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United States v. Bonilla-Cruz

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

March 1, 2018



          ALETA A. TRAUGER United States District Judge.

         Before the court is defendant Fredy Gerardo Bonilla-Cruz's Motion to Dismiss Indictment (Doc. No. 53), on the basis that he was indicted more than thirty days after his arrest, in violation of the Speedy Trial Act (“STA” or “Act”). The United States filed a Response in opposition to the motion. (Doc. No. 62.) For the reasons set forth herein, the court will deny the motion, finding no STA violation.

         I. Background

         At 8:30 on the morning of August 3, 2017, the Tennessee Highway Patrol (“THP”) pulled over a 2005 Toyota Sequoia with a Texas tag in Putnam County, Tennessee, for following the vehicle in front of it at an unsafe distance. The driver of the vehicle was identified as Fredy Gerardo Bonilla-Cruz (the “defendant” or “Bonilla”). The THP suspected that Bonilla and all four passengers in the vehicle were illegal aliens. Homeland Security Investigations agents arrived on the scene and identified everyone in the vehicle as being in the United States illegally. Bonilla and his co-defendant, Sody Mariela Fuentes-Puerto (“Fuentes”), one of the passengers in the vehicle, were taken into custody by officers with the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) at that time.

         A Criminal Complaint was filed on August 31, 2017, alleging that Bonilla and Fuentes had violated 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii) by knowingly transporting illegal aliens within the United States. (Doc. No. 3.) Arrest warrants for Bonilla and Fuentes were issued the same day. (Doc. Nos. 4, 5.) Bonilla was arrested pursuant to the August 31 warrant in Nashville on September 7, 2017. (Doc. No. 7.)

         Fuentes was arrested and detained on September 5, 2017 in Alexandria, Louisiana. (Doc. No. 6.) On the same date, United States Magistrate Judge Joseph H. L. Perez-Montes of the Western District of Louisiana committed Fuentes to the custody of the United States Marshal for transportation to this district. United States v. Fuentes-Puerto, No. 1:17-MJ-00099-01 (W.D. La. Sept. 5, 2017) (Doc. No. 6, Commitment to Another District).

         Fuentes was not promptly transported. On September 18, 2017, Magistrate Judge Perez-Montes issued a Memorandum Order, noting the “strained resources of the local Marshal's service” and the fact that Fuentes had been transported from Tennessee to Louisiana by ICE for housing following her initial arrest in Tennessee following the traffic stop. United States v. Fuentes-Puerto, No. 1:17-MJ-00099-01 (W.D. La. Sept. 18, 2017) (Doc. No. 7, Mem. Order). In light of those considerations, the magistrate judge ordered that Fuentes be remanded to the custody of ICE for transportation to the Middle District of Tennessee. Id.

         Ten days later, on September 28, 2017, Fuentes was re-arrested in the Middle District of Tennessee pursuant to the August 31 warrant. (Doc. No. 23.) She made her initial appearance in this court on the same day. (Doc. No. 24.) On October 19, 2017, both defendants were jointly indicted in the Middle District of Tennessee on the charge of transporting illegal aliens in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii). (Doc. Nos. 32 (Indictment) & 33 (Sealed Indictment).)

         Other dates in the progress of this case are also relevant. On September 7, 2017, the same day that Bonilla was arrested on the current charges, the government filed a Motion for Detention of Bonilla. (Doc. No. 8.) After the hearing was postponed several times, Bonilla filed a Notice of Waiver of Detention and Preliminary Hearings (Doc. No. 20) on September 20, and the court entered an Order cancelling the hearing and granting the government's Motion for Detention on the same day. (Doc. No. 21.)

         On September 28, 2017, the government filed, and the court granted, a Motion for Detention pertaining to Fuentes. (Doc. Nos. 22, 27.)

         II. Discussion

         Citing 18 U.S.C. § 3161(b), Bonilla moves to dismiss the Indictment against him on the basis that it was issued more than thirty days after his September 7, 2017 arrest. The government argues that dismissal is not required, because the “the periods of delay resulting from Defendant Fuentes-Puerto's removal and transportation from Louisiana to Tennessee should be [excluded from] the computation of the thirty-day indictment period for Defendant Bonilla-Cruz.” (Doc. No. 62, at 3.) The government argues, essentially, that the entire time period between Fuentes' arrest in Louisiana on September 5, 2017 and her initial appearance in Tennessee on September 28, 2017 should be excluded from the STA computation.

         A. The Speedy Trial Act

         The STA requires that a defendant be indicted within thirty days from the date on which he is arrested or served with a summons in connection with the charges in the indictment. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(b). The Act also provides a list of pretrial delays that are excludable from the thirty-day period. Id. § 3161(h)(1)-(9). If a defendant is not indicted within that thirty days, as extended by the periods excludable under § 3161(h), the indictment “shall be dismissed, ” either with or without prejudice. 18 U.S.C. § 3162(a)(1). That is, “the Act requires the district court to dismiss the ...

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