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United States v. White

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

June 18, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Petitioner - Appellant,
v.
OLIVER LEE WHITE, Respondent - Appellee.

          Argued: May 8, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, at Raleigh. James C. Dever III, District Judge. (5:17-hc-02162-D)

         ARGUED:

          Benjamin M. Shultz, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

          Jaclyn Lee DiLauro, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Joseph H. Hunt, Assistant Attorney General, Mark B. Stern, Civil Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C.; Robert J. Higdon, Jr., United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant.

          G. Alan DuBois, Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

          Before NIEMEYER, DIAZ, and RICHARDSON, Circuit Judges.

          NIEMEYER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         With its filing of a certificate in the district court that Oliver White is a "sexually dangerous person," the government commenced this civil proceeding under 18 U.S.C. § 4248 to commit White to the custody of the Attorney General. After ordering and receiving a mental examination of White, the district court found that White was "mentally incompetent to understand the nature and consequences of the section 4248 proceeding against him and to assist properly in his defense in the section 4248 proceeding" and therefore dismissed the proceeding. A proceeding under § 4248 would have required the government to prove that White (1) "engaged or attempted to engage in sexually violent conduct or child molestation," (2) "suffers from a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder," and (3) "would have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released." Id. § 4247(a)(5), (6). The district court held that § 4248 "permits a court to dismiss a section 4248 proceeding against an incompetent person who contests all three elements" and alternatively that "permitting such a [§ 4248 proceeding] and ensuing commitment would violate procedural due process as applied to that person."

         On appeal, the government contends that the district court erred in both rulings, and we agree. We therefore reverse the district court's judgment and remand with instructions to conduct a hearing on the § 4248 proceeding initiated against White.

         I

         White, now 31, is an intellectually disabled Native American man who was born in Crow Agency, Montana. His biological mother could not care for him because she abused alcohol and drugs, and he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. With an IQ of 55 or 56 and elementary math and reading skills, he struggled in school and in gaining employment. As one doctor summarized, White's "thought process was clearly impoverished, his mood was confused, [and] his affect was shallow."

         In 2009, when White was 21, a federal grand jury in the District of Montana indicted him for the sexual abuse of four female minors under the age of 12. The government, however, dismissed the charges as part of a deferred prosecution agreement in which ...


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