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UNITED STATES v. SYKES (2020)

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United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Dorian Trevor SYKES, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 20-1300

Decided: June 03, 2020

Before: MOORE, WHITE, and THAPAR, Circuit Judges. Frances Lee Carlson, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Paul A. Kuebler, United States Attorney's Office, Detroit, MI, for Plaintiff-Appellee Dorian Trevor Sykes, Pro Se

ORDER

Dorian Trevor Sykes, a pro se federal detainee housed at the Sanilac County Jail, appeals a district court order denying his March 30, 2020 motion for bail pending sentencing based on the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 13, 2020, Sykes moved this court for bail pending sentencing on the same basis. The government responds in opposition and moves this court to expedite its decision and treat the motions as briefs. Sykes replies and responds in opposition to the government's motion. This case has been referred to a panel of the court that, upon examination, unanimously agrees that oral argument is not needed. See Fed. R. App. P. 34(a).

Sykes's underlying conviction arises from his guilty plea to one count of bank robbery by intimidation. That offense is a crime of violence, see United States v. McBride, 826 F.3d 293, 296 (6th Cir. 2016), and carries a statutory maximum prison sentence of twenty years, 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). Thus, Sykes's bail motions are governed by 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2).* Under that provision, presentencing detention is mandatory unless there is (1) “a substantial likelihood that a motion for acquittal or new trial will be granted; or ․ an attorney for the Government has recommended that no sentence of imprisonment be imposed”; and (2) the defendant shows “by clear and convincing evidence that [he] is not likely to flee or pose a danger to any other person or the community.” Id.

A defendant subject to detention under § 3143(a)(2) may also be released if he satisfies the conditions of § 3143(a)(1) and clearly establishes “exceptional reasons why [his] detention would not be appropriate.” 18 U.S.C. § 3145(c); see United States v. Cook, 42 F. App'x 803, 804 (6th Cir. 2002). Section 3143(a)(1), in turn, provides that presentencing detention is mandatory for a defendant facing a term of imprisonment unless the defendant shows “by clear and convincing evidence that [he] is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community if released.” 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(1).

Sykes is ineligible for release pending sentencing because he has not clearly shown that he is unlikely to pose a danger to the community. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 3143(a)(1), (a)(2), 3145(c). In arguing to the contrary, Sykes asserts that “[t]he court will be reasonably assured that [he] will not pose a threat” because, in compliance with the “stay-at-home” order in effect in Michigan, he “will be sheltering in place at his residence.” But, as the government explains, Sykes committed at least one bank robbery “just six weeks after being released from a lengthy prison sentence for the same type of offense,” and he “was on federal supervised release in two different cases when he committed these crimes.” These facts, which Sykes does not dispute, undercut his conclusory assertion that he would pose no danger to the community if released. Finally, although Sykes asserts that he will be testifying in two upcoming murder trials, this fact also offers insufficient support for his assertions as to danger.

Even assuming that Sykes could demonstrate that his release would pose no danger to the community, he would remain ineligible for the requested relief because he has not demonstrated extraordinary circumstances under § 3145(c). “[S]ome courts have determined that the heightened threat posed by COVID-19 to an inmate with a documented risk factor in a detention facility with confirmed cases of COVID-19 can present a ‘unique combination of circumstances’ that meets the ‘exceptional circumstances’ requirement” of § 3145(c). United States v. Clayton, No. 1:19-cr-251-21, 2020 WL 1940877, at *2 (N.D. Ohio Apr. 22, 2020). In his bail motions, Sykes claims to suffer from diabetes and chronic depression, including self-harm and suicidal ideation. Sykes also alleges that the jail is not taking appropriate measures to prevent the virus from spreading, and that he is being retaliated against by jail officials by being denied access to the law library and an ink pen. But Sykes produces no evidence that he is at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than other inmates. He therefore fails to establish extraordinary circumstances warranting his release in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. See id.

In sum, Sykes's April 13 motion must be denied because he fails to satisfy the requirements of the relevant bail statutes. For the same reasons, the district court did not commit reversible error in denying his March 30 motion. See United States v. Stone, 608 F.3d 939, 945 (6th Cir. 2010).

The motion to expedite and treat the motions as briefs is GRANTED, the April 13 bail motion is DENIED, and the district court's order denying the March 30 bail motion is AFFIRMED. Any other pending motion is DENIED as moot.

FOOTNOTES

FOOTNOTE.   Sykes indicates that his bail motions are governed by 18 U.S.C. § 3142. That statute, however, pertains to motions for release before trial, and not to those for release before sentencing.

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