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United States v. Van Etheridge

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

November 21, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
VAN ETHERIDGE, Defendant

Decided November 20, 2013

For VAN ETHERIDGE, Defendant: H. Heather Shaner, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF H. HEATHER SHANER, Washington, DC.

For USA, Plaintiff: David B. Kent, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC; Gregory G. Marshall, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Organized Crime and Narcotics Trafficking Section, Washington, DC; S. Elisabeth Poteat, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, National Security Division, Washington, DC.

OPINION

Thomas F. Hogan, United States District Judge.

Page 193

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Before the Court is Defendant Van Maurice Etheridge's renewed Motion for Early Termination of Supervised Release [Dkt. No. 32]. After carefully considering the motion, the government's opposition, and the record of this case, the Court GRANTS the motion.

I. Background

Between 2001 and 2005, Mr. Etheridge bought, sold, and transported wholesale quantities of methamphetamine as part of a large-scale narcotics conspiracy. Mr. Etheridge took responsibility for his actions and pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute fifty grams or more of methamphetamine or five-hundred grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § § 846, 841(a)(1) & (b)(1)(A)(viii). Once released from prison, Mr. Etheridge began his five year term of supervised release. He has now served four-fifths of his five year sentence.

On February 2, 2013, Mr. Etheridge filed his first motion asking this Court to terminate his supervised release, or, in the alternative, to modify the terms of the release to allow him to travel freely in connection with his employment. Def.'s 1st Mot. at 1 [Dkt. No. 30]. Mr. Etheridge explained that he has successfully completed substance abuse treatment, satisfied all financial obligations, participated in mental health programs as directed by the Probation Office, and otherwise complied with the terms of his supervised release. Id. at 1-2. Mr. Etheridge has been drug free for six years and has meritoriously held the same job for more than five years. Id. at 2. In addition, Mr. Etheridge had recently been promoted to a position that required travel on short notice, but the conditions of his release prevented him from traveling without permission. Id. On April 3, 2013, this Court denied Mr. Etheridge's request to terminate his supervised release, but modified the conditions

Page 194

of his release to allow him to travel freely within the United States for business purposes. The Court informed Mr. Etheridge that it would entertain a renewed in October of 2013, after Mr. Etheridge had successfully completed four out of the five years of his supervised release term. Mr. Etheridge renewed his motion at that time. Def's 2d Mot. [Dkt. No. 32]

At the hearing on the renewed motion, Mr. Etheridge explained through counsel that the organization he worked for had recently expanded internationally, and as a result, Mr. Etheridge's employer would require him to travel abroad in the near future. This Court had previously lifted the requirement that Mr. Etheridge seek permission before domestic travel. But before Mr. Etheridge can enter another country, his probation officer is required inform the receiving country's consulate of Mr. Etheridge's release status. See Monograph 109, Supervision of Federal Offenders § 460.55.30(c). Counsel explained that if a foreign government denied Mr. Etheridge the right to travel to that country, Mr. Etheridge might lose his job.

This Court conferred with Mr. Etheridge's probation officer concerning his progress and behavior while on supervised release. The Probation Office opposed Mr. Etheridge's petition due to the seriousness of the charged offense. However, Mr. Etheridge's probation officer confirmed that Mr. Etheridge's recovery was remarkable. Mr. Etheridge has never had a positive drug test or failed to check in as required, an accomplishment his probation officer described as extremely rare. In addition, Mr. Etheridge's probation officer explained that Mr. Etheridge was less likely to relapse into his drug addiction because he had found positive interests, including physical exercise and regular attendance at meetings for recovering addicts, to replace the role that drug use had previously played in his life.

Though the United States does not dispute that the defendant has complied with the terms of his release, it filed an opposition to the request for early termination. Resp. to Def.'s 2d Mot [Dkt. No. 33]. The government argues that given the seriousness of Mr. Etheridge's offense and the sentencing benefits he has already ...


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