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United States v. Howell

United States District Court, D. Idaho

October 3, 2017

HARLEY L. HOWELL, Defendant.


          Honorable Edward J. Lodge United States District Court.


         Pending before the Court in the above-entitled matter is Defendant's Motion to Revoke Detention Order seeking to appeal the Magistrate Judge's Order of Detention. (Dkt. 16.) The parties have filed their responsive briefing on the Motion and, on September 27, 2017, the Court heard argument from the parties. For the reasons stated herein, the Court denies Defendant's Motion.


         On August 27, 2017, a Criminal Complaint was filed charging the Defendant, Harley L. Howell, with Travel with Intent to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct. (Dkt. 1.) On the same day, the Government filed a Motion for Detention and an Arrest Warrant was issued for Mr. Howell. (Dkt. 2, 6.) Chief United States Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush held an initial appearance on the Complaint at which he appointed counsel and issued an Order of Temporary Detention. (Dkt. 5, 7, 8.)[1] Mr. Howell appeared before Magistrate Judge Bush on August 31, 2017 for a detention hearing at which the parties presented testimony and evidence. Magistrate Judge Bush issued an oral ruling granting the Government's Motion for Detention and followed up by issuing a written Order of Detention. (Dkt. 11, 12, 19.)

         The Order of Detention Pending Trial reflects that the Magistrate Judge found the rebuttable presumption under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3) applied in this case because there is probable cause to believe the Defendant committed an offense involving a minor victim. (Dkt. 12.) The Magistrate Judge went on to determine that although the Defendant had presented evidence sufficient to rebut the presumption, detention is warranted in this case because the Government had proven by clear and convincing evidence that no conditions will reasonably assure the safety of other persons and the community. (Dkt. 12.) Mr. Howell's Motion appeals the Magistrate Judge's Order of Detention. (Dkt. 16.) This Court held a hearing on the Motion on September 27, 2017 and finds as follows. (Dkt. 26.)[2]


         In considering the Defendant's Appeal of the Magistrate Judge's Detention Order, this Court reviews the matter de novo and makes its own independent determination on the correctness of the Magistrate Judge's findings without giving deference to those findings. United States v. Keonig, 912 F.2d 1190, 1192-93 (9th Cir. 1990). In doing so, the Court must “review the evidence before the magistrate” and any additional evidence proffered by the parties “and make its own independent determination whether the magistrate's findings are correct, with no deference.” Id. at 1193. The Court may conduct its own evidentiary hearing but it “is not required to start over in every case, and proceed as if the magistrate's decision and findings do not exist.” Id. at 1191-92.


         Upon a complete de novo review of the entire record in this case and considering the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3142, the Court finds the Defendant's Motion to Revoke Detention Order should be denied. This Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's findings based on the record in this case as well as the arguments presented to this Court.[3]

         The release or detention of a defendant pending trial is governed by the Bail Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3142, which requires the release of a person pending trial unless the Court “finds that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonable assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and the community....” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(1).[4] Thus, the statutory presumption is first in favor of release on personal recognizance or on “an unsecured appearance bond in an amount specified by the court.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(b); see also United States v. Hir, 517 F.3d 1081, 1086 (9th Cir. 2008).

         A rebuttable presumption arises under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3) where, as relevant here, the offense involves a minor victim under several listed subsections of Title 18 including the statute under which the Defendant in this case has been charged, 18 U.S.C. § 2423. The parties disagree over whether the rebuttable presumption applies in this case given there was no actual minor victim because the Defendant was communicating only with an undercover agent. The Magistrate Judge concluded the presumption applied. This Court has reviewed the parties' arguments as well as the applicable case law and concludes that the rebuttable presumption applies in this case.

         Section 3142(e)(3) explicitly lists offenses involving a minor victim as charged in 18 U.S.C. § 2423 which is the statute charged against Mr. Howell in this case. That there was no “actual” minor victim in this case does not change the express language of the statute. Nothing in the Bail Reform Act distinguishes between the offense listed in § 3142(e)(3)(E) which involve “actual” minor victims and those that do not. As such, this Court applies the plain and express language of the statute to include the charge against Mr. Howell in this case as giving rise to the rebuttable presumption.

         This Court next determines whether Mr. Howell has rebutted the presumption. The defense points to: the Defendant's lack of criminal history, no evidence of substance abuse problems, no mental health issues, his family ties and connection to the community, the Defendant's full-time employment, and his willingness to abide by whatever conditions the Court imposes. (Dkt. 19.) The Defendant's father testified at the detention hearing on his behalf as further evidence of his family ties and support. At the hearing before this Court, the Defendant's mother testified regarding the Defendant's ties to the ...

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