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United States v. Harris

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 3, 2018

TASHA HARRIS, Defendant.


          Denise Page Hood Chief Judge, U.S. District Court.

         I. Introduction and Factual Background

         On May 8, 2018, Defendant was charged in a five-count Indictment, including four counts of Armed Robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 1951 (the Hobbs Act), and one count of Obstruction of Justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 1512(b)(2), Obstruction of Justice. The Government alleges that Defendant participated in four robberies between December 2017 and April 2018. The Government also alleges that Defendant, while being detained in jail on the robbery charges, attempted to obstruct justice by deleting inculpatory evidence from her iPhone.

         On May 9, 2018, Defendant made her initial appearance and was temporarily detained. On May 11, 2018, a detention hearing was held before Magistrate Judge Anthony Patti, who concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that no condition or combination of conditions of release would reasonably assure the safety of the community. The Magistrate Judge did not make a finding that Defendant was a risk of flight, but he did find that “the monetary proceeds of the robberies (approximately $18, 000.00 in cash) have not been recovered and thus defendant is presumed to have the means necessary to flee.”

         Defendant has filed a Petition for Review of Detention (“Petition”). She cites her lack of violent criminal history, notes that no one was hurt during any of the crimes she allegedly committed, and claims that she was arrested peaceably and chose not to run. She has expressed a willingness to be released to the third-party custody of her mother (who has not been interviewed by Pretrial Services) and to accept home confinement with GPS monitoring (except that she should be allowed out of the house for doctor visits, attorney visits, court dates and to attend church with her mother twice a week). Defendant contends, “[she] does not pose a threat to the community or a risk of flight . . . will abide by all pretrial release conditions imposed and will appear at all court proceedings.” Although neither the Government nor Pretrial Services considers Defendant a flight risk, they both contend that Defendant poses a risk of danger to the community.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Defendant's Petition and continues detention.

         II. Applicable Law

         The Bail Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3142, ordinarily requires a Defendant's release pending trial unless the judicial officer finds there are no conditions that will reasonably assure the safety of the community and the appearance of the Defendant at future court proceedings. See 18 U.S.C § 3142(e). The court may order detention of the Defendant if it finds that no set of conditions, or combination of conditions, will reasonably assure the Defendant's appearance and the safety of the community. See 18 U.S.C § 3142(f). Factors to be considered by the district court in making this determination include: (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense charged; (2) the weight of the evidence against the person;[1] (3) the history and characteristics of the person; and (4) the nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by the person's release (i.e., “the Section 3142(g) factors”).

         The Bail Reform Act's default rule of release pending trial is reversed, and detention is presumed, for certain particularly dangerous defendants. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3); United States v. Stone, 608 F.3d 939, 945 (6th Cir. 2010). If a defendant is charged with a crime of violence or a drug trafficking offense, it is presumed by the statute that no condition or combination of conditions will assure the appearance of the defendant or the safety of the community. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3). This presumption imposes a burden of production on the defendant to offer at least some evidence that he does not pose a danger to the community or risk of flight. Stone, 608 F.3d at 945.

         Even if a defendant satisfies that burden of production, the district court must still give some weight to the presumption of detention because it reflects Congress's judgment that “particular classes of offenders should ordinarily be detained prior to trial.” Id.; United States v. Dominguez, 783 F.2d 702, 707 (7th Cir. 1986) (“[T]he presumption of dangerousness . . . represents Congressional findings that certain offenders . . . are likely to continue to engage in criminal conduct undeterred either by the pendency of charges against them or by the imposition of monetary bond or other release conditions.”). If the presumption in favor of detention simply vanished upon rebuttal, “courts would be giving too little deference to Congress' findings regarding this class” of defendants. United States v. Lattner, 23 Fed.Appx. 363, 364 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting United States v. Martir, 782 F.2d 1141, 1144 (2d Cir. 1986)).

         III. Analysis

         The district court's review of a magistrate judge's order of detention is de novo, and the Court must determine independently whether detention is proper. See, e.g., United States v. Montgomery, 2010 WL 1052339, at *1 (E.D. Mich. 2010).

         Defendant has been indicted for committing - or attempting to commit - four armed robberies at Cash Advance locations (Cash Advance was her former employer), in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a). A robbery within the Hobbs Act “is a crime of violence.” See United States v. Gooch, 850 F.3d 285, 290 (6th Cir. 2017). This is a serious crime that “by definition … involves a substantial risk that physical force may be used against the person or property of another.” United States v. Elder, 88 F.3d 127, 129 (2d Cir.1996).

         Based on the fact that a grand jury has determined that probable cause exists that Defendant committed those crimes, “it shall be presumed that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and safety of the community.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3)(a) and (b); Stone, 608 F.3d at 945 (“A grand jury indictment, by itself, establishes probable cause to believe that a defendant committed the crime with which he is charged. Thus, when the government presents an indictment including charges listed in section 3142(e), it has fulfilled its burden to establish the presumption in favor of detention.”) (citations omitted). In other words, the burden is on Defendant to demonstrate that she ...

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