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United States v. Thomason

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 21, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Shawn Kelly Thomason, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Eric C. Tostrud United States District Judge

         This case presents the question of which statute, and therefore which standard, applies when a defendant moves to reopen the detention issue after pleading guilty and seeks release pending sentencing. Here, Defendant Shawn Kelly Thomason primarily relies on 18 U.S.C. § 3145(b) as authority for the Court to review and revoke the Magistrate Judge's order of detention. But that order for detention pending trial, entered pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142, was superseded at the change-of-plea hearing by the Court's order of detention pending sentencing, entered pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3143. The proper basis for the Court to reconsider its own detention order, if at all, is § 3145(c), not § 3142(f)(2), § 3143, or § 3145(b). Under § 3145(c), Thomason has not “clearly shown that there are exceptional reasons” justifying release pending sentencing, so his motion will be denied.

         I

         On December 12, 2018, Thomason was charged by complaint with interstate stalking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2261A. ECF No. 1. At his initial appearance, the Government requested that he be detained pending trial. ECF No. 4. Temporary detention was ordered by the presiding magistrate judge. ECF No. 6.

         Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau then held a detention hearing on December 20. ECF No. 12. Special Agent Drew Helms testified for the Government. See Detention Hearing Tr. at 3-48 [ECF No. 46-2]. Judge Rau noted during the hearing that the detention issue was a close one. Id. at 59 (“The Court has to admit that I'm quite torn on the issue of detention.”). On one hand, Thomason had no criminal history whatsoever, and his stated reasons for visiting his ex-girlfriend were innocent. Id. But on the other hand, there was circumstantial evidence of “something much more nefarious, ” including GPS tracking devices, guns, a Faraday bag, and Thomason's written notes of plans. Id. at 59-60.

         Ultimately, Judge Rau found probable cause and ordered Thomason detained pending trial pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(2). See Dec. 26, 2018 Order of Detention at 3 [ECF No. 13]. He found that the evidence proffered at the hearing established, among other things, that Thomason (1) “traveled from his home in Hazel Park, Michigan, to Mankato, Minnesota, to place a GPS location tracker on the victim's car”; (2) possessed in his vehicle “Faraday bags designed to block cellular signals, a loaded handgun, and ammunition, ” items which were “circumstantial evidence of [his] criminal intent” and “of concern when considering [his] dangerousness to the community”; and (3) did not pose a risk of non-appearance at future proceedings. Id. at 2. Judge Rau determined that no condition or combination of conditions of release would reasonably assure the safety of the community. Id. Thomason did not immediately seek reconsideration by the magistrate judge, nor did he otherwise appeal to the district court judge.

         On March 20, 2019, Thomason entered a plea of guilty. ECF No. 42. At that time, the Court did not hear testimony or argument on the detention issue. The Court remanded Thomason to the custody of the United States Marshal pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2). See id.; see also Mem. in Opp'n at 12 n.2 [ECF No. 49] (“The parties agree that interstate stalking is a crime of violence . . . such that a person convicted of that crime is subject to mandatory detention under § 3143(a)(2).”).

         Approximately one month later, on April 25, Thomason filed a “Motion to Reopen Detention Hearing.” ECF No. 45. Despite his motion's title, what he appears to seek is a Court order releasing him pending sentencing. Id. at 1; Mem. in Supp. at 4-6 [ECF No. 46]. Sentencing is set for July 10, 2019. ECF No. 44.

         II

         A

         Addressing Thomason's motion to reopen the detention hearing, which in substance is a motion for release pending sentencing, requires understanding the interaction of various sections of the Bail Reform Act. See 18 U.S.C. § 3141 et seq. Thomason identifies various statutory provisions that may entitle him to the relief he seeks, arguing that “[g]iven . . . the operative statutory scheme, there must be room for a district court to decide that a person such as [himself] should be released pending sentencing.” Mem. in Supp. at 10. In his motion and accompanying brief, he expressly identifies § 3143, § 3145(b), and § 3145(c) as possible sources of authority. See Mot. at 1 (primarily invoking § 3145(b) and referencing release pursuant to § 3143); Mem. in Supp. at 6 (“[A]fter a guilty plea for an offense qualifying for mandatory detention, the proper analysis to determine whether a person is to be released pending sentencing is . . . § 3145(c).”). And the title of his motion and his brief's references to the § 3142(c) factors suggest he might be invoking § 3142(f)(2), which itself expressly provides for reopening detention hearings. See Mot.; Mem. in Supp. at 4-5. The Government argues that none of these provisions entitle Thomason to release pending sentencing. See Mem. in Opp'n at 10-13.

         Section 3142(f)(2) does not provide authority for the Court to reopen the detention issue. That provision, contained within a statute titled “Release or detention of a defendant pending trial, ” does expressly allow for the detention hearing to be “reopened.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(2). It states a detention hearing “may be reopened . . . at any time before trial” if there is new information that has a material bearing on the detention issue. Id. (emphasis added). Here, Thomason's plea of guilty functions as an adjudication of guilt akin to a jury's finding at trial. Accordingly, Thomason's post-plea motion to reopen the detention hearing was not brought “before trial, ” and therefore cannot be considered under § 3142(f)(2). See also United States v. Alston, No. 1:13CR431-1, 2014 WL 701518, at *1 (M.D. N.C. Feb. 24, 2014) (“[B]ecause the defendant has pleaded guilty, he no longer retains a right to reopen his detention hearing.”); Fed. R. Crim. P. 46(a)-(c) (stating that § 3142, together with § 3144, “govern[s] pretrial release” but § 3143 “govern[s] release pending sentencing”).

         Nor does anything in § 3143, titled “Release or detention of a defendant pending sentence or appeal, ” permit the Court to reconsider its own detention decision. There is no provision analogous to § 3142(f)(2) for “reopening” the issue. If anything, § 3143 suggests that the detention decision generally will be made a single time, either after a guilty verdict or after the Court accepts the defendant's guilty plea. See 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(1)-(2). The only explicit exception to this seems to be that the Court should revisit the detention issue if the defendant or the Government “has filed an appeal or a petition for a writ of certiorari, ” which is not the case here. 18 U.S.C. § 3143(b)(1)-(2).

         Whether § 3145 gives the Court authority to address the detention issue is less clear. Section 3145, titled “Review and appeal of a release or ...


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