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United States v. Johnson

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

December 20, 2019



          Danny C Reeves, Chief Judge United States District Court.

         Defendant Dayquan Dejon Johnson has filed a motion to revoke the detention order issued by United States Magistrate Judge Edward B. Atkins. [Record No. 58] Because Johnson has not overcome the presumption of detention and the factors outlined in 18 U.S.C. § 3142 all weigh in favor of detaining Johnson pretrial, his motion will be denied.


         Johnson is charged with conspiracy to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. At his initial appearance, the United States moved to detain Johnson pending trial because his charges trigger a presumption that no conditions of release would reasonably assure the safety of others.

         Magistrate Judge Atkins held a detention hearing on November 26, 2019. Johnson proffered that he could live with his grandmother in Michigan pending trial, as she was always in the home and she would be able to drive him to all court appearances. Johnson's grandmother did not appear at the hearing. The United States contended that the presumption of detention had not been overcome, but Magistrate Judge Atkins apparently disagreed. Accordingly, the United States called Special Agent Michael Trueblood to testify.

         Special Agent Trueblood offered testimony regarding an investigation into Johnson traveling to Winchester, Kentucky to distribute controlled substances. According to Trueblood, Johnson traveled to Winchester on at least two occasions to distribute heroin and/or fentanyl. Trueblood stated that Johnson was arrested on one of the trips while possessing 26 grams of fentanyl. He also explained that Johnson had an affiliation with a Detroit gang, but that he did not have any specific information about violence committed by Johnson or any use of firearms by Johnson in this case. He offered pictures of Johnson holding a substantial amount of money and a picture of him with a gang affiliation tattoo. Trueblood testified that Johnson confirmed he was distributing drugs and explained that he had a contact in Winchester, Kentucky.

         Magistrate Judge Atkins issued a detention order concluding that the defendant successfully rebutted the presumption of detention by producing some evidence that he would abide by conditions of release, but still found that no conditions could be imposed that would assure Johnson's appearance at future court proceedings or the safety of others. The magistrate judge explained that the nature and circumstances of the offense weighed in favor of detention and the weight of the evidence of dangerousness was significant. He further explained that, while Johnson's criminal history was not entirely clear, the defendant had charges involving robbery and a weapons offense. Additionally, he noted that Johnson's employment history could not be verified. Finally, Magistrate Judge Atkins concluded that Johnson presented a danger to others and the community if he were to be released.

         Johnson filed a motion for revocation of the detention order, asserting that the government failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he is a danger to others. Counsel also contended that the Court ignored whether Johnson would reasonably appear when required. [Record No. 58] And he disputes that Special Agent Trueblood established that Johnson was a flight risk or a danger to the community. The defendant notes that the gang references were vague and that there are conditions to mitigate any danger presented by the association.

         The United States filed a response opposing the revocation of the detention order. [Record No. 63] It asserts that the government met its burden to establish that there are no conditions of release that would reasonably assure Johnson's appearance at trial or assure the safety of others and the community.

         This matter came for a hearing on December 20, 2019. Counsel for the defendant again indicated that Johnson's grandmother would be able to supervise him and requested release with any conditions the Court would be willing to impose, including home detention or GPS monitoring. Counsel further argued that Magistrate Judge Atkins' decision to detain the defendant was improperly driven by Johnson's alleged associations with gang members. However, counsel did not believe that Trueblood's testimony at the original detention hearing supported the gang affiliation claim.

         The United States argued that there are no conditions of release that would minimize the danger presented by the defendant or mitigate his risk of flight. First, the United States points out that it cannot test the credibility of the defendant's grandmother in determining whether she would be a suitable third-party custodian. Additionally, the United States presented the pretrial release order from the pending case in Detroit, which explicitly stated that Johnson was not to leave Michigan or commit any crimes while released. Finally, the United States offered photographs of the defendant with a substantial sums of cash, which underscores the defendant's ability to flee if he is released.


         A defendant may file a motion for revocation of a detention order with the court having original jurisdiction over the offense. 18 U.S.C. § 3145(b). This Court reviews a magistrate judge's detention order de novo. United States v. Yamini, 91 F.Supp.2d 1125, 1128-29 (S.D. Ohio 2000); United States v. Clark, 865 F.2d 1433, 1436 (4th Cir. 1989). The Court “should review the evidence before the magistrate and make its own independent determination whether the magistrate's findings are correct, with no deference.” United States v. Koenig, 912 F.2d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 1990). If ...

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