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United States v. Simpkins

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 3, 2019




         On December 3, 2019, after conducting a detention hearing, the undersigned Magistrate Judge determined that the United States had not carried its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that no conditions existed pursuant to which the Defendant, Khalik Simpkins, could be released without unduly endangering the safety of the community. The United States requested a stay of the release order, in light of its intent to file an appeal of the ruling. The undersigned Magistrate Judge stayed the release order through December 5, 2019. In light of the pending appeal, and for clarity of the record, the reasons for the detention ruling are set forth below.[1]


         A. Background

         The background was set forth in the Government's Memorandum in Support of Pretrial Detention, which was incorporated by reference as a proffer at the detention hearing. In addition, the defense orally proffered facts in opposition to the detention memorandum. The most significant portions of the parties' respective proffers are referenced in the analysis of each factor below.

         B. Legal Standard

         “In our society, liberty is the norm and detention prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception.” United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 755 (1987). The Bail Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 3141, et seq., articulates the circumstances that trigger that exception. Specifically, provisions of the Bail Reform Act authorize a judicial officer to order the detention of a defendant before trial if the judicial officer determines after 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.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e).

         A finding that a defendant poses a danger to the community, or that there is a serious risk the defendant will flee, provides an adequate basis to order pretrial detention. See Salerno, 481 U.S. at 755; United States v. Lee, 195 F.Supp.3d 120, 124 (D.D.C. 2016); United States v. Henry, 935 F.Supp. 24, 25 (D.D.C. 1996). A detention decision based upon the defendant's dangerousness to the community must be supported by “clear and convincing evidence.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f); see United States v. Smith, 79 F.3d 1208, 1209 (D.C. Cir. 1996). In contrast, a detention decision based upon a finding that no set of conditions will reasonably assure the defendant's appearance in court “need only be supported by a ‘preponderance of the evidence.'” United States v. Simpkins, 826 F.2d 94, 96 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (quoting United States v. Vortis, 785 F.2d 327, 329 (D.C. Cir. 1986)); see United States v. Xulam, 84 F.3d 441, 442 (D.C. Cir. 1996); United States v. Anderson, 382 F.Supp.2d 13, 14 (D.D.C. 2005).

         The Bail Reform Act directs judges to consider four factors in determining whether any conditions of release will reasonably assure a defendant's future presence in court or assure the safety of any other person and the community: (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense charged; (2) the weight of the evidence against the defendant; (3) the defendant's history and characteristics; and (4) the nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or to the community posed by the defendant's release. See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g); Xulam, 84 F.3d at 442.

         C. Analysis of Statutory Factors

         1. Nature and Circumstances of Charged Offense

         This factor weighs in favor of pretrial detention because Mr. Simpkins is charged with unlawfully possessing a firearm as a felon, and the firearm was allegedly loaded. The fact that Mr. Simpkins is not accused of wielding, brandishing, or using the firearm does not tilt this factor in favor of release.

         2. Weight of the Evidence

         This factor is neutral, because the evidence was strong enough to support an indictment but not strong enough to weigh in favor of detention. The weapon was recovered from a room occupied by Defendant and his girlfriend, on the floor, between the bed and the wall, near the side of the bed where Defendant's identification was located. In addition, a round of ammunition was located in a dresser drawer next to Defendant's passport. However, the defense proffered that the room was used by Defendant's stepfather, who previously was arrested for possessing a firearm; the defense also indicated that other male relatives had occasionally used that room. The defense also proffered that Defendant listed the home where the weapon was recovered as his permanent and primary address, and at the time of the search he was sleeping there because of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, but that he had recently primarily stayed at his girlfriend's house instead of that address. In addition, the photograph proffered by the defense shows that the bed was pushed up against a wall, and that the furniture near which the weapon was recovered was near the foot of the bed (not a nightstand in easy reach of a person reclining in bed). The defense also proffered that the phone recovered from that furniture was not Defendant's phone. ...

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