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United States v. Thompson

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

May 10, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
PHILLIP JAZIR THOMPSON, a/k/a Dashawn Andre Saunders, a/k/a Phillip Thompson, a/k/a Jonathan Bellamy, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: January 31, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Richmond. Henry E. Hudson, Senior District Judge. (3:03-cr-00420-HEH-1)

         ARGUED:

          Patrick L. Bryant, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellant.

          Aidan Taft Grano, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Geremy C. Kamens, Federal Public Defender, Alexandria, Virginia, Nia A. Vidal, Assistant Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellant.

          G. Zachary Terwilliger, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.

          Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, and THACKER and HARRIS, Circuit Judges.

          PAMELA HARRIS, Circuit Judge.

         Phillip Jazir Thompson, a native of Jamaica, was sentenced to a five-year term of supervised release. A special condition of that release prohibited Thompson, once deported, from returning to the United States without permission and required, if he did reenter, that Thompson report promptly to probation. Six months before his supervised release term was to end in June of 2015, Thompson returned to the United States without permission, did not report to probation, and instead used an alias to avoid detection for several years.

         When Thompson finally was apprehended in 2017 and charged with violating the conditions of his supervised release, he argued that the government was too late: Because his five-year supervised release term had expired in 2015, the district court was without jurisdiction to sanction any violations. The district court disagreed, holding that the term of Thompson's supervised release was tolled when Thompson became a fugitive, actively concealing himself from probation while residing in the United States. The court went on to sentence Thompson to 30 months' imprisonment for violations of his supervised release conditions.

         On the main issue presented by this appeal, we agree with the district court: The doctrine of fugitive tolling applies in this case, extending the period of time during which the district court was authorized to sanction Thompson's violations. Questions remain, however, about the precise duration of that tolling, and whether the fugitive tolling doctrine or some other legal provision authorized the district court to impose sanctions in January of 2018. Accordingly, we vacate the district court's supervised release order and remand for further proceedings.

         I.

         A.

         At the heart of this case is a five-year term of supervised release to which Phillip Jazir Thompson was sentenced in 2004, after pleading guilty to drug and weapons charges. The term began on June 16, 2010, when Thompson completed a 180-month ...


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