United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
D. BATES United States District Judge.
superseding indictment, defendant Robert Apperson, along with
eight co-conspirators, has been indicted for distributing
heroin and cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. At
the center of the alleged conspiracy is Ra'Sonne Amealo
Bell, who purchased heroin and cocaine from Richard Jamal
Solomon, a drug supplier in New York, and then distributed
the narcotics to alleged co-conspirators in the Washington,
D.C.-area, including Apperson. The Government's
investigation of this conspiracy reached its climax on
January 7, 2016, when Bell and another defendant were
arrested in Philadelphia with approximately two kilograms of
suspected cocaine and approximately 300 grams of suspected
heroin. Phone calls and text messages between Bell and a
co-conspirator, as well as testimony from another witness,
indicate that Apperson acted as a distributor in the
Culpeper, Virginia, area for Bell's narcotics.
Government moved that Apperson be detained prior to trial
pursuant to the Bail Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e),
and filed a supporting memorandum. Gov't's Mot. for
Detention [ECF No. 90]. At the detention hearing on September
15, 2016, Apperson's counsel orally requested that
Apperson be released on bond and placed in the High Intensity
Supervision Program (HISP), pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §
3142(c). The Pretrial Services Agency confirmed that Apperson
is eligible for HISP. After careful review of the proffered
facts and the law, the Court will grant the Government's
motion and order that defendant Apperson be detained without
bond pending trial. See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e).
Bail Reform Act aims to provide “fair bail procedures
while protecting the safety of the public and assuring the
appearance at trial of defendants found likely to
flee.” United States v. Montalvo-Murillo, 495
U.S. 711, 720 (1990). The Court must order that a defendant
be detained prior to trial if, after a detention hearing, the
Court “finds that no condition or combination of
conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the
[defendant] as required and the safety of any other person
and the community.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(1). When
making that determination, the Court must consider (1) the
nature and circumstances of the offense charged; (2) the
weight of the evidence against the defendant; (3) the history
and characteristics of the defendant, including the
defendant's character, physical and mental condition,
family ties, employment, financial resources, length of
residence in the community, community ties, past conduct,
history relating to drug or alcohol abuse, criminal history,
and record concerning appearance at court proceedings; and
(4) the nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or
the community that would be posed by the defendant's
release. Id. § 3142(g).
the statute, detention must be supported by clear and
convincing evidence when justified based on the
defendant's danger to the community, and must be
supported by a preponderance of the evidence when justified
based on the defendant's risk of flight. United
States v. Simpkins, 826 F.2d 94, 96 (D.C. Cir. 1987); 18
U.S.C. § 3142(f). When the defendant is charged with an
offense under the Controlled Substances Act that is
punishable by more than 10 years' imprisonment-which
Apperson is-then the statute contains a rebuttable
presumption that “no condition or combination of
conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the
[defendant] as required and the safety of the
community.” See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3),
(e)(3)(A). For this presumption to apply, the Court must have
probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the
offense. Id. § 3142(e)(3). However, the
indictment itself may establish that probable cause.
United States v. Smith, 79 F.3d 1208, 1209 (D.C.
Cir. 1996) (per curiam). Even when the presumption applies,
the Court must still weigh the evidence and make the ultimate
determination. See United States v. Dillon, 938 F.2d
1412, 1416 (1st Cir. 1991) (“When a defendant produces
such evidence, however, the presumption does not disappear.
The burden of persuasion remains on the government and the
rebutted presumption retains evidentiary weight”)
(internal citations omitted); United States v.
Muschetta, 118 F.Supp.3d 340, 344 (D.D.C. 2015).
rebuttable presumption applies here. Apperson is charged with
conspiring to distribute one kilogram of heroin and five
kilograms of cocaine in violation of the Controlled
Substances Act, a felony that is punishable by a maximum term
of more than 10 years' imprisonment. See 21
U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(i)-(ii). The
indictment provides probable cause for the Court to believe
that Apperson committed the charged offenses, for the
purposes of triggering the presumption.
alleged role in the conspiracy was to distribute narcotics in
Culpeper, Virginia, along with his partner, Rodney Simms.
Gov't's Mot. for Detention [ECF No. 90] ¶ 23.
According to the Government, Apperson and Simms pooled their
money to purchase bulk quantities of heroin and cocaine from
Bell for distribution in the Culpeper neighborhood.
Id. The Government provides numerous text messages
and phone conversations between Bell and Simms regarding
purchasing and distributing the narcotics. Id.
¶¶ 24-29. Some of Simms's messages and
conversations referred to a third-party, sometimes described
as Simms's nephew. Id. The messages and
conversations recount that this third party owed Bell money
in exchange for narcotics that Bell had supplied,
id. ¶¶ 27-29, and that the third party had
a distribution network that could convert cocaine into crack
cocaine, id. ¶ 24. The Government proffered
during the hearing that it has evidence that Apperson is the
third party to whom Simms refers. According to the
Government, law enforcement officers also observed Apperson
driving Simms to a meeting with Bell. Id. ¶ 30.
Additionally, the Government proffered that Apperson has
continued distributing narcotics to Claire Stinnett for her
personal use and for distribution, even after Bell, Simms,
and other co-conspirators were arrested. Id. ¶
31. Stinnett has provided a statement to law enforcement
officers corroborating that Apperson supplied her with
cocaine and heroin for her use and for distribution to
approximately 100 people. Id. ¶ 33. The
Government has also conducted controlled purchases of cocaine
from Apperson in the Culpeper area. Id. ¶ 34.
on this proffered evidence, the Government argues that
Apperson presents a significant flight risk. The Government
proffered that he has significant cash on hand from his
illegal drug dealing, as demonstrated by the fact that he
recently purchased a luxury car paying $16, 200 in cash,
mostly one-hundred dollar bills, and noted that he would pay
the rest of the loan within two months. Further, the
government argued that the nature of his role as a drug
distributor means he has significant contacts outside of this
area, allowing him to flee easily. See United States v.
Alatishe, 768 F.2d 364, 370 n.13 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (the
“lucrative nature of drug trafficking, and the fact
that drug traffickers often have established substantial ties
outside the United States” indicates a high risk of
flight (quoting S. Rep. No. 225, 98th Cong., 1st Sess. 20
(1983), U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News 1984, p. 3203)).
The Government also proffered evidence that Apperson helped
Stinnett attempt to flee from a drug-treatment center to
avoid facing prosecution for her own alleged drug
distribution. Gov't's Mot. for Detention [ECF No. 90]
response, Apperson points to his significant community ties.
At his detention hearing, Apperson indicated that he has
never owned a passport or traveled out of the country, that
his entire family lives in Culpeper, Virginia, and provides
him with a strong support network there, and that he owns a
business in Virginia. Apperson presented several letters from
members of his community and his church indicating that he
has strong community ties and therefore does not present a
significant flight risk. He also lives with his minor son and
girlfriend, and is therefore unlikely to leave them. Apperson
proffered no evidence, however, in response to the
Government's presentation regarding the offense conduct.
Government also argues that Apperson presents a significant
danger to members of the community through his distribution
of heroin and cocaine. Stinnett has provided evidence to the
Government that Apperson regularly provided her with heroin
for her personal use and cocaine for distribution in the
Culpeper area. Id. Indeed, the Government states,
Stinnett was foiled in her own attempt to flee-which was
aided by Apperson-because she was discovered having overdosed
on narcotics that were supplied by Apperson. Id.
Given the “significant risk of pretrial
recidivism” for defendants who are accused of
“distributing dangerous drugs, ” the government
argues that no conditions of release can mitigate the risk of
danger to the community. Alatishe, 768 F.2d at 370
n.13 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).