United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division
HUGH LAWSON, Senior District Judge.
This case is before the Court on Defendant Sarah Carter's Motion to Revoke Order of Detention and Set Bond (Doc. 128) and her amendment to that motion. (Doc. 130). Upon conducting a de novo review, the Court adopts the findings of fact and conclusions of law of United States Magistrate Judge Thomas Q. Langstaff and adopts Judge Langstaff's pretrial detention order. This order memorializes the Court's oral ruling issued from the bench after hearing argument from the parties on January 27, 2015.
Defendant Sarah Carter is one of thirteen defendants indicted on December 9, 2014, in a seventeen-count indictment charging a cocaine and cocaine base conspiracy involving firearms in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 846, 841, and 856, and Title 18 United States Code, Sections 924(c) and 2. (Doc. 1). Defendant is named specifically in Counts One, Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen of the indictment.
On December 16, 2014, Judge Langstaff held a joint Arraignment and Detention hearing, during which he determined that there is probable cause that Defendant committed an offense for which the maximum sentence is a prison term of ten years or more. (Doc. 84). Judge Langstaff further found that through the testimony of witnesses Defendant overcame the statutory presumption established by 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(1) that there are no conditions the Court could set to assure the safety of the community and Defendant's reappearance in Court. (Doc. 245, p. 180). However, upon careful consideration of the four factors enumerated in Section 3142(g), Judge Langstaff found (1) that the offense with which Defendant is charged involves both a controlled substance and a firearm; (2) that the weight of the evidence against Defendant falls in favor of the Government; (3) that while Defendant's long-standing history in the community and the rootedness of both Defendant and her family in many ways tilts the scale in favor of Defendant, the same characteristics support the Government's position that her status in the community enables the drug distribution conspiracy, thus rendering this factor neutral; and (4) that the court could devise no conditions that would prevent Defendant from selling drugs if released. (Doc. 245, pp. 181-84). In support of his decision to deny bond, Judge Langstaff further noted the court's concern that no one could explain the presence of at least two guns located in Defendant's home. He also highlighted testimony that law enforcement located two grams of cocaine in Defendant's bedroom and that based on surveillance Defendant had a steady stream of traffic in and out of her home on a daily basis believed to be connected to her street level distribution of crack cocaine. (Doc. 245, pp. 185-86).
On December 30, 2014, Defendant filed a motion to revoke the detention order, arguing that Defendant poses no risk of flight or a danger to the community as evidenced by her significant ties to the community. (Doc. 128). Defendant amended her motion on December 31, 2014, to include an additional argument that her brother was willing to serve as a third party custodian, evidence Defendant was not able to offer during the initial proceedings as a result of the brother's unavailability. (Doc. 130). The case thereafter came before this Court on January 27, 2015, at which time the Court afforded the parties the opportunity to argue their respective positions and permitted Defendant to elicit the testimony of Mr. Robert Stokes, Defendant's brother.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A person ordered detained by a magistrate may seek prompt review of the order by the district court. 18 U.S.C. § 3145(b). The district court reviews the magistrate's denial of bail de novo. United States v. Jeffries, 679 F.Supp. 1114, 1115 (citing United States v. Gaviria, 828 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1987)). In conducting an independent review regarding the appropriateness of pretrial detention a hearing is not required, and the court may explicitly adopt the findings and conclusions of the magistrate, or the court may decide that additional evidence is required and conduct an independent hearing. United States v. King, 849 F.2d 485, 490 (11th Cir. 1988). "[I]f the district court determines that the additional evidence does not affect the validity of the magistrate's findings and conclusions, the court may state the reasons therefor and then explicitly adopt the magistrate's pretrial detention order." Id. at 490-91.
The Bail Reform Act, which governs the pretrial release or detention of defendants, creates a rebuttable presumption in favor of releasing defendants on bond pending trial, with the exception of certain offenses where the presumption is against release:
Subject to rebuttal by the person, it shall be presumed 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... [a federal drug offense] for which the maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed in the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. § 801 et seq.).
18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3)(A). "A grand jury indictment provides the probable cause required by the statute to trigger the presumption." United States v. Quartermaine, 913 F.2d 910, 916 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing United States v. Hurtado, 770 F.2d 1467, 1479 (11th Cir. 1985)).
In a case where the statutory presumption is against release, the defendant then must satisfy the burden of producing evidence to rebut the presumption. Id.; see also Hurtado, 770 F.2d at 1470 n. 4 ("Once the government establishes probable cause it becomes the task of the defendant to come forward with some quantum of evidence contrary to the fact presumed by the statute."). If the evidence presented by the defendant is sufficient to rebut the statutory presumption, the presumption, "remains in the case as an evidentiary finding militating against release, to be weighed along with other evidence relative to the factors listed in Section 3142(g)." King, 849 F.2d at 488. Those factors include (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense charged; (2) the weight of the evidence against the person; (3) the history and characteristics of the defendant, including the defendant's family and community ties, employment and financial resources, and criminal history; and (4) the nature and seriousness of the danger posed by the defendant to any person or the community. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g). The burden of persuasion remains with the government to show either by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant poses a risk of flight and that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the defendant's presence at future court proceedings or by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant poses a danger to the community. Quartermaine, 913 F.3d at 917.
Defendant here was indicted under 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A)(iii) with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, a charge which carries a maximum term of imprisonment in excess of ten years. She additionally faces charges for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 942(c)(1) and for maintaining a drug involved premises under 21 U.S.C. § 856(a)(1) and (b) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. Judge Langstaff found that probable cause existed to believe that Defendant committed ...