judge determines that the person's pretrial release “will not reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required or will endanger the safety of any other person or the community.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(b). “For pretrial detention to be imposed on a defendant, the lack of reasonable assurance of either the defendant's appearance or the safety of others or the community, is sufficient; both are not required.” United States v. Covington, No. 2:14-CR-00006, 2014 WL 504880, at *4 (S.D. W.Va. Feb. 7, 2014) (quoting Stewart, 19 Fed.Appx. at 48). “With regard to [the risk of a person not appearing as required] as a basis for detention, the government must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that no combination of conditions will reasonably assure the defendant's presence at future court proceedings.” Stewart, 19 Fed.Appx. at 48 (citing United States v. Medina, 775 F.2d 1398, 1402 (11th Cir. 1985) (“[T]he magistrate [judge] properly applied a preponderance of the evidence standard in determining that [the defendant] should be detained pending trial because he posed a high risk of flight.”). With respect to the “safety of others or the community” prong of the pretrial detention determination, the government must prove by clear and convincing evidence that “no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the safety of any other person and the community[.]” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(2); see also Covington, 2014 WL 504880, at *4 (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(2)).

         In determining a defendant's suitability for bond, the court must take into account the following factors: “(1) the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, including whether the offense is a crime of violence, a violation of section 1591 [child sex trafficking law], a Federal crime of terrorism, or involves a minor victim or a controlled substance, firearm, explosive, or destructive device; (2) the weight of the evidence against the person; (3) the history and characteristics of the person, including 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, and record concerning appearance at court proceedings; and whether, at the time of the current offense or arrest, the person was on probation, on parole, or on other release pending trial, sentencing, appeal, or completion of sentence for an offense under federal, state, or local law; and (4) the nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by the person's release.” § 18 U .S.C. § 3142(g); see also Covington, 2014 WL 504880, at *4 (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g)).

         II. ANALYSIS

         On April 3, 2018, Magistrate Judge Hodges held a hearing on Defendant's Motion for Bond Reinstatement (ECF No. 423), and the Government's Motion for Arrest Warrant and Hearing on Revocation of Bond (ECF No. 410). (ECF No. 427.) Prior to the hearing, Defendant's bond had not been revoked. At the March 29, 2018 hearing before the undersigned, the undersigned granted the Government's Motion for Arrest Warrant and Hearing on Revocation of Bond (ECF No. 410) only as to the propriety of issuing an Arrest Warrant for Defendant. The undersigned made it clear that the court would not hear any arguments regarding the revocation of bond because Defendant's attorneys had both been allowed to withdraw as her counsel.

         Because Defendant's bond was never revoked, there was no need to reinstate Defendant's bond. The undersigned referred this case to a Magistrate Judge in order to appoint counsel, and stated that a bond revocation hearing would be held at a later date. Magistrate Judge Hodges denied Defendant's Motion for Reinstatement of Bond (ECF No. 423) stating that “I respect [the undersigned's] revocation of [Defendant's] bond which she did earlier in March and find that there is not good grounds to meet the high burden of reinstating the bond on second blush.” (ECF No. 432 at 10:5-8.) Magistrate Judge Hodges found that Defendant had not sustained her burden of demonstrating under 18 U.S.C. § 3143(A) by clear and convincing evidence that she was not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or to the community if released. (Id. at 10:1-4.)

         The undersigned never revoked Defendant's bond, therefore, any reliance on the undersigned's revocation is in error. Additionally, the court also finds that Magistrate Judge Hodges committed legal error by placing the burden upon Defendant to prove that she is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or to the community if released. See Covington, 2014 WL 504880, at *4. Due to these errors, the court will construe Magistrate Judge Hodges' finding that Defendant was not entitled to a reinstatement of bond as a denial of bond in response to Defendant's arrest on March 29, 2018. The court will now address de novo the denial of Defendant's bond.

         a. Rebuttable Presumption under 18 ...


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