Learn About the Law
Get help with your legal needs
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Aiden Zahay PHILLIPS, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR DETENTION PENDING SENTENCING
ECF No. 51
On May 16, 2023, Defendant entered a guilty plea to the Indictment filed on March 15, 2022, charging him with Sexual Abuse of a Minor in Indian Country, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153, 2243(a), 2246(2)(A). See ECF No. 53. Defendant appeared in person and was represented by Paul Shelton and Juliana Van Wingerden. Assistant United States Attorney Todd Swensen appeared on behalf of the United States. The United has moved to detain Defendant pending sentencing. See ECF No. 51. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.
On March 15, 2022, Defendant was charged with one count of Sexual Abuse of a Minor in Indian Country, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153, 2243(a), 2246(2)(A). ECF No. 1. Defendant was arraigned on March 23, 2022, and the United States did not move for detention. ECF No. 9 at 1. Accordingly, Defendant was released from custody and the Court set conditions of release. See ECF No. 9. Defendant was advised of the penalties he faced if he violated any of those conditions. ECF No. 6. Defendant has not faced any allegations of violating the aforementioned conditions. Defendant's conditions of release were modified on August 9, 2022, to replace the condition of home detention with a curfew. See ECF No. 40.
On May 12, 2023, Defendant provided formal notice he intended to enter a guilty plea. See ECF No. 50. A Change of Plea Hearing was scheduled for May 16, 2023. ECF No. 49. On May 15, 2023, the day before Defendant was to enter a guilty plea, the United States moved to detain Defendant pending sentencing. See ECF No. 51.
At the May 16, 2023 hearing, Defendant objected to the United States’ motion. Defendant asked the Court to permit him to enter his guilty plea as scheduled but requested the Court defer its decision as to detention until it could be briefed further. Defendant pleaded guilty to Sexual Abuse of a Minor in Indian Country. See ECF No. 53.
Upon Defendant's change of plea, the United States again moved for detention pending sentencing pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2) and 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(A). See ECF No. 51 at 2. The Court deferred ruling on the motion and ordered additional briefing. Both parties submitted briefs on the issue. ECF Nos. 55, 56.
Section 3143(a)(2) generally requires the Court to detain defendants who have pleaded guilty to certain offenses while they are “awaiting imposition or execution of sentence[.]” A guilty plea to Sexual Abuse of a Minor is one of those offenses, and therefore generally requires mandatory detention. 18 U.S.C. §§ 3143(2), 3142(f)(1)(A), 3156(a)(4)(C), 2243(a). However, the section also provides the Court with discretion to release a defendant who has plead guilty to Sexual Abuse of a Minor pending sentencing if:
(i) the judicial officer finds there is a substantial likelihood that a motion for acquittal or new trial will be granted; or
(ii) an attorney for the Government has recommended that no sentence of imprisonment be imposed on the person; and
(B) the judicial officer finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person is not likely to flee or pose a danger to any other person or the community.
18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2)(A)-(B). Section 3145 provides the Court additional discretion:
A person subject to detention pursuant to section 3143(a)(2) or (b)(2), and who meets the conditions of release set forth in section 3143(a)(1) or (b)(1), may be ordered released [or may remain released], under appropriate conditions, by the judicial officer, if it is clearly shown that there are exceptional reasons why such person's detention would not be appropriate.
18 U.S.C. § 3145(c).
“Exceptional reasons” is not statutorily defined. See 18 U.S.C. § 3145. However, the Ninth Circuit has provided guidance as to what constitutes an exceptional reason. See United States v. Garcia, 340 F.3d 1013, 1019-22 (9th Cir. 2003). The Ninth Circuit has explained that when determining detention status under Section 3145, the Court should assess:
the totality of the circumstances and, on the basis of that examination, determine whether, due to any truly unusual factors or combination of factors (bearing in mind the congressional policy that offenders who have committed crimes of violence should not, except in exceptional cases, be released pending appeal) it would be unreasonable to incarcerate the defendant ․
Id. at 1019.
The Ninth Circuit has articulated several factors that may be considered: (1) whether “the defendant's criminal conduct was aberrational[;]” (2) whether “the defendant led an exemplary life prior to his offense and would be likely to continue to contribute to society[;]” (3) “[t]he nature of the violent act itself[;]” (4) “[t]he length of the prison sentence–both the maximum and the sentence imposed[;]” (5) whether detention would “render the hardships of prison unusually harsh for a particular defendant[;]” (6) “whether the defendant was unusually cooperative with the government[;]” and (7) whether the defendant poses an “exceptionally low risk of danger[.]” Id. at 1019-22. However, the Ninth Circuit has made clear that there is “no limit on the range of matters the district court may consider.” Id. at 1018-19.
Sexual Abuse of a Minor statutorily qualifies as a crime of violence under Section 3142. 18 U.S.C. §§ 3142(f)(1)(A), 3156(a)(4), 2243(a). When an individual is convicted of a crime of violence, detention is generally required. 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2). Thus, the Court begins with the presumption that Defendant should be detained in this matter.
The exceptions that rebut this presumption under 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2) are either inapplicable or not present. There is no substantial likelihood that a motion for acquittal or new trial will be granted given this matter resolved by guilty plea. Thus, 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2)(A)(i) is inapplicable. Additionally, there is no evidence before the Court that the United States will recommend a sentence of no imprisonment. Thus, 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2)(A)(ii) has not been met.
The Court next turns to whether “exceptional reasons” under 18 U.S.C. § 3145(c) exist. It appears that Defendant has no criminal history. ECF No. 13 at 4. Defendant turned himself in for the arrest warrant issued at the beginning of this case, and he was compliant during the book procedures. ECF No. 13 at 4. Defendant has been steadily employed over the last few years. ECF No. 13 at 3. He reported no substance abuse and has reportedly been receiving mental health treatment since 2021. ECF No. 13 at 3. This combination of factors seemingly led to the United States’ determination to not seek Defendant's detention at arraignment. See ECF No. 8 at 2; ECF No. 9 at 1.
Defendant has also been successful on pretrial release. Defendant was released on pretrial conditions on March 23, 2022. ECF Nos. 6, 9. Defendant has been subject to electronic location monitoring since that time and has either been on home detention or been restricted by a curfew as part of those conditions. ECF No. 9 at 8; see ECF No. 40. Defendant has not been alleged to have committed any violations over the last 15 months. While on pretrial release, Defendant has been an active member in his family and the community. Defendant has maintained gainful employment and aside from the conduct in this case, has not had any law enforcement contact. Moreover, Defendant has appeared at every court hearing and has plead guilty to a serious crime and accepted responsibility for his actions without the benefit of a plea agreement. ECF No. 50 at 4-5.
Additionally, the United States appears to have provided inconsistent information without justification about its intent to move for his detention. On May 12, 2023, Defendant represented, “The United States has advised it has no intent to move to detain Mr. Phillips following his change of plea, and it has no objection to him remaining on release status pending sentencing.” ECF No. 50 at 5. In his Notice of Intent to Plead Guilty, Defendant stated, “Should the United States review this Notice and identify any concerns, [I] respectfully request[ ] that some written Response be filed in advance of the hearing if possible.” ECF No. 50 at 1 n.1. When the United States filed its Brief Regarding Detention Pending Sentencing, ECF No. 51, three days later, it did not dispute Defendant's characterization of the parties’ conversation regarding Defendant's detention status. The United States did not advise the Court that Defendant's understanding was mistaken. See ECF No. 51. The United States merely stated that it was unaware of any exceptional reasons why Defendant should not be detained. ECF No. 51 at 4. It was in response to additional briefing that the United States contested this characterization for the first time. See ECF No. 56 at 2 (“With the exception of Defendant's assertion that the ‘United States [ ] advised it [had] no intent to move to detain Mr. Phillips following his change of plea,’ the United States does not objection to Defendant's factual summary as outlined in ECF No. 55.”). The United States does not expand on its objection.
Given these unusual circumstances, the Court denies the United States’ Motion for detention pending sentencing.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED:
1. The United States’ Motion for Detention, which is contained within its Brief Regarding Detention Pending Sentencing, ECF No. 51, is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
MARY K. DIMKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Response sent, thank you
Docket No: No. 1:22-CR-02030-MKD
Decided: July 13, 2023
Court: United States District Court, E.D. Washington.
Search our directory by legal issue
Enter information in one or both fields (Required)
FindLaw for Legal Professionals
Search our directory by legal issue
Enter information in one or both fields (Required)