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United States v. Norris

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 28, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
1. LAMONT NORRIS, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING DETENTION ORDER

          WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Lamont Norris's “Motion for Revocation of Magistrate Judge's Detention Order Issued After Defendant Appeared in Court on Summons” (“the Motion”). (ECF No. 49.)

         The Court reviewed the Motion and issued a text-only order denying the Motion. (ECF No. 62.) The Court indicated its intent to separately issue an order detailing its findings supporting its ruling prior to Norris's final revocation of supervised release hearing, which is now scheduled for February 6, 2019. (Id.; ECF No. 67.)

         I. BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 23, 2016, Norris pled guilty to a federal criminal offense before this Court and was sentenced to 30 months incarceration and three years of supervised release. (ECF No. 39.) Norris's supervision began on May 8, 2018. (ECF No. 41 at 1.)

         On September 5, 2018, the Government petitioned this Court for a warrant alleging that Norris had violated certain terms and conditions of his supervised release. (Id.) The petition for warrant alleged Norris possessed crack cocaine, marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms, ecstasy, and morphine; associated with known felons on four occasions; and was charged with felony eluding and reckless driving in Arapahoe County, Colorado. (ECF No. 41 at 4.)

         The undersigned ordered issuance of a summons, and Norris was summoned to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty on September 28, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. for an initial appearance on his supervised release violation. (ECF Nos. 42 & 43.) At this appearance, the Government sought to detain Norris. Judge Hegarty held a detention hearing, after which he issued an Order of Detention. (ECF No. 47.) The following factual summary is based on the information in the record and evidence at the hearing before the Magistrate Judge.

         At the hearing, U.S. Probation Officer Jordan Buescher provided additional information about the felony eluding charge. In summary, “in approximately July 2018 . . . Defendant twice engaged in eluding police officers who were trying to make a stop, leading them on a high speed chase in a congested area of Denver at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. Each time, for public safety reasons, the pursuit terminated.” (Id.; see ECF No. 61 at 42-45.)

         Officer Buescher also testified that he warned Norris not to associate with known felons. (ECF No. 47 at 5.) Despite those warnings, during an August meeting with Officer Buescher, Norris admitted being in contact with Leland “Little T” Heinz, a member of the Blood Street Gang who was under federal supervision at the time. (ECF No. 61 at 34-35.) In addition, the Aurora Police Department Gang Unit saw Norris outside a gym with Blood Street Gang member Joe Quann Alexander, who was under federal supervision for prior felony convictions at the time Norris met with him. (ECF No. 47 at 4-5.) Norris contends that his contacts with Mr. Alexander and Mr. Hines were coincidental, and not intentional. (Id. at 6.)

         From the record, the exact sequence of events leading to the discovery of the drugs is unclear, but it appears to arise out of the felony eluding charge and Norris's association with Alexander. After Norris was identified as eluding the police, a warrant issued for his arrest. Local law enforcement surveilled Norris, saw him with Alexander in a gym parking lot, and arrested him on the warrant. (ECF No. 61 at 30-32.) The police then drove Norris to his residence and obtained his consent to search the home. (Id. at 32.) During the search, they located drugs, along with digital scales and acetone (items associated with narcotics distribution) in the basement. (ECF No. 47 at 5.) Norris lived in a town home with his aunt, two teenage nieces, and a toddler, and was the sole occupant of the basement. (Id. at 4-5.)

         At the hearing, Officer Buescher testified that the marijuana was co-mingled with the other drugs. Moreover, based on Norris's non-use of illegal drugs and the quantity, Officer Buescher believed the drugs were for distribution. (Id.) Norris admitted to knowledge of the marijuana, but denied knowing about the other substances. (Id.)

         In support of release, Norris presented his record of gainful employment at S&R Mechanical, Inc., where he was a participant in the journeyman apprenticeship program to become a plumber. (ECF No. 61 at 17.) Norris appeared on a summons for the instant hearing, repeatedly appeared for hearings in state court proceedings (for which he posted $5, 250 bond), and attended all meetings with Officer Buescher. (Id. at 18, 37, 41, 47.) He also cited family support as a positive factor. (Id. at 17.)

         Judge Hegarty noted that Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1(a)(6), which permits a Magistrate Judge to detain a person charged with a supervised release violation, establishes a presumption in favor of detention rebuttable by a defendant showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that he is not likely to flee or pose a danger to any other person or the community. (ECF No. 47 at 1.) Judge Hegarty acknowledged the undersigned's decision to issue a summons instead of a warrant to secure Norris's appearance and Norris's voluntary appearance at the hearing. (Id. at 4.) However, Judge Hegarty nonetheless found that Norris's prior conduct “establishes a propensity to flee to avoid arrest and also a willingness to put the community in danger.” (Id.) Thus, he concluded, by a preponderance of the evidence, that “no condition or combination of conditions of release will reasonably assure the appearance” and, by clear and convincing evidence, that “no condition or combination of conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of the community.” (Id. at 1, 6.) Norris was thus placed in custody pending his final revocation hearing.

         Norris then filed the instant motion asking the undersigned to revoke the detention order issued by Judge Hegarty. The Court reviewed Judge Hegarty's findings, the full transcript of the hearing, and evidence presented at the hearing and in the record, and concluded that Norris did not meet his burden. ...


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