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United States v. Sergent

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

April 12, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Revocation of Detention Order (Doc. 38) brought by the Defendant, Jordan Sergent (“Sergent”). The Government filed an Opposition (Doc. 41). The parties have not requested an additional evidentiary hearing on this Motion as they previously presented testimony before Judge Wilder-Doomes on February 15, 2017 and March 21, 2017 (Docs. 34 & 40). After reviewing the ample testimony, exhibits, and briefing, the Defendant's Motion is DENIED and Judge Wilder-Doomes' Detention Order is AFFIRMED.

         I. Background

         Sergent has been charged with two counts of possessing an unregistered destructive device after officers found five suspected explosive devices in his brother's trailer where Sergent had been staying. After responding to a suspicious incident at lot 30 of 6060 Winchester Street in Baton Rouge, LA, and conducting a security sweep, officers found three smoke bombs and two BB bombs. Sergent told the officers that he constructed the BB bombs after watching a video on YouTube. The BB bombs were made out of medicine bottles with firework powder and BBs inside.

         Additionally, the officers found Sergent's ID and wallet in a back bedroom. In the bedroom, they located a gun and an opened bible with highlighted passages. An officer noted that one of the highlighted passages stated: “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” The officers also located a Halloween type mask hanging on the wall. There were two phrases written on the mask-“Fuck the world” under one eye and “God blessed me with the ability to kill” under the other eye. While the arresting officers noted that the phrases appeared to be handwritten, the testimony at the hearings confirmed that the mask was purchased from a party store with these phrases already printed on it.

         Sergent had only been staying at his brother's trailer a few days when this incident occurred. He moved out of his previous apartment which he had shared with his girlfriend because of damages caused by a flood. He was staying at the trailer while he and his girlfriend looked for a new apartment.

         Additionally, testimony was presented that Sergent built these devices about five years ago, when he was in high school, to help destroy some beaver dams on the family property. He supposedly got the idea from an episode of Duck Dynasty. He apparently used BBs in the devices so that he could kill the beavers. The ATF agent who testified said that BBs inserted into explosives serve no purpose other than to act as anti-personnel shrapnel. Sergent's father testified that he told his son to destroy these devices and that they were not to be used. Additionally, there was no explanation given by any of the witnesses about why these devices, that were supposedly manufactured five years ago, were out in plain view in a home that Sergent had just recently moved into, if there was no intention of using them.

         On February 15, 2017, Judge Wilder-Doomes held a detention hearing and found that there was no combination of conditions that could assure the safety of the community and thus ordered that the Defendant remain detained pending trial.[1] While Judge Wilder-Doomes acknowledged that Sergent did not have a history of violence, she found that the factors weighed in favor of detaining Sergent. Judge Wilder-Doomes placed special emphasis on the fact that these devices were out in plain view: “Also, although the Court understands Mr. Talbot's argument that these devices were, perhaps, manufactured by Mr. Sergent years ago, it is unclear to the Court why they would be out in plain sight when the officers arrived if there was no intent to use them.”[2]

         Judge Wilder-Doomes allowed the detention hearing to be reopened because there was additional evidence the Defendant sought to present and the indictment modified the charges from the original complaint. During the second hearing, the Defendant presented more evidence which sought to show he created these devices five years ago to destroy a beaver dam. The Defendant's girlfriend also testified and said that Sergent did not show a history of violence. She also said that she had bought the mask with Sergent for Halloween.

         After hearing the additional evidence, once again, Judge Wilder-Doomes concluded that detention was appropriate. Again, she noted that “one of the key factors” in her detention decision was “why, if Mr. Sergent manufactured the devices years ago, which is undisputed…and he had no intention of using them, these devices were found by police officers in plain sight…This is especially concerning in light of the fact that Mr. Sergent had only moved to that trailer two days prior to the incident…[Additionally, ] [t]here is no explanation why, after Mr. Sergent was told by his father to get rid of these devices and that he wouldn't be permitted to use them for the purpose that defense counsel has argued he intended to use them for, he kept them after all these years.”[3]

         II. Standard

         This Court reviews the Magistrate Judge's detention order under a de novo standard of review and makes an independent determination of whether to detain a defendant or release him with conditions.[4] In this case, there was no presumption of detention. Therefore, the Government was required to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that Sergent posed a danger to the community and that detention was necessary because no condition or combinations of conditions would reasonably assure the safety of the community.[5]

         III. Law & Analysis

         This Court agrees with Judge Wilder-Doomes that this is not an easy case. The challenge of this case is that when the facts are viewed through one lens, most of the Defendant's conduct appears unwise but harmless, but when viewed through a different lens, the Defendant's actions are incredibly suspicious. The Court has undertaken its own analysis of listening to the hearing transcripts and reviewing the ...

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