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United States v. Reese

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 29, 2019


          Angela M. Munoz-Kaphing and John Docherty, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, for plaintiff.

          Dontay Lavarice Reese, pro se.


          Patrick J. Schiltz United States District Judge

         Defendant Dontay Reese pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1) and is awaiting sentencing. After pleading guilty, Reese moved to represent himself and to withdraw his plea. The Court conducted a lengthy hearing on those motions on March 27, 2019. At the hearing, the Court granted Reese's motion to represent himself and denied his motion to withdraw his plea. ECF No. 120.

         This matter is before the Court on a series of motions filed by Reese-some to withdraw his plea and others for reconsideration of the Court's denial of his earlier motion to withdraw his plea. For the reasons that follow, all of the motions are denied.

         A. Background

         Reese was indicted on February 21, 2018, for a kidnapping that occurred on August 6, 2017. ECF No. 1. On that day, Reese offered the victim a ride home after the victim became separated from her friends at a bar in downtown Minneapolis. The victim got into a Jeep driven by Reese, but Reese then refused to follow the victim's directions to her home. While they were still in Minnesota, the victim attempted to get out of the Jeep multiple times, including by unbuckling her seat belt and opening the passenger door. She also asked Reese to stop the Jeep so that she could get out. Reese reached across the victim to shut the passenger door, drove erratically at high rates of speed, called the victim vulgar names, and held the victim's head down multiple times so that other drivers could not see her. Reese also told the victim that he was going to take her several states away and prostitute her to make money. After Reese drove to Wisconsin, the victim attempted to escape at least two more times. Reese physically prevented her from escaping. He eventually pulled off the freeway, dragged the victim to a wooded area, tied her to a tree, and raped her twice. Law enforcement arrived shortly afterward and arrested Reese at the scene. See generally ECF No. 104 ¶ 2; ECF No. 127 at 1.

         Reese was in custody in Wisconsin until March 6, 2018, when he was transported to Minnesota to make his first appearance that same day. ECF Nos. 2, 7, 12. According to the FBI agents who transported him from Wisconsin, Reese was pleasant and chatty during the trip, talking about a wide range of topics and even reciting from memory a couple of poems that he had written. ECF No. 21 at 4-5.[1] Reese appeared perfectly normal; he gave no indication of any confusion, memory problems, or mental illness. Id. at 5.

         At his first appearance, however, Reese refused to speak, identify himself, or answer any questions.[2] Attorney Matthew Mankey was appointed to represent him the next day and an arraignment and detention hearing was scheduled for March 8. ECF Nos. 9, 11. At that hearing, Mankey indicated that he was having trouble communicating with Reese and asked for a competency evaluation. That motion was granted, and Reese was transported first to MCC San Diego and then to FDC SeaTac for evaluation.

         Reese did not cooperate with the evaluation. According to the evaluation report, Reese largely refused to participate in standard assessment procedures and associated interviews. ECF No. 21 at 1-2, 8-9. Reese also claimed to be suffering a wide variety of severe and unusual symptoms of mental illness. In the words of the report, Reese “endorsed psychological symptoms that are rarely seen in combination, extreme symptoms, unusual symptom course, unusual hallucinations, and exhibited suggestibility regarding the symptoms he was experiencing.” Id. at 9. These symptoms included auditory hallucinations (he claimed that he hears the voice of “Mufasa, ” his dead dog, and the voices of “demons” who “are at war and nobody knows it”), visual hallucinations (he claimed that he sees Mufasa and a “black bald headed lady” who sometimes tells him what to do), an inability to distinguish fantasy from reality (he claimed that he could not tell real memories from things he had seen in movies), and an extremely poor memory (he claimed that he could not remember his own name and claimed not to recognize a psychologist whom he had met the day before). Id. at 3, 5, 6- 7, 8.

         But during recorded phone calls with friends and social interactions with other inmates, Reese exhibited no symptoms whatsoever-no memory problems, no cognitive impairments, and no signs of psychosis. To the contrary, he was talkative and even funny-and, in telephone calls he “presented as quite persuasive . . ., soliciting money, photographs, as well as engaging in sexually charged conversations and activities with the female caller.” Id. at 6, 7. He was also able to remember names, dates, and previous conversations without any difficulty. Id. at 7. At one point, Reese was overheard telling another inmate that “I'll have ‘em eating out of my hands in five days. This is easy work.” Id. at 6. In short, Reese pretended to be mentally ill only when he was talking to judges, attorneys, or mental-health professionals. When talking with anyone else, he acted perfectly normally. Not surprisingly, the evaluators found that Reese was malingering- that is, faking symptoms of mental illness in an attempt to be found incompetent. (According to the government, a Skype call that was later recorded by Reese's detention facility shows Reese and his current girlfriend laughing about his diagnosis of malingering. ECF No. 51 at 10.)

         After creating a lengthy delay and wasting considerable resources through his attempt to fake mental illness, Reese was transported back to Minnesota. Reese then insisted that Mankey ask for a second evaluation-even though Reese had refused to cooperate with the first evaluation-and Reese claimed that he could not remember anything about his alleged crime. ECF No. 40; ECF No. 51 at 4-6. At his arraignment hearing on September 10 in front of Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer, Reese refused to come to the podium, refused to state his name and date of birth, contended that his real name was “Tay” and that he had no last name, and claimed that Dontay Reese was his brother. ECF No. 51 at 17-23; see also ECF No. 85 at 28-29. (When he was evaluated at FDC SeaTac, Reese also claimed that Dontay Reese was his brother, but that time Reese said that his name was “Don” rather than “Tay.” ECF No. 21 at 7.) Judge Bowbeer rejected Reese's request for another evaluation and rescheduled his arraignment for October 15.

         On the morning of October 15, Reese refused to leave his cell at his detention facility and the U.S. Marshal had to arrange separate transportation for him. During the hearing, Reese was rude and disruptive and repeatedly insisted that he was not Dontay Reese. Reese later filed a frivolous appeal of his arraignment order, which the Eighth Circuit dismissed. ECF Nos. 69, 94.

         Trial was scheduled to begin on November 13. ECF No. 54. On October 12, Reese filed a state-court lawsuit against Mankey, accusing him of negligence. ECF No. 60. The complaint described multiple interactions between Reese and Mankey, demonstrating that Reese had a very good memory. Id. The state court found that the action was frivolous and dismissed it after denying Reese's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 68, Exs. 1-4. But the action nevertheless caused Mankey's malpractice insurer to instruct him to move to withdraw. ECF No. 64. The Court held a hearing on that motion on November 5.

         On the day of the hearing, Reese again refused to board the transport van and again separate transportation had to be arranged for him. At the hearing, Reese claimed that he had never seen the indictment and again tried to pretend that it was his brother, and not him, who had appeared at the earlier arraignment. ECF No. 85 at 9, 28- 29. The Court found that Reese and Mankey had an irretrievable breakdown in their relationship, but warned Reese that it would not tolerate any more delaying ...

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