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United States v. Smoot

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 18, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CHARLES LEE SMOOT, Defendant.

          DETENTION MEMORANDUM

          G. MICHAEL HARVEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court upon the application of the United States that Defendant, Charles Smoot (“Smoot” or “Defendant”), be detained pending trial pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 3142(f)(1)(A) and (f)(1)(D). Defendant has been charged by Indictment with one count of bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). The Court held a detention hearing for Defendant on July 14, 2017. Upon consideration of the proffers and arguments of counsel and the entire record herein, the Court ordered that Defendant be held without bail pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e). This memorandum is submitted in compliance with the statutory obligation that “the judicial officer shall . . . include written findings of fact and a written statement of the reasons for the detention.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(i)(1).

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         At the detention hearing, the United States proceeded by proffer based on the Indictment. The defense offered no contrary evidence on the merits of the offense, nor challenged any aspect of the government's factual proffer. Accordingly, the Court makes the following findings of fact regarding the government's investigation.

         On the morning of July 5, 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) learned of a robbery at the TD Bank located at 905 Rhode Island Avenue NE, Washington, D.C. According to the government's proffer, the suspect walked into the bank that morning and approached two tellers, one of whom was pregnant. He handed them each a note reading “No Die Pck, No Police, ALL your money, ” and threatened to kill them if they did not comply.[1] The tellers handed the suspect $5, 121.00 and included in the stash two packs of “bait money” equipped with a small GPS tracking device. Throughout the robbery, the suspect had his right arm concealed inside a black Under Armour bag, apparently to give the impression that he was armed. At no time during the robbery, however, did the suspect brandish a weapon. After receiving the money, the suspect quickly left the store, got into a vehicle, and fled the scene. According to surveillance footage provided by the bank, the suspect is a slender black male, approximately 5'8” tall, and likely in his forties. On the day of the robbery, he was wearing dark pants, a dark shirt, black sunglasses, light grey shoes with white soles, a watch, and a hat with a white skull emblazoned on the front.

         After the suspect left the bank, the tellers activated the two GPS tracking devices and observed them move quickly from the bank to a location near 62nd Street NE. There, the devices separated, indicating that the suspect may have been working with an unidentified accomplice, with one moving slowly off the roadway and the other one continuing to travel at a high rate of speed down the roadway. The slow-moving device was eventually recovered near 308 63rd Street NE in a black plastic bag with an unspecified amount of cash. FBI agents tracked the other GPS device to a condemned home located at 405 60th Street NE. The agents began to surveil the residence and saw a black male in his sixties wearing a red shirt, red hat, red shorts, and black shoes walking in the area. The man, who later identified himself to law enforcement as Anthony Pierce, began talking to other occupants of the house and then walked to a storm drain near the residence and appeared to slip something into it.

         While surveilling the residence, FBI agents saw Pierce speak to an individual matching the description of the bank robbery suspect. Law enforcement photographed this individual as he went in and out of the residence and later determined the he was similar in appearance to both the suspect in the TD Bank robbery on July 5, 2017, as well as a robbery of an Old Dominion bank located in Vienna, Virginia on June 22, 2017. After a short period of time, law enforcement saw the suspect drive away in a red Volvo station wagon bearing a Virginia license plate with the number VVD-2593. The agents searched the law enforcement databases for that license plate, determined that it was not registered to a red Volvo station wagon, and attempted to stop the vehicle. The suspect, however, refused to stop and was able to evade law enforcement by quickly driving away.

         Later that day, Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson authorized a warrant to search the premises located at 405 60th Street NE, Washington, D.C. Law enforcement executed the warrant that evening, and found approximately fifteen people inside, including the owner of the property. During the search, law enforcement recovered from the living room a black Under Armour bag consistent in appearance with the bag used in the bank robbery earlier that morning and a pair of black glasses inside the bag. On top of a laundry machine, law enforcement recovered a pair of black pants consistent with the pants the suspect wore during the robbery. Additionally, law enforcement officers found the GPS device that they had tracked there in a storm drain in front of the residence.

         During the search, the owner of the property admitted that she had been drinking earlier that day and appeared intoxicated. Law enforcement proceeded to interview her, and she explained that an individual who goes by Dallas-his first name, according to the owner, is Charles-was in the house earlier that day. The owner described Dallas as a 5'7” male with a medium build and a groomed beard, and said that he was wearing black jean shorts, a grey tank top, light grey shoes, and a grey hat with a white skull on it when she saw him. She reported that Dallas had stayed at the residence off-and-on for the past two weeks and more sporadically over the last year. Dallas, the owner said, typically stayed in the living room of the house but had some of his belongings in her room. When he arrived at the residence that day, at approximately 11:00 AM, the owner told law enforcement that Dallas ran around the house, ran outside, and then came back inside. She said that he then began to peek out the door and act in an otherwise paranoid manner. The owner provided law enforcement with her cell phone and informed the agents that he had used it earlier that day to contact an individual she believed to be his girlfriend.

         Law enforcement contacted Defendant's purported girlfriend and interviewed her on July 6, 2017. She informed law enforcement that she knew Dallas, and that his full name is Charles Smoot. She met Smoot approximately six months prior and admitted that she had contacted him by sending a text message to the owner of the home's cell phone. On the morning of July 5, 2017, according to this witness, Smoot sent her a series of text messages using that cell phone, explaining that he needed $300 to pay off his own cell phone bill. Later that day, she received a missed call from Smoot. When law enforcement showed her still images of the suspect from the video footage of the July 5, 2017 TD Bank robbery, she indicated that the individual “looked like it could be” Defendant. Law enforcement also showed her still images of the suspect in the Old Dominion Bank robbery, but the witness was unable to determine if the individual was Defendant due to the quality of the images. Smoot had told her in the past, however, that he had robbed banks.

         On July 7, 2017, law enforcement arrested Defendant at Union Station in Washington, D.C. At the time of his arrest, Defendant was wearing light grey shoes and a large black watch similar to those that can be seen in the footage of the TD Bank robbery, and was carrying a white Samsung Smartphone. Later, law enforcement officers advised Defendant of his Miranda rights and he agreed to speak with them. He denied participating in either the July 5, 2017 TD Bank robbery or the June 22, 2017 Old Dominion Bank robbery. Though he acknowledged that he was the individual who evaded law enforcement after leaving the residence located at 405 60th Street NE in the red Volvo on the afternoon of July 5, 2017, he stated that he was unsure if the photographs that law enforcement took of the suspect while surveilling that residence were him. Upon his arrest, law enforcement learned that the United States District Court for the District of Maryland had issued an arrest warrant for violations of the conditions of his supervised release related to a 2009 conviction in that jurisdiction. Accordingly, there is another matter in this Court regarding Defendant's removal to Maryland, United States v. Charles L. Smoot, 1:17-mj-00480-DAR, that is currently stayed pending the resolution of the instant case.

         Following his arrest, on July 11, 2017, a federal grand jury returned an Indictment charging Defendant with one count of bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). He had his initial appearance in this charge on July 7, 2017, and the government moved to have him detained pending trial. The Court held a detention hearing on July 14, 2017. At the hearing, the government submitted a series of still images-including three images of the suspect in the TD Bank on July 5, 2017, an image of one of the notes the suspect handed the bank tellers during the robbery, and an image of Defendant outside the residence located at 405 60th Street NE-for the Court's consideration. At the hearing, defense counsel noted that Defendant has a history of drug abuse and requested that the undersigned release Defendant with certain conditions to a halfway house for treatment. An officer with the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, however, explained that Defendant does not qualify for placement at a halfway house because he has a pending removal proceeding in this district.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The Bail Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 3142 et seq., provides, in pertinent part, that if a judicial officer finds by clear and convincing evidence that “no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and the community, such judicial officer shall order the detention of the [defendant] before trial.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e). Thus, even absent a flight risk, danger to the community alone is a sufficient reason to order pretrial detention. United States v. Salerno, 489 U.S. 739, 755 (1987); see also United States v. Perry, 788 F.2d 100, 113 (3d Cir. 1986); United States v. Sazenski, 806 F.2d 846, 848 (8th Cir. 1986). Where the judicial officer's justification for detention is premised upon the safety of the community, the decision must be supported by “clear and convincing evidence.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f). Where the justification for ...


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