Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Armstrong

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 13, 2020

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
IESHA ARMSTRONG, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          BERYL A. HOWELL, CHIEF JUDGE

         The defendant, Iesha Armstrong, is incarcerated at Federal Medical Center Carswell (“FMC Carswell”), a Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Pending is a motion by the government for an order authorizing the BOP to turn over “to the Clerk of this Court a reasonable portion of the funds” in the defendant's Inmate Trust Account, which contains over $4, 000, “toward satisfaction of the remaining criminal restitution obligation in this case, ” which is about $6, 000. United States' Motion for Order Authorizing Restitution Payment from Inmate Trust Account (“Gov't's Mot.”) at 1, ECF No. 84.

         In 2018, the defendant's restitution payments were limited to $50 per quarter during her term of incarceration. See United States v. Armstrong, No. 09-cr-135 (BAH), 2018 WL 5923913, at *7 (D.D.C. Nov. 13, 2018). This adjustment was made to the defendant's restitution order under 18 U.S.C. § 3664(k) after the defendant submitted a handwritten letter seeking a reduction in her restitution payments because BOP had gradually increased the amount withdrawn from her Inmate Trust Account from $25 quarterly in March 2018 to $271 per month by November of that year. See Def.'s Letter, received Oct. 4, 2018 (“Def.'s Letter I”), ECF No. 74.; see also Def.'s Letter, received Nov. 8, 2018 (“Def.'s Letter II”) at 1, ECF No. 80.

         On August 13, 2019, ten months after her restitution payments were capped at $50 per quarter, the defendant submitted another letter stating that “[t]he BOP . . . has frozen my account” and requesting access to “my entire $4, 300” along with an order “that my $50 quarterly . . . payment schedule” should “remain the same.” Def.'s Letter, received Aug. 13, 2019 (“Def.'s Letter III”), ECF No. 82. The government subsequently filed the pending motion.

         For the reasons that follow, the defendant's restitution payment schedule shall be adjusted to require a payment of $4, 000 to satisfy part of her outstanding restitution obligation. BOP is authorized to turn over to the Clerk of this Court that $4, 000 sum from the defendant's Inmate Trust Account. The defendant's restitution payments shall otherwise continue to be limited to $50 per quarter during her term of incarceration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On a guilty plea to armed bank robbery and unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), § 924(a)(22), and § 2113(a), (d), the defendant was sentenced by Judge Richard W. Roberts in 2010 to serve 84 months' imprisonment and 48 months' supervised release and to pay $8, 350.00 in restitution. See Judgment (“2010 Judgment”) at 2, 6, ECF No. 46.[1] After the defendant was released from custody in 2015, she violated her supervised release, including by committing armed robbery in Maryland. See Probation Petition, dated July 12, 2016, at 1-6, ECF No. 54 (noting violations 1-10 and that, at the start of supervision, the defendant had “agreed to submit restitution payments of not less than $100 per month beginning February 1, 2015.”); Probation Petition, dated Sept. 7, 2016, at 2-4, ECF No. 58 (noting violations 11-22); Probation Petition, dated Nov. 3, 2016, at 2-3, ECF No. 60 (noting violations 23-24).

         On her guilty plea in the District of Maryland to armed bank robbery, see 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a), (d), and to using a firearm during a crime of violence, see 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), the defendant was sentenced on February 9, 2018 to a total of 168 months', or 14 years', imprisonment; no restitution was ordered. See Judgment on Revocation at 3, ECF No. 72; Probation Petition at 2, ECF No. 65; Judgment, United States v. Armstrong, No. 16-cr-00601-TDC, at 5 (D. Md. Feb. 9, 2018), ECF No. 48. For twenty-three violations of supervision, which the defendant conceded at a hearing on those violations, see Minute Entry (Sept. 7, 2018), she was sentenced in this Court to 18 months' incarceration, to be served concurrently with her sentence on the guilty plea in the District of Maryland, see Judgment on Revocation at 4.

         As already described, the defendant submitted a handwritten letter in October 2018 explaining that BOP had gradually increased the amount withdrawn from her Inmate Trust Account through the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (“IFRP”) and requesting that her quarterly restitution payments be limited to $50. See Def.'s Letter I.[2] The government and the victim's representative did not oppose the requested $50 cap. See United States' Response to the Court's Oct. 29, 2018 Show Cause Order (“Gov't's Resp. I”) at 2, ECF No. 79. Construing that letter as a motion to adjust her restitution payment schedule under 18 U.S.C. § 3664(k), the Court concluded that the defendant's reincarceration for the extended term of 168 months amounted to a “material change in her economic circumstances” entitling her to an adjustment in her restitution payment schedule under that provision. Armstrong, 2018 WL 5923913, at *6 (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3664(k)).[3] In a November 2018 Memorandum Opinion and Order, defendant's restitution payments were thus limited to $50 per quarter during her current term of incarceration. Id. at *7; see also Memorandum Opinion and Order (Nov. 13, 2018), ECF No. 81.

         Defendant's August 2019 letter stated that “[t]he BOP . . . ha[d] frozen” her “account, ” prompting her to request access to the “entire $4, 300” in the account as well as an order that BOP adhere to the previous restitution order. Def.'s Letter III. In the letter, the defendant also stated that her “independent financial situation ha[d] not changed” since the entry of the November 2018 order. Id. “I am still dependent on my family for any substantial money that is placed on my account, ” and “[m]y mother, who is the primary person sending me money[, ] ¶ 70 years old and lives on retirement income, ” the letter explained. Id.

         In response to an order to show cause “how such BOP action complies with the restitution order in effect in this case, ” Minute Order (Aug. 13, 2019), the government confirmed that BOP had frozen defendant's account “pursuant to regulations related to the inmate trust account and a request of the U.S. Attorney's Office, ” Response to Court's Aug. 13, 2019 Minute Order (“Gov't's Resp. II”) at 1, ECF No. 85.

         Simultaneous with this response, the government filed the pending motion seeking authorization for BOP to transfer a lump sum, up to $6, 048, from the defendant's Inmate Trust Account to the Clerk of this Court toward satisfaction of the remaining restitution obligation on the 2010 judgment. See Gov't's Mot. at 1. Defendant, represented by counsel appointed by the Court, opposed the motion, see Def.'s Opp'n to United States' Mot. for Order Authorizing Restitution Payment from Inmate Trust Account (“Def.'s Opp'n”), ECF No. 90, and the government submitted a reply and supplemental memorandum in support of its motion, see Gov't's Reply and Supplemental Mem. Supp. Mot. for Order Authorizing Restitution Payment from Inmate Trust Account at 2 (“Gov't's Reply”), ECF No. 92.[4]

         II. DISCUSSION

         The government raises four legal theories in support of its motion. The first two theories - that the government can secure the defendant's total outstanding restitution obligation by enforcing a statutory judgment lien on the defendant's Inmate Trust Account or by using a common law right of offset, see Gov't's Mot. at 7-8, 11-12 - conflict with the restitution order in this case and misunderstand the respective powers of the courts and the executive branch in ordering and administering restitution. The government's third and fourth legal theories derive from the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 (“MVRA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3663A, which was codified “in scattered sections of 18 U.S.C., ” United States v. Hunter, 786 F.3d 1006, 1008 (D.C. Cir. 2015), and, pursuant to § 3663A(d), MVRA restitution orders “are issued and enforced in accordance with section 3664, ” of the earlier enacted Victim and Witness Protection Act (“VWPA”). Under § 3664(n), the government claims, the deposits into the defendant's account qualify as “substantial resources” received “during a period of incarceration” that the defendant “shall be required to apply the value of . . . to any restitution . . . still owed.” 18 U.S.C. § 3664(n); see also Gov't's Mot. at 8-9. Finally, the government invokes § 3664(k) to ask for an adjustment in the payment schedule based on a “material change in the defendant's economic circumstances.” 18 U.S.C. § 3664(k); see Gov't's Mot. at 10-11. Section 3664(n)'s mandate does not apply here and, aside from authorizing the $4, 000 payment, the Court declines to adjust the payment schedule already set.[5] The government's “Smorgasbord of options, ” Gov't's Reply at 2, is addressed following a brief review of the MVRA.

         A. The MVRA

         The MVRA “govern[s] federal court orders requiring defendants convicted of certain crimes to pay their victims restitution.” Lagos v. United States, 138 S.Ct. 1684, 1687 (2018); see also 18 U.S.C. § 3663(a)(1) (providing that a “court shall order” restitution in certain cases). Section 3664 of the MVRA lays out the “[p]rocedure for issuance and enforcement of [an] order of restitution.” 18 U.S.C. § 3664. Under that provision, “[u]pon determination of the amount of restitution owed to each victim, the court shall . . . specify in the restitution order the manner in which, and the schedule according to which, the restitution is to be paid, in consideration of” multiple factors, including the defendant's “financial resources” and “projected earnings.” Id. § 3664(f)(2). A court has considerable discretion to structure the restitution order's schedule into “payments at specified intervals” or a “single, lump sum payment.” Id. § 3664(f)(3)(A).

         “A sentence that imposes an order of restitution is a final judgment notwithstanding the fact that . . . such sentence can subsequently be . . . corrected . . . appealed and modified . . . amended . . . [or] adjusted . . . .” Id. § 3664(o). Each of these processes contemplates court action. See id. (referencing Fed. R. Crim. P. 35, 18 U.S.C. § 3664(d)(5), among other provisions requiring judicial action). As is relevant here, § 3664(k) sets out a process for notification “of any material change in the defendant's economic circumstances that might affect the defendant's ability to pay restitution.” Id. § 3664(k). “Upon receipt of the notification, the court may, on its own motion, or the motion of any party . . . adjust the payment schedule, or require immediate payment in full, as the interests of justice require.” Id. Section 3664(n) further mandates that “[i]f a person obligated to provide restitution, or pay a fine, receives substantial resources from any source, including inheritance, settlement, or other judgment, during a period of incarceration, such person shall be required to apply the value of such resources to any restitution or fine still owed.” Id. § 3664(n).

         “Sections 3663 and 3664 of Title 18 clearly impose on the court the duty to fix the terms of restitution.” United States v. Johnson, 48 F.3d 806, 808 (4th Cir. 1995); see also United States v. Martinez, 812 F.3d 1200, 1202 (10th Cir. 2015) (“By statute, it is the district court - not the government - that determines how a defendant is to pay restitution.”); United States v. Merric, 166 F.3d 406, 409 (1st Cir. 1999) (“[I]t is the inherent responsibility of the judge to determine matters of punishment and this includes final authority over all payment matters.”). “The government, ” on the other hand, “has statutory authority to enforce . . . the terms of a ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.