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Bradley v. District of Columbia

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

January 22, 2015


Argued January 8, 2013

Page 587

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CTF-5276-10). (Hon. Frederick J. Sullivan, Magistrate Judge). (Hon. Florence Y. Pan, Associate Judge).

George Weiss, with whom Stephen F. Brennwald was on the brief, for appellant.

John J. Woykovsky, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Rosalynn Calbert Groce, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief and supplemental brief, for appellee.

James Klein and Samia Fam, Public Defender Service, filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of appellant.

Before EASTERLY and MCLEESE, Associate Judges, and FERREN, Senior Judge.


Page 588

Easterly, Associate Judge  

" [S]entencing is a critical stage of a criminal trial; to a criminal defendant, perhaps the most important." [1] The goal is to have the punishment fit the individual defendant and the crime he committed. That goal is not served when a sentencing judge relies on a mistaken understanding of a defendant's criminal history.

In this case, Jerome Bradley was convicted of driving without a license,[2] operating a vehicle after revocation or suspension,[3] reckless driving,[4] operating an all-terrain vehicle on public property,[5] and fleeing from the scene of an accident.[6] The charges arose from an incident in which Mr. Bradley lost control of the all-terrain vehicle he was driving on a city street and hit a pedestrian. After finding Mr. Bradley guilty, the magistrate judge immediately proceeded to sentencing and made a number of remarks about Mr. Bradley that lacked adequate support, either in the trial record, or in documents available on CourtView[7] that the magistrate judge subsequently identified, after a record remand, as the basis for his sentencing determination.

Page 589

With this opinion we reaffirm that " [m]isinformation or misunderstanding that is materially untrue regarding a prior criminal record, or material false assumptions as to any facts relevant to sentencing, renders the entire sentencing procedure invalid as a violation of due process." United States v. Hamid, 531 A.2d 628, 644 (D.C. 1987) (quoting United States v. Malcolm, 432 F.2d 809, 816 (2d Cir. 1970)) (emphasis omitted). We also reinforce principles of transparency and make clear that if a sentencing court is considering extra-record information about a defendant in CourtView, i.e., pleadings and documents associated with other cases, the court must disclose that fact to the parties and make those documents part of the record. Applying these principles to this case, we hold that Mr. Bradley's right to due process at sentencing was violated. Thus, although we affirm his conviction, we vacate his sentence and remand for resentencing.

I. Facts and Procedural History

In the early evening hours on March 24, 2010, Mr. Bradley was driving an all-terrain vehicle (" ATV" ) on 8th Street Southeast when he came head-to-head with a police car. Mr. Bradley veered around the police car, lost control of the ATV, and drove over the curb and into a group of people standing on the other side of the street. The ATV hit Julius Mgongo, who flipped over the vehicle and suffered a broken leg. After the accident, Mr. Bradley ran, and the police caught up to him a few blocks away.

Mr. Bradley's case was tried before a magistrate judge in a single afternoon. With no pause in the proceedings, the magistrate judge heard testimony from the police, Mr. Mgongo, a number of bystanders, and Mr. Bradley; [8] heard closing arguments; and found Mr. Bradley guilty of all charges.

Immediately after announcing his verdict, the magistrate judge asked the government if it wanted " to get a presentence report" or to submit a victim impact statement; the magistrate judge acknowledged, however, that " it sounds like the victim has made peace with Mr. Bradley here." The government responded that it was " ready to proceed with sentencing now" and saw no " need for a presentence report." The magistrate judge then offered to order a presentence report if defense counsel wished one to be generated, but indicated that Mr. Bradley would be locked up pending sentencing, or, as the magistrate judge put it, Mr. Bradley was " going to jail tonight, right now." Counsel responded, " then we better proceed today."

The magistrate judge directed the government to make its sentencing recommendation. The prosecutor requested a sentence of at least six months of jail time. In support of this request the prosecutor quickly reviewed what the government considered to be the salient facts: that Mr. Mgongo suffered a broken leg which required surgery; Mr. Bradley had run from the scene of the accident; Mr. Bradley had prior convictions, including " run-ins with the law around drug[s] and guns" ; and Mr. Bradley was on probation at the time of the accident.

Defense counsel and Mr. Bradley spoke next, with counsel representing that Mr.

Page 590

Mgongo did not want Mr. Bradley to go to jail, and Mr. Bradley explaining that he had apologized to Mr. Mgongo and had tried to help him out financially. Mr. Bradley also explained that he needed to keep working at his ...

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