Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Hon. Stephen F. Eilperin, Trial Judge
Rogers, Chief Judge, and Newman and Ferren, Associates Judges. Opinion for the court by Associate Judge Ferren. Concurring opinion by Associate Judge Newman.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ferren
Appellant -- on trial for violating the Bail Reform Act (BRA), D.C. Code § 23-1327 (1989) -- was found guilty of criminal contempt for arriving in court one hour and fifty minutes late for the second day of this trial. *fn1 Appellant contends there was insufficient evidence to support the court's finding that he willfully disregarded his duty to appear on time. Because the basis for the trial court's ruling is not clear enough for our review, we remand the record for more specific findings of fact and Conclusions of law based on the hearing already completed. *fn2
After the first day of trial, the deputy marshal told appellant he must appear the next day at 10:00 a.m. When court convened the next day, appellant was not present. His counsel said she did not know where he was and rested a twenty-four hour continuance to try to contact him. Instead, the court passed the case until 2:00 that afternoon. When court resumed, the court noted that appellant had appeared at 11:50 a.m. The court then scheduled a hearing the next day for appellant to show cause why he should not be held in contempt for his tardiness. At the close of the day's proceedings, the court decided to hold appellant without bond pending completion of the trial.
The BRA case was submitted to the jury the next day, and, thereafter, the court promptly conducted a contempt proceeding pursuant to Super. Ct. Crim. R. 42 (b). *fn3 At the hearing, appellant testified without contradiction that on April 20, the night before his second day of trial, he slept at a friend's house. *fn4 He said that there was no telephone or alarm clock in the house and that he did not wear a watch. He stated that he did not inform the others in the house that he needed to get up at a particular time because he did not want anyone to know that he had to be in court. He further testified that he went to bed at 10:30 that night, that he had not slept much the night before, and that he woke up at 10:30 in the morning on the day he was late to court.
Appellant then testified that when he awoke, he looked for a phone number on the paper the court had given him but found none. He also testified that he did not have the money to make a phone call from a phone booth but, had he known what number to call, he would have called from a friend's house. He added that he saw his cousin driving up the street and asked him for a ride. His cousin was in a rush and would not provide the ride, but he did give appellant a dollar to take the bus. Appellant then got on the bus and, according to his testimony, came directly to court. Appellant testified that he did not intend to delay the trial or to cause the court any inconvenience.
At the close of appellant's testimony, his counsel argued that there was no evidence of the willful intent needed to sustain a conviction for criminal contempt. The court responded by stating:
I think the one sort of case the Defendant should make sure he appears on time is for a case where he's charged with failure to appear.
It's absolutely plain that the Defendant was warned to be in court, was told to be in court, was told to be in court at ten o'clock. He testified that he fully understood what that meant, that he was to be back here at ten o'clock in court for his trial and he didn't make it, showed up some two hours late.
The fact that he just overslept does not excuse his actions. That's a wilful failure to appear. He's responsible to get up. He didn't make any effort to have himself here at ten o'clock. Ten o'clock certainly isn't the break of day. He certainly was able to get here.
I find beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Williams is in wilful disobedience of this Court in hindering the administration of Justice in showing up two hours late for his failure to appear trial.
In sentencing appellant to sixty days for his tardiness, the court added:
It seems to me that when you're on trial for failure to appear the one thing you should be absolutely clear on is you make your court appointments and ...