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United States v. Johnson

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 7, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Tremaine Bernard Johnson, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:13-cr-20471-1-Mark A. Goldsmith, District Judge.

         ON BRIEF:

          Andrew N. Wise, FEDERAL DEFENDER OFFICE, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Shane Cralle, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Before: MOORE, COOK, and READLER, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         Tremaine Johnson moved to Michigan while on probation, violating the terms of his release from a Florida prison. Florida officials issued a warrant, but federal agents found and arrested Johnson first. When they did, they prosecuted him for a federal crime before turning him over to Florida authorities. Johnson challenges the order of his prosecution, arguing that the federal district court lacked jurisdiction to sentence him because federal agents pursued him to execute a Florida warrant on Florida's behalf. But because the federal government and Florida could prioritize between them the order of custody and service of sentence, we AFFIRM Johnson's sentence.

         I.

         By June 2013, Florida officials had lost track of parolee Tremaine Johnson and asked federal agents for help locating him. Johnson had already completed a four-year sentence for a Florida felony conviction but, because he remained on probation, he needed permission to leave the state. So when Florida officials learned that Johnson had moved to Michigan without preclearance, they issued a fugitive warrant and enlisted U.S. Marshals with the Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team to pursue him.

         The marshals tracked down and arrested Johnson at the Michigan factory where he worked. As agents escorted him out, Johnson alerted them to a firearm stowed in his car. Agents seized the gun and, hours later, charged him with felonious possession, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). A jury convicted Johnson and we affirmed his conviction but twice vacated his sentence, remanding most recently for the district court to explain the conditions of Johnson's supervised release. United States v. Johnson, 803 F.3d 279 (6th Cir. 2015); United States v. Johnson, No. 16-1102 (6th Cir. Feb. 13, 2017) (order).

         On the eve of his third sentencing, Johnson filed a motion contesting the federal district court's jurisdiction to convict or sentence him. The way Johnson figured it, the federal agents pursuing him on a Florida warrant ought to have extradited him to the custody of that state first. The district court denied that motion, satisfied that the federal government properly exercised jurisdiction, given that Florida raised no objection to the government proceeding first with its case. Even had Florida objected, the court reasoned, a flaw in the sequence of prosecution would not deprive the federal court of jurisdiction to proceed. The court then reinstated Johnson's two-year supervised release term. This appeal followed.

          II.

         We review de novo the district court's jurisdiction conclusion. United States v. Graves, 60 F.3d 1183, 1185 (6th Cir. 1995).

         As an initial matter, we must first ensure that Johnson has Article III standing to object to the federal court's jurisdiction. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 95 (1998). We conclude that he does. Johnson fashions his challenge as a matter of "primary jurisdiction," which "refers to the determination of priority of custody and service of sentence between state and federal sovereigns." Taylor v. Reno, 164 F.3d 440, 444 n.1 (9th Cir. 1998). Despite its name, primary jurisdiction does not affect the district court's jurisdiction over a criminal defendant; it merely determines the order of trial, sentencing, and incarceration. Id. Primary jurisdiction "is a matter of comity to be resolved by the ...


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