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U.S. v. HUDSPETH

June 19, 2001

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
V.
TIMOTHY LOUIS HUDSPETH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

Timothy Hudspeth and others are charged in a one count indictment with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. On May 9, 2001, the United States moved to have Hudspeth detained without bond pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e). Following a lengthy hearing, Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson denied the United States' motion. Applying well-established principles of law and taking into account a rebuttable presumption that no condition or combination of conditions of release would reasonably assure the safety of the community should Hudspeth not be detained, Magistrate Judge Robinson concluded that the United States had not carried its burden of showing that pretrial detention was warranted. By oral motion, the United States immediately moved to have this court review and revoke Magistrate Judge Robinson's release order. The motion of the United States was denied in an oral ruling made from the bench. This memorandum addresses important issues implicated by the United States' effort to have Hudspeth detained*fn1 and sets forth the rationale for the court's decision.

I.

On April 24, 2001, Hudspeth and co-defendants William Handy, Christopher Hall, Donald Goodman, and Michael Zorn were indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. The Government proffers that these men participated in a scheme to transport large quantities of cocaine from California to the Washington, D.C. area. It is alleged that since February, 2001, they made four such shipments, with the fourth containing 39 kilograms of cocaine powder. The United States contends that defendants concealed the cocaine shipments by transporting them with skin care merchandise from a front company called Skin Tight Products ("Skin Tight"). William Handy owns and operates Skin Tight, while Hudspeth serves as its director of marketing. The United States further proffers that Handy and Hudspeth used one of Skin Tight's vans, a blue Toyota Previa, a vehicle fitted with a secret compartment, to transport the cocaine across country.

Based on surveillance video and intercepted telephone calls, the Government submits that Handy drove the Previa van to Hudspeth's home in Compton, California, where it was loaded with 39 kilograms of cocaine hidden in the van's secret compartment, along with 50 to 150 bottles of Skin Tight merchandise. About a day and a half later, Donald Goodman and Michael Zorn drove the van from Hudspeth's home in California to the Washington, D.C. area. The Government proffers that Hudspeth was in regular phone contact with Goodman and Zorn during the trip and that he monitored their progress across the country.

Once the van arrived in the Washington, D.C. area, Handy and Hudspeth flew from California to meet up with the van. But before Handy and Hudspeth arrived at the meeting location, police authorities in Frederick, Maryland stopped and searched the van, discovering the 39 kilograms of cocaine powder hidden in the van's secret compartment. Zorn and Goodman were placed under arrest. Later, a police officer posing as Zorn called Handy to indicate that Goodman had been arrested for a minor traffic offense, but that he (the police officer disguised as Zorn) had possession of the van and its contents. Zorn indicated that he could not complete the drop off and that Handy and Hudspeth should travel to Frederick, Maryland to get the van. Handy and Hudspeth drove together to pick up the van, but were later arrested by police authorities. After the arrests, police officials executed a search warrant at Hudspeth's Compton, California home. Authorities seized $2,200 in cash, a heat sealer, a digital scale, plastic bags, and two glass beakers. The officers also found cocaine residue in the glass beakers.

Following a two-hour detention hearing, Magistrate Judge Robinson concluded that "the Government had not carried its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence, even with the aid of the presumption, that no condition or combination of conditions would reasonably assure the safety of the community" if Hudspeth were released pending trial. Transcript of Detention Hearing before Magistrate Judge Robinson at 80 (D.D.C. May 14, 2001) ("Hearing Transcript"). In lieu of detention, Magistrate Judge Robinson released Hudspeth on a $25,000 unsecured appearance bond and ordered that he be placed on electronic monitoring to be supervised by the United States Probation Office in Los Angeles. Magistrate Judge Robinson also set specific restrictions on Hudspeth's travels.

Upon the oral request of an Assistant United States Attorney, this court set a date and time for a hearing on the United States' motion for review of the Magistrate Judge's release decision, and Magistrate Judge Robinson stayed her order releasing Hudspeth until this court's decision on the United States' review motion.

II. Proper Procedure

The United States' effort to have Magistrate Judge Robinson's release order reviewed and revoked raises two important issues that merit a written response from this court. The first issue is the procedure the Government must follow if it wishes to have a District Judge review a Magistrate Judge's order releasing an accused pending trial. Fortunately, the court need not write on a clean slate for the Bail Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3145, clearly sets forth the procedure to be followed. In pertinent part, the Bail Reform Act states:

(a) Review of a release order. — If a person is ordered released by a magistrate, or by a person other than a judge of a court having original jurisdiction over the offense . . .

(1) the attorney for the Government may file, with the court having original jurisdiction over the offense, a motion for revocation of the order or amendment of the conditions of release;

The motion shall be determined ...


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