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United States v. Torres

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa

October 29, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER TORRES, Defendant,

ORDER FOR PRETRIAL DETENTION

JON STUART SCOLES, Chief Magistrate Judge.

On the 27th day of October, 2014, this matter came on for hearing on the Government's request to have the Defendant detained pending further proceedings and the Defendant's request for a preliminary hearing. The Government was represented by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Morfitt. The Defendant appeared personally and was represented by his attorney, Alfred E. Willett.

I. RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

On October 8, 2014, Defendant Christopher Torres was charged by Criminal Complaint (docket number 2) with possession of an unregistered firearm and possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of controlled substances. At the hearing, Cedar Rapids Police Officer John O'Brien, who is currently assigned to the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, testified regarding the circumstances underlying the charges.

At approximately 4:00 a.m. on July 25, 2014, officers responded to a report of "shots fired" in the vicinity of 5th Avenue and 15th Street SE. It was reported that the suspects fled on foot, and a short time later officers found Defendant Christopher Torres and his girlfriend, Brianna Phelps, emerging from bushes in a nearby alley. Officers observed that Defendant had an "unusual walk" and a bulge in his waistband. During a pat-down, officers found a sawed-off rifle on Defendant's person. Both the barrel and the stock of the gun were sawed off and there was electrical tape wrapped around the handle. The gun was loaded, with one round in the chamber. (It should be noted that officers later determined the gun in Torres' possession was not the gun which was fired earlier.) Defendant admitted the gun was his and told officers he needed it for protection. Underneath the electrical tape, officers found Defendant's thumb print on the handle of the firearm. Defendant provided a urine sample, which tested positive for marijuana and benzodiazepine.

Defendant is 20 years old. He was born in Detroit, Michigan, but moved to Cedar Rapids in 2011. His mother, grandmother, and siblings continue to reside in the Detroit area. Prior to his arrest on July 25, Defendant was living with his girlfriend, Brianna Phelps, and her father. Defendant has two children (ages 2 and 1) with Phelps, but the children live with Defendant's grandmother in Michigan. Defendant's grandmother testified that Defendant could live with her in Michigan if he is released.

Defendant is in generally good health, but takes medication for anxiety and ADHD. He admitted that he used marijuana a "couple of times" in the past, including early July 2014. According to Defendant, he has worked as a telemarketer in Cedar Rapids and also works on an "as needed" basis as an assembly line worker for Chrysler in Michigan. Defendant told the pretrial services officer that he travels back to Michigan to work for variable amounts of time, and estimated that he has worked there for seven months in the past year.

At age 17, Defendant received two years' probation in Michigan for unarmed robbery and accessory after-the-fact to a felony. While those charges were pending, Defendant was charged with possession of marijuana in Michigan, but that charge was not prosecuted. On July 1, 2014, Defendant was charged in Michigan for assault. He failed to appear for a court proceeding on July 14, and a warrant remains active for his arrest. Eleven days later, on July 25, Defendant was charged in Iowa state court for the events giving rise to the instant federal charges. Following the filing of the criminal complaint in federal court, Defendant was transferred to federal custody and the state charges were dismissed.

II. DISCUSSION

The release or detention of a defendant pending trial is governed by the Bail Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 3142. In United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739 (1987), the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Bail Reform Act of 1984, while noting that "[i]n our society liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception." Id. at 755.

A. Legal Standard to be Applied

If the government moves to have a defendant detained prior to trial, the court must undertake a two-step inquiry. United States v. Friedman, 837 F.2d 48, 49 (2d Cir. 1988). The Court must first determine by a preponderance of the evidence that the case involves an offense listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1), or that the defendant presents certain risk factors, as identified in § 3142(f)(2). Id. Once this determination has been made, the court then determines, pursuant to § 3142(e), whether any condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the defendant's appearance at trial and the safety of the community. Id.

Regarding the first step, pretrial detention is not authorized unless the Court finds that at least one of seven enumerated circumstances is applicable. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f). The first five enumerated circumstances refer to "offense types, " such as crimes of violence, offenses punishable by life imprisonment, serious drug offenses, felonies committed by repeat offenders, and felonies involving minor victims or guns. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(A-E). The last two enumerated circumstances where a hearing is authorized involve "risk factors, " such as a serious risk of flight, or a serious risk the defendant will obstruct justice. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(2)(A-B).

Regarding the second step, if following a hearing "the judicial officer finds that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and the community, " then the judicial officer must order the defendant detained pending the trial. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e). A finding that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the safety of the community must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f). A finding that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure ...


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