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United States v. Gonzalez-Rodriguez

United States District Court, D. Delaware

June 2, 2015



SUE L. ROBINSON, District Judge.

At Wilmington this 2nd day of June, 2015, after a de novo review of the proceedings before the magistrate judge, as well as a review of the submissions of in this case, the pretrial services report prepared by the pretrial services officer the arguments of counsel and the hearing held on May 6, 2015, defendant's motion for bail will be denied consistent with the reasoning that follows:

1. Background. On March 12, 2015, a grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging defendant with: (1) conspiracy to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B); (2) possession with intent to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 (a) and (b)(1)(C); and (3) distribution of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 (a)(1) and (b)(1)(C).[1] (D.I. 4) During defendant's arraignment on March 19, 2015, plaintiff filed a motion to detail pending trial. (D.I. 15) Defendant did not contest her detention. (D.I. 30 at 3; D.I. 43 at 3)

2. By order dated April 14, 2015, Magistrate Judge Burke found that defendant had not rebutted the presumption that no combination of conditions could reasonably assure the safety of the community, were defendant to be released, or that the defendant would not be a risk of flight. (D.I. 30) Specifically, the charged offenses involve conduct that is dangerous and the corresponding penalties faced by defendant if convicted are significant, including a minimum mandatory term of imprisonment. The court further found that defendant had not provided any information about her personal history or characteristics that might support a request for relief. Defendant filed her motion for bail on the same date, to which plaintiff filed a response. (D.I. 43)

3. On May 6, 2014, an evidentiary hearing was held with plaintiff proceeding by proffer and defendant presenting Myrian Correa ("Correa"), as the proposed third-party custodian. (D.I. 45 at 5) Correa, defendant's half-sister, is a 43-year old United States citizen employed as a housekeeper at a hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She has lived at the same address for the past two years, prior to that time residing in the same residence for 21 years. ( Id. at 6-7) Although Correa has two adult children and grandchildren, she lives alone and rarely has visitors in the apartment ( Id. at 9)

4. Correa denied having any firearms or contraband at her residence. Her work schedule varies from 40 to 50 hours a week. ( Id. at 21) Correa testified that her adult daughter[2] would be willing to help supervise defendant by coming over to the residence when Correa was working. (Id.) If defendant were released, Correa averred that she would make sure that defendant complied with all the obligations imposed by the court.[3] ( Id. at 8) Correa would not hesitate to notify authorities if there were any problems with defendant, including any attempts to sever the electronic monitoring device.

5. On cross-examination, Correa testified that, during the six months prior to defendant's arrest in January 2015, the sisters would speak every day on the telephone and see each other in-person about three times a week. ( Id. at 12) Correa denied knowing, until recently, the nature of the charges against defendant. ( ld. at 12-14) Correa explained that defendant was a good person and "always worked [and would] babysit." ( Id. at 14) Correa testified that she did not know two individuals identified as defendant's cousins and co-conspirators.[4] Correa also denied knowing defendant's boyfriend's name, even though they lived together and were a couple for about nine months. ( Id. at 19)

6. In further support of defendant's efforts to obtain pre-release, the following was presented: (1) defendant is 28 years old, has never been arrested and has no criminal convictions; (2) defendant has an employment history;[5] (3) defendant has no drug or alcohol abuse history; (4) defendant's three-year old son is being carHd for by relatives due to her incarceration; (5) defendant is a United States citizen with a passport that she will forfeit upon release; and (6) defendant does not pose a danger to anyone or the community.

7. In response, plaintiff explained that the charges against defendant arose from a three-month-long investigation into a heroin trafficking ring conducted by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA"). (D.I. 43 at 4) The investigation revealed that defendant was the source of the supply of heroin being trafficked through this ring. DEA agents suspect that defendant has trafficked hundreds of thousands of dollars, and hundreds of logs of heroin from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania into the Wilmington, Delaware region. (D.I. 43 at 39) Defendant was intimately and actively involved in the drug ring. From her one-bedroom apartment[6] located in Philadelphia, defendant milled and packaged the heroin and then transported the heroin to Wilmington for sale to co-defendant Collazo[7] and other co-conspirators. Those individuals, in turn, distributed the heroin to co-defendant Saienni, [8] who then distributed it to others.

8. Following defendant's arrest, agents searched her apartment and found a bag[9] containing paraphernalia[10] commonly used to package raw heroin for distribution. (D.I. 43 at 5) A small amount of heroin was also found inside the bag. Agents discovered a document known as an "owe sheet, " a handwritten list of names with corresponding dollar amounts totaling $18, 480.

9. As part of the investigation, agents recorded eight conversations between defendant and co-conspirators where defendant discusses milling heroin. (D.I. 43 at 36) There is video surveillance from January 9, 2015, depicting defendant carrying nearly $20, 000 of heroin to a co-defendant's residence. ( Id. at 37) Three days later, defendant arrived at the co-defendant's home with nearly $38, 000 of heroin wrapped in baby diapers. In light of this background and the seriousness of the offenses, plaintiff urged the court to deny pretrial release.

10. Legal standards. The court's standard of review of a magistrate judge's denial of pretrial detention is de novo. United States v. Delker, 757 F.2d 1390, 1394 (3d Cir.1985). A judicial officer must determine whether a defendant shoulcl be detained or released pending trial. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(a). A defendant: may be released on personal recognizance or an unsecured appearance bond or, if necessary to assure the appearance of the defendant and safety of the community, release may be subject to conditions. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(b) and (c). If no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant or safety of the community, the judicial officer shall order that the defendant be detained prior to trial. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e).

11. In certain cases, a rebuttable presumption that no conditions or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of defendant as required or the safety of the community applies. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3). This rebuttable presumption applies, among others, to cases in which there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed an offense under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) or an offense under the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. §§ 801-904, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is ten years or more. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3).

12. If the presumption applies, the defendant must "produce some credible evidence forming a basis for his contention that he will appear and will not pose a threat to the community." United States v. Carbone, 793 F.2d 559, 560 (3d Cir.1986). This burden of production is "relatively light." United States v. Chagra, 850 F.Supp. 354, 357 (W.D. Pa.1994). The factors to be considered by the court in determining whether the defendant ...

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