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United States v. Cardenas

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

January 9, 2017




         Pending before the Court is Defendant Christopher Cardenas's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Docket No. 31), to which the Government has responded in opposition (Docket No. 36), and Defendant has replied (Docket No. 37). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion will be denied.

         I. Background

         In roughly chronological order, the relevant facts are as follows:

         On October 14, 2010, Defendant was convicted in the Davidson County Criminal Court for the sale of heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance. He was sentenced to a nine-year term of imprisonment in the Tennessee Department of Corrections (“TDOC”) to be served on Community Corrections.

         Defendant was again arrested on July 19, 2014, this time on misdemeanor charges of criminal impersonation and driving without a licence. Three weeks later, in a case styled United States v. Cardenas, No.14-00122 (M.D. Tenn. 2014), Defendant was indicted by a federal grand jury for illegal re-entry by an aggravated felon in violation of 8 U.S.C. §§ 1326(a) and (b)(2). A warrant was issued for Defendant's arrest on August 6, 2014, the same day the indictment was returned, and the United States Marshals Service received the warrant the following day.

         On December 20, 2014, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) filed a detainer against Defendant with the Davidson County Sheriff's Office, asking that it be notified a least 30 days prior to the release of Defendant. Two days later, Defendant pled guilty to the state court misdemeanor charge of driving without a licence, was sentenced to time-served, and the criminal impersonation charge was dismissed.

         On February 12, 2015, Defendant returned to the Davidson County Criminal Court on a probation violation charge. During the proceedings, his previously imposed 9-year sentence was reinstated (with credit for time served) and he was sentenced to the TDOC.

         Approximately two weeks later, on February 25, 2015, the Government sought and received a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum on the illegal re-entry case. Defendant had an initial appearance in that case on March 3, 2015, and trial was set for May 5, 2015.

         A week before the scheduled trial date, the Government moved for a continuance because the prosecutor handling the case had a two-week vacation scheduled and the parties were negotiating a plea agreement. Defendant had no objection to the continuance and was directed to file a waiver of speedy trial, which he did on May 5, 2015. Trial was reset for July 21, 2015.

         The week before the reset trial date, counsel for Defendant filed a motion to be relieved of representation. After a hearing on July 30, 2014, counsel's request was granted and the trial was continued to September 1, 2015. The Government then moved to continue that trial date on the grounds that, while new counsel had represented as late as August 25, 2015 that Defendant intended to plead guilty, Defendant wanted to go to trial. The Government requested three to four weeks to prepare for trial.

         On August 31, 2015, Defendant moved to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction because the 120-day deadline in the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (“IAD”) had passed.[1] The Court heard oral arguments on the Motion on September 1, 2015, ordered additional briefing, and continued the trial indefinitely. Because the Motion was not ruled upon within 30-days of the completion of briefing and more than 70-days of non-excludable time had elapsed since Defendant's initial appearance, he filed a Motion to Dismiss Under the Speedy Trial Act.

         On March 25, 2016, the Court entered an Order granting Defendant's request for dismissal on speedy trial grounds, dismissing the Indictment without prejudice, and denying as moot Defendant's request for dismissal under the IAD. In an accompanying Memorandum, the Court observed that, while “[a]n inadvertent violation of the Speedy Trial Act” had occurred, and that “some fault for getting Defendant to trial in a timely manner must be borne by all, the ultimate responsibility must be shouldered by the Court because dismissal is required due to its failure to issue a timely ruling[.]” (Case No. 3:14-00122, Slip op. at 1 & 6). “[A]s a partial explanation, ” but “not offered as an excuse, ” the Court noted that the judges in this District were laboring under an extremely heavy caseload while understaffed, and that “mistakes occur” and “things fall off the radar, even in ideal conditions.” (Id. at 9).

         Defendant filed a Notice of Appeal and was ordered by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to show cause as to why the appeal should not be dismissed because this Court's Order was not final or appealable. After a request for a supplemental round of briefing, Defendant voluntarily moved to dismiss the appeal, which the Sixth Circuit granted.

         Defendant was re-indicted on September 21, 2016, under the same charges as those contained in the original Indictment. By his calculations the present Indictment was returned one year, six months and 18 days since his first appearance on the original ...

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