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United States v. Samuels

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 21, 2018

ABDUL K. SAMUELS, Defendant.



         This matter comes before the Court upon the application of the United States that Defendant, Abdul K. Samuels, be detained pending trial pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142. Defendant is charged by indictment with one count of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), one count of unlawful possession with intent to distribute cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C), and one count of using, carrying, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). The Court held a detention hearing on May 16, 2018. At the conclusion of that hearing and upon consideration of the proffers and arguments of counsel and the entire record herein, the Court ordered Defendant held without bond. 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).


         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, but did provide, also by proffer, additional information about the history and characteristics of Defendant, specifically about his ties to the community. Accordingly, the Court makes the following findings of fact.

         A. Evidence Relevant to the Charged Offense

         On February 1, 2018, as part of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) into narcotics trafficking from a particular premises on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue (“MLK Avenue”) in the southeast quadrant of the District of Columbia, law enforcement executed a search warrant on that premises, which comprises a barber shop on the first floor and a series of eight rooms, including a kitchen and bathroom, on the second floor. In the barber shop, agents recovered various kinds of drug paraphernalia (baggies, capsules, ziplocs, and a digital scale), a loaded 9mm firearm and assorted ammunition, and a ziploc containing a substance suspected to be heroin. In one of the rooms on the second floor, agents recovered a wallet, identification, credit cards, and mail matter in the name of a person, present at the search, who identified himself as the barbershop manager. That room also contained drug paraphernalia, such as baggies, a razor blade, a straw, and a scale; a vial of PCP; and six rounds of ammunition. Two more loaded firearms, as well as more ammunition, more drug paraphernalia, and more suspected drugs were found in the kitchen. Other rooms contained more drugs-PCP, heroin, and suboxone, some packaged for sale-more paraphernalia, including two more scales, and over $7, 000 in cash. Agents also discovered a document directed to one of the targets of the ATF investigation, an individual named Anthony Fields, whose vehicle, which had been searched earlier, had contained the keys to the premises on MLK Avenue.[1]

         Also on February 1, 2018, law enforcement executed a search warrant at an address on 46th Street in the southeastern quadrant of the District of Columbia. This search recovered an identification card and miscellaneous documents in the name of Mr. Fields. Agents also found a ledger, consistent with narcotics record keeping, with the notation “Foots” and the number 500 next to it, which law enforcement interpreted as documentation of a $500 narcotics debt owed by “Foots” to Mr. Fields. On March 14, 2018, agents executed a search warrant on nineteen cell phones seized during the February 1 searches. Forensic extraction performed on the devices was able to match the sobriquet “Foots” to a cell phone number, and also discovered several phone calls between “Foots” and Mr. Fields. Using a law enforcement database, agents were able to identify Defendant as “Foots.” Agents also obtained Mr. Fields' jail calls (as noted, Mr. Fields has been detained since his arrest in early February), and heard him giving an unidentified female a list of seven phone numbers, one of which was Defendant's. During another call, Mr. Fields instructed a woman to call the number identified with Defendant. When the person at that number joined the three-way call, the woman called him “Foots, ” and Mr. Fields told “Foots” to tell Mr. Fields' attorney that “Foots” had a key to the barbershop.

         Law enforcement then confirmed that Defendant had a driver's license listing an address on Alabama Avenue in the southeastern quadrant of the District of Columbia, and also had a vehicle registered to that address. On April 13, 2018, ATF agents removed two bags of garbage from a bin in the alley behind that premises. From one of them they recovered mail directed to Defendant at that address, as well as part of a plastic bag coated with a white powdery residue consistent with cocaine powder. From the other bag, agents found mail addressed to a woman who, they later discovered also had a vehicle registered to the Alabama Avenue address. That receptacle also contained bag fragments with white, powdery residue. At a later search of trash left behind the residence, law enforcement found more mail in Defendant's name, as well as some unused pink zips, which are commonly used to package narcotics.

         On April 26, 2018, officers from the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority stopped Defendant on the Dulles Airport access road in Virginia on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, commonly referred to as driving under the influence. Officers observed a baggie containing five rocks of crack cocaine, which weighed (with the packaging), approximately eighteen grams. Defendant was arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance.

         On May 10, 2018, law enforcement executed a search warrant at the Alabama Avenue address associated with Defendant. The door was not answered when agents knocked and announced that they were law enforcement; when the door was breached, agents detained Defendant, who identified himself. Also present in the residence was the woman who received mail at and had a vehicle registered to the address, who has been identified as Defendant's girlfriend. Upon entering, agents observed in Defendant's hand a plastic bag fragment that was later recovered on the kitchen counter. A white rock-like substance in the baggie field-tested positive for crack and weighed approximately 4.9 grams (with the packaging). From the master bedroom, agents recovered a 12-gauge shotgun, one round of 12-gauge ammunition, and two rounds of .45 caliber ammunition; twenty-two rounds of 12-gauge ammunition were discovered near the front door. Agents also found drug paraphernalia at the residence, including a razor blade, a Pyrex cup with white residue, a spoon, zips, and a digital scale. A rental car that agents had observed Defendant driving was present near the residence. A drug dog alerted upon examination of the vehicle. When searched, the vehicle contained baggies and a digital scale, as well as mail in Defendant's name. After Defendant was advised of his Miranda rights, he admitted that the shotgun was his and that he knew he was prohibited from possessing it as a convicted felon. Defendant denied being a drug dealer, asserting that he was merely a drug user. However, Defendant's drug test upon arrest was positive for opiates and negative for cocaine, which is consistent with the government's theory that, although Defendant may use heroin or other opiates, he deals cocaine base.

         B. Defendant's Criminal History

         Defendant has a rather lengthy history of arrests and convictions. In March 1993, he was arrested for possession with intent to distribute PCP/LSD, and pleaded guilty to two possession offenses. He was sentenced in April 1994 to a term of imprisonment of nine months. In November 1993, he was arrested for possession with intent to distribute cocaine; he pleaded guilty to possession and was sentenced in November 1994 to a term of imprisonment of six months. In 1995, Defendant pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of forty months to ten years. More recently, on March 23, 2018, Defendant was arrested for leaving the scene of a collision resulting in personal injury. That case is pending in D.C. Superior Court. Finally, on April 26, 2018, Defendant was arrested in Virginia for possession of narcotics-the approximately 18 grams of crack mentioned above. He was on pretrial release in both those recent cases at the time of the search of the Alabama Avenue residence and his arrest on these federal charges.


         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 if a defendant is not considered a flight risk, his or her danger to the community alone is sufficient reason to order pretrial detention, and vice versa. United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 755 (1987); 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 ...

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