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United States v. Luna

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

July 3, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
FRANCISCO LUNA, Defendant.

          Crenshaw Chief Judge.

          MEMORANDUM

          ALISTAIR E. NEWBERN United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter comes before the undersigned magistrate judge on the United States' motion for detention of Defendant Francisco Luna pending trial on two indicted offenses. (Doc. No. 7.) A hearing was held on June 27, 2017, at which the Court heard testimony and considered documentary evidence and the parties' arguments.

         At the conclusion of that hearing, the undersigned entered an order denying the United States' motion and setting conditions of release. (Doc. Nos. 22, 23.) This memorandum accompanies that order and the reasons stated on the record for the undersigned's order that Luna be released on conditions. That order is presently stayed pending the district court's review. (Doc. No. 25.)

         I. Statutory Framework

         A defendant may be detained pending trial only upon the Court's finding that “no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably 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). The Court's finding that no combination of conditions will reasonably assure the community's safety must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(2)(B). A finding of risk of flight must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence. United States v. Hinton, 113 F. App'x 76, 77 (6th Cir. 2004). “The default position of the law . . . is that a defendant should be released pending trial.” United States v. Stone, 608 F.3d 939, 945 (6th Cir. 2010).

         For certain classes of offenses, however, including a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more under the Controlled Substances Act, there is a presumption that no condition or combination of conditions will assure a defendant's appearance and the safety of the community. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3)(A). When this presumption arises, the defendant bears a “not heavy” burden of production to rebut it by introducing “at least some evidence” that he is neither a danger to the community nor a flight risk. Stone, 608 F.3d at 945. If that burden is satisfied, the presumption “remains a factor to be considered among those weighed” by the Court as a reflection of “Congress's substantive judgment that particular classes of offenders should ordinarily be detained prior to trial.” Id.

         In determining whether there are conditions of release that will reasonably assure the defendant's appearance and the safety of any other person and the community, the Court must consider the following factors: (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense charged; (2) the weight of the evidence against the person; (3) the history and characteristics of the person; and (4) the nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by the person's release. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g).

         II. Findings of Fact

         The United States invoked the rebuttable presumption of detention established by 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3)(A), citing Luna's indictment on one count of violating 21 U.S.C. § 846 and one count of violating 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), which, as charged, carry mandatory minimum sentences of ten years imprisonment and maximum life sentences. (Doc. No. 1.)

         To rebut this presumption, Luna introduced testimony from two witnesses and multiple letters from friends and family members. (Doc. Nos. 15, 16; Def. Ex. 1.)

         Luna's mother, Iracema Luna, testified that she is a resident of Edinburg, Texas, where she lives with her husband, mother-in-law, and son (Luna). Iracema stated that Edinburg is part of the greater McAllen, Texas, area, located approximately an hour's drive from the Mexican border. The family has lived in the same house, which they own, for eighteen years. Iracema has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States since 1971. Her husband (Luna's father) has been a lawful permanent resident since approximately 1974. Luna is a United States citizen. Iracema works in their home; her husband is an agricultural worker. Iracema testified that their large and close-knit family lives nearby in the McAllen area.

         Iracema testified that Luna did not finish high school and began working at around age seventeen. Luna travelled outside of Texas to work, first to Indiana for agricultural work, then to Oklahoma to work construction. Iracema believed that Luna had also recently worked in Kansas and San Antonio, Texas. She testified that Luna helps support the family with his wages and returns to live in their Texas home when he is not away on a job. Iracema described her son as respectful and obedient. She stated her willingness to serve as a third-party custodian during Luna's pre-trial release and affirmed her understanding that doing so would require her to report any pre-trial release violations, which might result in Luna's imprisonment.

         On cross-examination, Iracema testified that she and her husband travel to Mexico approximately twice a year to visit friends. She testified that her family now lives in the United States. Luna does not travel to Mexico often, but has been to Mexico in the past. Iracema further testified that she was not aware ...


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