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Alexander v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

June 11, 2015

ROBERT M. ALEXANDER, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE

Submitted April 8, 2015.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CMD-12801-01). (Hon. Brian F. Holeman, Trial Judge).

Lisa D. Chanel was on the brief for appellant.

Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, and Elizabeth Trosman, and Ann K. H. Simon, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief for appellee.

Before GLICKMAN and THOMPSON, Associate Judges, and REID, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 445

Thompson, Associate Judge :

Appellant Robert Alexander pled guilty to possession of marijuana on February 15, 2002, and was sentenced, without adjudication of guilt, to one year of probation. In this appeal, he challenges the September 11, 2013, judgment of the Superior Court revoking his probation and sentencing him to 180 days' incarceration. He argues that the court lacked jurisdiction to revoke his probation because, at the time it did so, the one-year probationary period had already expired. He also contends that he was deprived of due process because the court did not afford him an " opportunity to be heard in person" before issuing the ruling revoking his probation. We affirm.

I.

On February 15, 2002, the Honorable Frederick Dorsey signed an " Order Imposing Probation Without Adjudication of Guilt" that required appellant to, inter alia, submit to testing, to complete recommended treatment for drug dependency, and to submit to the court a quarterly report from his probation officer.[1] On February 20, 2002, Judge Dorsey issued an order setting a status hearing for 9:00 a.m. on January 6, 2003, -- 40 days prior to the anticipated termination of appellant's probation -- for the purpose of assessing appellant's compliance with the probation terms. The record indicates that after appellant showed up late to court on January 6, 2003, and then failed to return to court after a lunch recess, the court issued

Page 446

a bench warrant for his arrest. Bench warrants were re-issued at least three times -- in March 2004, in February 2005, and on July 15, 2013.

In August 2013, ten years after the scheduled January 6, 2003, status hearing, appellant was arrested on the warrant, and on August 30, 2013, he was brought before Judge Michael L. Rankin, who set the matter for a show-cause hearing before Judge Brian F. Holeman. At the show-cause hearing on September 11, 2013, a Probation Department representative informed the court that appellant had never reported to the probation agency following his sentencing in February 2002, even after the supervision officer contacted appellant by phone in April 2002, instructing him to report. The Probation Department representative requested revocation of appellant's probation " based on loss of contact." Appellant asserted through his attorney that he appeared at the status hearing in January 2003, with his 5-year-old son because he did not have any childcare arrangements, that the judge " directed him not to come back . . . until there was somewhere for him to place the child other than the courtroom," and that he did not return to court that day because he could not find a suitable place for the child. Counsel also explained that appellant never reported to probation because of transportation issues. In addition, counsel represented that after the January 2003, status hearing, appellant made inquiries of court personnel about the status of his case and was told that there were no outstanding warrants for his arrest.

Judge Holeman found that appellant's " defense to the failure to appear [was] untenable" and that there was " absolutely nothing [on the record] to indicate that [appellant] either reported to probation or reported back to the judge before whom he was to appear for [the] status hearing." [2] Judge Holeman further found that appellant's explanation that he repeatedly inquired about an existing warrant and was never informed of its existence was " entirely unavailing and not credible." Thereupon the court revoked appellant's ...


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