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United States v. Jaffee

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 1, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
BRENT JAFFEE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Brent Jaffee seeks revocation of the magistrate judge's April 5, 2019 order directing that he remain in custody pending trial. Dkt. 9. Jaffee was arrested on March 27, 2019, Dkt. 4, and charged by indictment with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition by a Person Convicted of a Crime Punishable by Imprisonment for a Term Exceeding One Year, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count One); Unlawful Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(D) (Count Two); and Using, Carrying, and Possessing a Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (Count Three), Dkt. 1. Jaffee was arraigned that same day, and, on April 1, a detention hearing was held. See Minute Entry (Apr. 1, 2019). The magistrate judge ordered Jaffee held without bond, finding by clear and convincing evidence that no combination of conditions could reasonably assure the safety of the community if he were released. Dkt. 7.

         Jaffee has now moved to revoke that pretrial detention order. Dkt. 9; 18 U.S.C. § 3145(b). The Court finds that, although Jaffee has met his burden of production in response to the statutory presumption in favor of detention triggered by the § 924(c)(1) charge in this case, the Government has still shown by clear and convincing evidence that no set of conditions exists that would reasonably assure the safety of the community. The Court will, accordingly, order that Jaffee remain held pending trial.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Although discovery is not yet complete, the parties have provided the following materials to the Court: body-worn camera footage from Officer Brenton Atkins, taken on the night of October 14, 2019, Dkt. 15 Ex. 1; body-worn camera footage from Officer Joseph Prendergast and Sergeant Maurice MacDonald, taken in the course of executing a search warrant on Jaffee's residence on January 16, 2019, Dkt. 12 Ex. 1; and the search warrant and supporting affidavit for the search of Jaffee's residence that same day, Dkt. 16-1. These materials and the parties' submissions show as follows:

         On October 14, 2018, Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) officers responded to a call reporting a possible robbery at an apartment on Sixth Street, S.E., in Washington, D.C. Dkt. 6 at 3. Shortly after Officer Atkins activated his body-worn camera, another officer arriving at the scene reported over the radio that he found “a clear apartment, but with blood and signs of a struggle inside, ” and he instructed available officers to “canvass [the] surrounding blocks for someone bleeding.” Dkt. 15 Ex. 1 (BA 21:37:54-21:38:01). By the time Officer Atkins arrived at a nearby corner, several MPD officers and medical personnel were attending to Jaffee in an ambulance. Id. (BA 21:43:08-16). One of the officers told Officer Atkins that Jaffee was “really trying to get away” and had “tried to get an Uber, but the Uber wouldn't take him.” Id. (BA 21:43:36-40). When Jaffee emerges from the ambulance and first appears on the footage, he can be seen bleeding from the left side of his head. An officer speaking with Jaffee indicated that he “said [he] [was] assaulted by a man with a gun, ” id. (BA 21:45:01-03), during a private “weed party” that Jaffee organized at an AirBnB-an opportunity to “share weed with each other, [and share] different stuff that each other grows, ” id. (BA 21:54:56-21:55:12). Jaffee first explained that the event was “for fun” and unrelated to his work, id. (BA 22:02:42-44), but later clarified that the event was in support of his “clothing company” and that, “every once in a while, we come around and do these little weed gatherings to promote the clothes, ” id. (BA 22:31:45-50). Jaffee reported that he invited approximately 20-30 people, id. (BA 22:02:19- 22), but that it was a private event attended by only a few people at any given time. When asked about a possible motive for the assault, Jaffee suggested that “maybe someone smelled some weed on the street” or “who knows, maybe someone that was there has a friend who said something to somebody [like] ‘go rob this.'” Id. (BA 22:30:15-25). Jaffee added, “whatever weed was there, the person with the gun probably took it” because “I'm assuming that's what they came they for-to get some weed, ” id. (BA 22:00:31-43). Jaffee also indicated that he had hired a personal security guard named “Tunnel Vision” for the event but could not locate him during or after the assault. Id. (BA 23:35:16-32). When asked why he required a personal security guard for “just a group of friends meaning to have a party, ” Jaffee responded that “whenever I move around, I have security with me” because it's “how I move; it's a part of my lifestyle.” Id. (BA 23:40:20-34).

         During the extended encounter with the MPD, Jaffee had both a backpack and a large black duffel bag. A search of the duffel bag revealed clothes, plastic bags containing marijuana, various types of paraphernalia, and numerous jars of a yellow liquid substance, which Jaffee described as “compressed . . . marijuana.” Id. (BA 22:39:13-22:44:32). Jaffee also revealed that he was carrying “maybe $4, 000” in cash. Id. (BA 22:43:38-39). Following the search of the bags, Jaffee was arrested for “possession with intent to distribute” marijuana. Id. (BA 00:02:32- 57). Those charges were ultimately dropped but apparently formed the basis of the Government's investigation into Jaffee and the search of his residence on January 16, 2019. See Dkt. 6 at 4. That search provides the basis of the charges at issue here.

         Officer Joseph Prendergast was stationed behind Jaffee's house during the execution of the search warrant on January 16, 2019. Dkt. 12 Ex. 1. As the MPD entered through the front of the house, Jaffee exited through the rear onto a snow-covered back porch, dressed in a long-sleeve t-shirt and bare feet and holding a large brown parcel. Id. (JP 21:25:42-43). Officer Prendergast immediately ordered Jaffee to stop and shouted “hands!” Jaffee dropped the parcel and raised his hands. A woman then opened the back door, quickly retrieved the parcel, and shut the door before the MPD could intervene. Id. (JP 21:25:44-52). After the MPD placed Jaffee in handcuffs and informed him they had a warrant to search the home, Officer Prendergast asked Jaffee, “what were you trying to throw out?” Jaffee responded, “I just got back into town; I went to my P.O. box and picked up some boxes.” Id. (JP 21:25:10-27). The MPD led Jaffee through the backdoor and into the kitchen, and Sergeant MacDonald asked Jaffee if there were “any firearms, anything like that” in the home. Id. (JP 21:27:14-16). Still handcuffed, Jaffee answered, “I believe that I had some friends staying here-I believe he left a firearm right there, ” gesturing towards what appeared to be an office area. Id. (JP 21:27:26-36). Sergeant MacDonald asked, “where?” and Jaffee responded, “I'm not sure actually-like I said, I'm not sure, I don't know-I'm not going to lie to you, I wasn't here-I just got back into town, I just flew in, I believe I had some friends staying here.” Id. (JP 21:27:36-46). As Jaffee spoke, an MPD officer recovered a revolver in the area to which Jaffee had gestured. Id. (JP 21:27:51).

         Several minutes later, an officer asked Jaffee, “what kind of gun is this?” Jaffee responded, “I have no idea because it's not mine. I've never seen-basically, my friend left here he told me he left a gun he said-he-the basic words he left was, he said ‘I left protection at the house.'” Id. (JP 21:29:51-21:30:00). As an officer examined the firearm, and Jaffee added:

I told you whose it is and who left it here. You can grab their fingerprints off it. I have not been in this house for a week. I can show you a text message-Sir-can I show you a text message-that shows that they left protection in the house? Because I'm not going to jail for a gun that's not mine and that's why I told you it was there.[1]

Id. (JP 22:03:43-56). Jaffee then stated that he would be willing to give a DNA sample, reiterating, “That's not my gun. I don't play with guns.” Id. (JP 22:04:01-04). Later, Sergeant MacDonald asked Jaffee, “Did that gun have bullets in it?” Dkt. 12 Ex. 2 (MM 22:49:51-53). Jaffee responded, “How do I explain to someone whose gun that is and why it got here?” and “I've been in California; haven't been here.” Id. (MM 22:49:56-22:50:08). In addition to the firearm, the MPD recovered numerous marijuana plants and “edibles, ” Dkt. 6 at 4, manufacturing equipment, and hashish, Dkt. 16-1 at 1, as well as “two parcels containing orange [five]-gallon contractor buckets containing nine heat[-]sealed bags with 9.9 pounds of green leafy substance, ” which was later confirmed to be marijuana, Apr. 24, 2019 Hrg. Tr. (Rough at 42:17-19).[2] Jaffee was arrested. See Dkt. 9-3 at 1.

         The Government originally charged Jaffee in D.C. Superior Court with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, and a D.C. Superior Court judge ordered Jaffee released on high intensity supervision on February 4, 2019. See Id. at 2-3. According to the docket in that case, Jaffee was compliant with the conditions of his supervision, and his conditions were modified to remove a curfew requirement on March 5, 2019. Id. at 3. Eventually, the Government dropped the D.C. Superior Court charges. Id. A federal grand jury, however, returned an indictment in this Court on March 8, 2019, charging Jaffee with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition by a Person Convicted of a Crime Punishable by Imprisonment for a Term Exceeding One Year, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count One); Unlawful Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(D) (Count Two); and Using, Carrying, and Possessing a Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (Count Three). Dkt. 1. Jaffee was arrested on March 27, 2019, see Dkt. 4, and the Government moved for Jaffee's detention pending trial, Dkt. 6. At a detention hearing, the magistrate judge found “[b]y clear and convincing evidence that no condition or combination of conditions exist that would reasonably assure the safety of any other person or the community” if Jaffee were released, and she accordingly granted the Government's motion for pretrial detention. Dkt. 7 at 2.

         Jaffee filed the instant motion to revoke that detention order on April 8, 2019. The Court held hearings on the motion that same day and on April 24, 2019, and took the motion under advisement. The parties made further submissions on April 25, 2019, see Dkt. 15, Dkt. 16, and on April 27, 2019, see Dkt. 17. Trial is currently scheduled to commence on June 28, 2019.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under the Bail Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 3142 et seq., if a judicial officer finds after conducting a hearing 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.”[3] 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e). The Government bears the burden of proving “by clear and convincing evidence that no conditions of release can reasonably assure the safety of the community or any person.” United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 750 (1987). “The default position of the law, therefore, is that a defendant should be released pending trial.” United States v. Stone, 608 F.3d 939, 945 (6th Cir. 2010).

         “That default is modified, however, for certain[] particularly dangerous defendants.” Id. In particular, the Bail Reform Act creates a rebuttable presumption “that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure . . . the safety of the community if . . . there is probable cause to believe that the person committed” one of an enumerated list of crimes, including a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3). For purposes of making that determination, “[a] grand jury indictment, by itself, establishes probable cause to believe that a defendant committed the crime with which he is charged.” Stone, 608 F.3d at 945 (citation omitted); see also United States v. Smith, 79 F.3d 1208, 1210 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (“[T]he indictment alone would have been enough to raise the rebuttable presumption that no condition would reasonably assure the safety of the community.”).

         Once triggered, “the presumption operate[s] at a minimum to impose a burden of production on the defendant to offer some credible evidence contrary to the statutory presumption.” United States v. Alatishe, 768 F.2d 364, 371 (D.C. Cir. 1985). “While the burden of production may not be heavy, ” United States v. Lee, 195 F.Supp.3d 120, 125 (D.D.C. 2016) (citations omitted), the defendant must proffer “at least some evidence” or basis to conclude that the case falls “outside ‘the congressional paradigm'” giving rise to the presumption. Stone, 608 F.3d at 945-46 (quoting United States v. Jessup, 757 F.2d 378, 387 (1st Cir. 1985)); see also United States v. Bess, 678 F.Supp. 929, 934 (D.D.C. 1988) (finding that the presumption “represents Congress's general factual view about the special flight risks and the special risks of danger to the community presented by defendants who commit the crimes to which it attaches” (quoting Jessup, 757 F.2d at 389)). Notably, the defendant's ...


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