United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING 4/2/18 ORDER SETTING
CONDITIONS OF RELEASE AND DETAINING DEFENDANT PENDING
F. Cox United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on the Government's appeal of
Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub's release order. The
parties appeared before the Court for a hearing on April 3
and April 5, 2018. For the reasons below, the Court finds
that there is no condition or combination of conditions that
will reasonably assure Defendant's appearance and assure
the safety of the community. Thus, the Court orders that
Defendant shall be detained pending trial.
Christopher Choate has been charged in a criminal complaint
with one count of felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1) (Doc. # 1). The complaint states that on
February 3, 2018, Ecorse Police Department received a call
about a man with a gun at a bar. The suspect was described as
a white male with a beard and a red hat. The suspect had been
involved in a fight inside the bar and, when he was removed,
he allegedly fired a gunshot outside.
the officers arrived, they observed Defendant, who matched
the description provided, walking in the parking lot with a
white female. The officers approached the two and ordered
them to the ground. As they detained Defendant, the officers
discovered a handgun holster on the ground underneath him.
They then retraced Defendant's steps through the parking
lot and discovered a loaded handgun with an obliterated
serial number resting beneath a vehicle. Near the rear of the
bar, the officers also discovered a spent bullet casing
matching the bullets in the chamber of the recovered handgun.
this incident, Defendant was initially charged in state court
with carrying a concealed weapon and reckless discharge of a
firearm. But these charges were eventually dismissed without
prejudice by the prosecutor on February 20, 2018, the date
set for the preliminary examination, because some witnesses
were not present.
month later, a criminal complaint relating to this same
conduct was issued in federal court. Based on the complaint,
Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford issued a warrant for
Defendant's arrest (Doc. # 2). After his arrest,
Defendant was temporarily detained and a detention hearing
was set for April 2, 2018 before Magistrate Judge Majzoub.
Pretrial services recommended that Defendant be detained
hearing before Magistrate Judge Majzoub, and during the
hearings before this Court, the Government has proceeded
largely by proffer. It also introduced an exhibit, which the
Court has marked as Exhibit 1, containing photographs and
messages from a Facebook page belonging to Defendant. The
facts, as demonstrated by this exhibit and the
Government's proffer, are as follows.
is a felon, with a prior state conviction for unlawful
driving away. Although he was initially sentenced to
probation for that conviction, he ultimately spent four years
in prison for the offense after his probation was revoked. He
is also a known member and leader of a subgroup of the
violent street gang called the Latin Counts. His membership
is evidenced by his Facebook page, which contains numerous
messages referring to his gang affiliation and his apparent
involvement in shootings. Pictures from this page also depict
several firearms and ammunition. And on one occasion,
Defendant attempted to initiate a purchase of a firearm via
Facebook from an unknown seller.
involvement with firearms does not stop there. On several
occasions within the past year, police officers have
encountered Defendant in the presence of firearms. In both
June and August of 2017, Defendant was the driver of a
vehicle in which a firearm was recovered during a traffic
stop. Both times, Defendant's wife claimed the firearms
as her own. More recently, during a traffic stop on March 28,
2018, police recovered a firearm from the backseat of
Defendant's vehicle. This particular firearm appears to
be identical to one that Defendant can be seen holding in a
video posted to Facebook.
addition, after the March 28 stop, officers arrested
Defendant on the federal criminal complaint and obtained a
search warrant for his residence. In his bedroom, the
officers found 26 rounds of 9mm ammunition, which
corresponded to the firearm that they had just recovered
during the traffic stop. The officers also recovered 18
rounds of .40 caliber ammunition, which corresponded to the
firearm recovered during Defendant's arrest in February.
Finally, the officers also discovered 3.8 grams of a
substance appearing to be cocaine.
noteworthy is Defendant's conduct in the weeks prior to
his arrest. During this time, Defendant was allegedly
involved in two separate violent incidents. On March 14,
2018, a shooting occurred at the home of Bryan Susawitz, a
purported enemy of the Latin Counts. Indeed, according to one
of Defendant's Facebook posts, one year prior Susawitz
and others “jumped” Defendant and hit him with a
metal pole, although it is unclear whether this event
motivated the shooting. In any event, during the shooting,
bullets struck Susawitz's home and a nearby car.
Afterwards, witnesses observed three white males, including
Defendant, running away from the scene.
than a week later, on March 19, Defendant was allegedly
involved in an assault during a robbery in Ecorse. Defendant,
along with his wife and others, beat, punched, and kicked a
woman for about an hour. Once they finished, they took money
from her and left. Defendant was then arrested on the federal
complaint only nine days later.
Court emphasizes that Magistrate Judge Majzoub did not have
all of the above information at her disposal during the
initial detention hearing. At that time, the Government's
proffer did not include information about the search of
Defendant's residence or either of the two violent
incidents in March. This information was instead included in
the Government's proffer before this Court. The
Government's exhibit also ...