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United States v. Chaney

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 5, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RONALD LEE CHANEY True name Stephanie Lee Ann Chaney

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DAVID C. NYE, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         Defendant Ronald Lee Chaney[1] pled guilty to two felony counts in 2015. Count 1 was for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender and Count 2 was for Assault on an Officer. The Court sentenced Defendant on December 15, 2015, to two concurrent terms of 46 months of incarceration followed by two concurrent terms of supervised release. On Count 1 supervised release was for 5 years and on Count 2 supervised release was for 3 years.

         Chaney's terms of supervised release began on June 22, 2018, when she was released from prison. She reported to the probation office on June 25, 2018. On February 19, 2019, Chaney's probation officer filed a Violation of Supervised Release Report and an Amended Petition on Supervised Release. The Court set a hearing on February 28, 2019. At the hearing the Defendant expressed her intent to deny all allegations of violations and the Court held an evidentiary hearing. The Government called only the probation officer as a witness. The Government also moved to admit eleven exhibits. The parties stipulated to the admission of nine of the exhibits and Chaney objected to the admission of two of the exhibits. The Court took the objection under advisement but allowed the probation officer to testify about the two non-stipulated exhibits, contingent upon the admission or non-admission of the those exhibits at a later time. The Defense then called Chaney as a witness and moved to admit Exhibit A, to which the Government stipulated.

         At the close of the hearing the Court took the entire matter under advisement, stating it would research the issue of admitting the two exhibits and issue a written decision. Depending upon the outcome of that decision, the Court would either order Chaney released from custody and put back on supervised release or bring Chaney back to Court and sentence her for violating the terms of her supervised release.

         STANDARD

         The Federal Rules of Evidence do not apply at a revocation hearing. Additionally, defendants in a revocation hearing do not enjoy the full panoply of constitutional protections afforded to criminal defendants. Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 480 (1972). This is because a revocation proceeding is not a criminal prosecution. Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778 (1973). Therefore, the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause, which grants to criminal defendants the right to confront adverse witnesses, does not apply to defendants in revocation proceedings. However, the Court must balance the Defendant's interest in his right to confrontation against the Government's good cause for denying confrontation. U.S. v. Simmons, 812 F.2d 561, 564 (9th Cir. 1987). In evaluating good cause, courts look to both the difficulty and expense of procuring witnesses and the reliability of the evidence. Id. In evaluating the defendant's interest in his right to confrontation, the Court should weigh that right under the specific circumstances presented in the case. U.S. v. Martin, 984 F.2d 308, 310 (9th Cir. 1993).

         A finding that defendant violated her terms and conditions must be based on a preponderance of the evidence. The evidence forming the basis of the finding must be “credible evidence” and “verified facts” and cannot stand on “erroneous information.”

         VIOLATIONS

         The Government alleges that Chaney had four types of violations: (1) illegal drug use; (2) failure to comply with the requirements of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act; (3) failure to notify probation at least ten days prior to any change in residence; and (4) failure to perform a urine analysis on September 28, 2018. Each will be discussed.

         1. Illegal Drug Use. The Government claims that Chaney used methamphetamine on five separate occasions and hydrocodone on one occasion. To support this claim, the Government used the testimony of the probation officer and submitted Exhibits 3 - 8, which were admitted by stipulation. Exhibits 3 - 7 consisted of two pages, a Drug Test Report and a Chain of Custody Form. Exhibits 3, 5, 6, and 7 showed test results that were positive for methamphetamine. Exhibit 4 showed test results that were positive for hydrocodone. Exhibit 8 was a one-page Chain of Custody Report without the accompanying Drug Test Report. Except for Exhibit 8, which is incomplete and therefore not relied upon by the Court, these exhibits show by a preponderance of the evidence that Chaney violated the terms and conditions of her supervised release by using illegal drugs.

         Chaney testified that she did not use illegal drugs and the test results must have been false positives resulting from her proper use of prescription medications. In support of her position, she and her attorney spoke in general terms about internet searches and FDA research that supports her position that about 1% of the time metformin (a diabetes medication used by Chaney) can produce a false positive on a methamphetamine drug test.[2] She further testified that she had a prescription for hydrocodone; however, the only prescriptions she ever showed to her probation officer were from 2016 or signed several days after she tested positive for hydrocodone. She never produced a prescription for hydrocodone that covered the date she tested positive for hydrocodone.

         Finally, Chaney introduced Exhibit A, which is a letter from a Family Nurse Practitioner. That letter gives the opinion that Chaney's “supplements have ingredients that could potentially give false positives for opiate use in a urine analysis.” Although the Family Nurse Practitioner stated that she also examined Chaney's prescription medication, she did not suggest that they could potentially give false positives for opiates or for methamphetamine. Exhibit A may support the theory that Chaney's drug test in Exhibit 4 was based on a false positive for hydrocodone or opiate use, but it does nothing to rebut the other test results for methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is not an opiate.

         The evidence without Exhibits 9 and 10 is sufficient to show by a preponderance of the evidence that Chaney used illegal substances. The Court finds that Exhibits 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 are credible, reliable, and mostly unopposed. The testimony by Chaney and the generalized statements by her counsel as to the possibility that metformin could cause a false positive for methamphetamine fails to adequately rebut ...


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