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United States v. Stephens

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

March 18, 2020, Decided; March 19, 2020, Filed

15-cr-95 (AJN)

Opinion

OPINION & ORDER

ALISON J. NATHAN, District Judge:

At the hearing on March 6, 2020, the Court reviewed Magistrate Judge Fox's bail determination de novo and concluded that the Defendant failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he did not pose a danger to the community. See March 6 Hr'g Tr. at 31:11-32:1; see also 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(1); Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.1(a); 18 U.S.C. § 3142. Accordingly, the Court ordered him remanded to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP").

On March 16, 2020, the Defendant filed an emergency motion for reconsideration of his bail conditions. See Dkt. No. [*2]  2789-1. The Court GRANTS that motion and orders the Defendant released subject to the additional conditions of 24-hour home incarceration and electronic location monitoring as directed by the Probation Department. The Court concludes that reconsidering the Defendant's bail conditions is appropriate in light of circumstances that have changed since the March 6 hearing. Cf. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f) (A detention hearing under 18 U.S.C. § 3142 "may be reopened, before or after a determination by the judicial officer, at any time before trial if the judicial officer finds that information exists that was not known to the movant at the time of the hearing and that has a material bearing on the issue whether there are conditions of release that will reasonably assure the appearance of such person as required and the safety of any other person and the community."). These changed circumstances are two-fold. First, the strength of the primary evidence relied upon by the Government to demonstrate the danger the Defendant poses to the community has been undermined by new information not available to either party at the time of the March 6 hearing. Indeed, while the Government argued at the hearing that the Defendant's "possession of [*3]  a loaded firearm in proximity to drugs . . . is an inherently dangerous activity" that weighed in favor of his detention, see March 6 Hr'g Tr. at 8:23-9:3, the Court has since learned that the arresting officer—who will not testify for the Government at the hearing on the Defendant's alleged violation of supervised release—initially identified a different individual as holding the bag that contained the firearm. See Dkt. No. 2789-1 at 2. Though the Government proffers additional evidence that it will introduce at the hearing,1 this new information nonetheless indicates that the Government's case is weaker than it believed it to be at the March 6 hearing and bears upon the Court's prior conclusion that the Defendant failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he did not pose a danger to the community.

Second, since the March 6 hearing, the unprecedented and extraordinarily dangerous nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has become apparent. Although there is not yet a known outbreak among the jail and prison populations, inmates may be at a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 should an outbreak develop. See, e.g., Joseph A. Bick, Infection Control in Jails and Prisons, 45 [*4]  Clinical Infectious Diseases 1047, 1047 (Oct. 2007), https://doi.org/10.1086/521910 (noting that in jails "[t]he probability of transmission of potentially pathogenic organisms is increased by crowding, delays in medical evaluation and treatment, rationed access to soap, water, and clean laundry, [and] insufficient infection-control expertise"); see also Claudia Lauer & Colleen Long, US Prisons, Jails On Alert for Spread of Coronavirus, Associated Press (Mar. 7, 2020). The magnitude of this risk has grown exponentially since the March 6 hearing before this Court; at the end of the day on March 6, New York State had 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19, see Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo), Twitter (Mar. 6, 2020, 4:51 PM), https://twitter.com/NYGovCuomo/status/12360466682 20567553, but by the end of the day on March 18, that number had climbed to 2,382, see Mitch Smith, et al., Tracking Every Coronavirus Case in the U.S.: Full Map, N.Y. Times, Mar. 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html. Though the BOP has admirably put transmission mitigation measures in place, see Federal Bureau of Prisons, Federal Bureau of Prisons COVID-19 Action Plan, https://www.bop.gov/resources/news/20200313_covid-19.jsp, [*5]  in the event of an outbreak at the Metropolitan Correctional Center ("MCC") (where the Defendant is currently being detained), substantial medical and security challenges would almost certainly arise. A comprehensive view of the danger the Defendant poses to the community requires considering all factors—including this one—on a case-by-case basis. See, e.g., United States v. Raihan, No. 20-cr-68 (BMC) (JO), Dkt. No. 20 at 10:12-19 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 12, 2020) (deciding to continue a criminal defendant on pretrial release rather than order him remanded to the Metropolitan Detention Center due, in part, to the Magistrate Judge's recognition of the fact that "[t]he more people we crowd into that facility, the more we're increasing the risk to the community").

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2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47846 *; __ F. Supp. 3d __; 2020 WL 1295155

United States of America, -v- Dante Stephens, Defendant.

Prior History: United States v. Tucker, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107060 (S.D.N.Y., July 10, 2017)

CORE TERMS

conditions, compelling reason, temporary release, preparation, custody, bail, clear and convincing evidence, change of circumstances, danger to the community, appropriate person, reconsideration, necessitate, detention, https, BOP