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United States v. Ball

United States District Court, District Circuit

August 23, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
ANTWUAN BALL, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RICHARD W. ROBERTS Chief Judge

Defendants Antwuan Ball, Desmond Thurston, and Joseph Jones were convicted of distribution of cocaine base (“crack”) and are currently appealing their sentences in the court of appeals. The defendants moved for release pending their appeal. Because the defendants have not met their burden to show that they pose no flight risk or danger to the community during release or that their appeal raises a substantial question likely to result in a reversal, the defendants’ motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND

Eighteen people were indicted for a multitude of narcotics offenses and crimes of violence committed in the Congress Park area. Ball, the alleged leader, Thurston, and Jones were among the eighteen. Eight[1] pled guilty to conspiring for thirteen years with Ball, Thurston, and Jones, to engage in narcotics racketeering. One[2] was tried separately and convicted of, among other charges, engaging in a thirteen-year narcotics conspiracy with Ball, Thurston, and Jones; another[3] pled guilty to engaging in a lengthy narcotics conspiracy with Ball and Thurston. Yet another[4] pled guilty to manslaughter while armed.

Ball, Thurston, and Jones were tried together with others and convicted of multiple crack sales, but acquitted of conspiracy. Each defendant’s sentencing guidelines range, though, was calculated using as relevant conduct evidence of the 1.5 kilograms of crack cocaine involved in the conspiracy. Ball was convicted under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B)(iii) of one count of distribution of 11.6 grams of crack cocaine. His guidelines range was 292 to 365 months imprisonment. He was sentenced to 225 months in prison and 60 months of supervised release. Thurston was convicted under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) of two counts of unlawful distribution of a total of approximately 1.7 grams of crack cocaine. His guidelines range was 262 to 327 months imprisonment. He was sentenced to 194 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release on each count to be served concurrently. Jones was convicted under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) of two counts of unlawful distribution of a total of approximately 1.8 grams of crack cocaine. His guidelines range was 324 to 405 months imprisonment. He was sentenced to 180 months in prison and 72 months of supervised release on each count to be served concurrently. The defendants are currently appealing their sentences in the court of appeals.

The defendants move for release pending their appeal arguing that they are not flight risks and do not pose a danger to the community, and that their appeals raise substantial questions of law which likely will result in reversal. The government opposes, arguing that none of the requirements for release pending appeal has been met.

DISCUSSION

The Bail Reform Act provides that

“a person who has been found guilty of an offense and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and who has filed an appeal” shall be detained unless the court finds “that the person is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community if released” and “that the appeal is not for purpose of delay and raises a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal.”

United States v. Perholtz, 836 F.2d 554, 555 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (per curiam) (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3143(b)). Generally, a judicial officer must detain any person found guilty of “an offense for which a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed in the Controlled Substances Act[.]” 18 U.S.C. §§ 3142(f)(1)(C), 3143(b)(2). However, a person subject to detention under § 3143(b)(2) “who meets the conditions of release . . . may be ordered released, under appropriate conditions, by the judicial officer, if it is clearly shown that there are exceptional reasons why such person’s detention would not be appropriate.” 18 U.S.C. § 3145(c). Here, it is undisputed that the defendants were convicted of offenses that trigger the mandatory detention provision. See Defs.’ Mem. of P. & A. Supporting Defs.’ Mot. for Release (“Defs.’ Mem.”) at 5; Govt.’s Opp’n to Defs.’ Mot. for Release at 5. Thus, § 3143 would normally bar release for these defendants. To qualify for release pending appeal, then, the defendants must show that the statutory requirements of 18 U.S.C. § 3143(b) are met and that there are “exceptional reasons” for release.[5] See United States v. Jones, 800 F.Supp.2d 90, 93 (D.D.C. 2011).

I. FLIGHT RISK AND DANGER TO THE COMMUNITY

For the defendants to qualify for release under the Bail Reform Act, the court must find “by clear and convincing evidence that the person is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community if released under section 3142(b) or (c)[.]” 18 U.S.C. § 3143(b). Under § 3142, the court is required to consider

(1) the nature and circumstances of the ...

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