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United States v. Constantin

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 18, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CRISTIAN CONSTANTIN, et al.

          RULING

          SHELLY D. DICK CHIEF JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Revocation of Detention Order[1]filed by Defendant, Cristian Constantin (“Constantin”). The Government has filed an Opposition to the Motion.[2] For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that Constantin's Motion shall be DENIED and the detention order issued by the Magistrate Judge affirmed.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On March 12, 2019, Constantin was charged in a criminal complaint with possession of fifteen or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(3). He appeared before Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes for a detention hearing on March 29, 2019.[3] At the hearing, the Government moved for detention on the basis that Constantin, a Romanian national, was a serious flight risk. Judge Wilder-Doomes acknowledged that the detention issue was “a close call”[4] but ultimately ordered Constantin detained because she found that he had the “skills and ability”[5] to flee and had already engaged in “extensive efforts to evade detection and capture.”[6] Constantin now moves to have the detention order revoked, arguing that the Government only showed that it was “theoretically possible” for him to flee and that a theoretical opportunity for flight is not sufficient grounds for pretrial detention.[7]

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Law

         1. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3145(b), this Court retains the authority to review a Magistrate's order detaining a defendant in a federal criminal case. When reviewing a Magistrate's order of detention, the district court acts de novo and must make an independent determination of the proper pretrial detention or conditions for release.[8]“[T]he district court has the discretion to conduct its de novo review by examining the pleadings and the evidence which was developed before the magistrate judge. . .”[9]

         2. Legal Standard for Detention

         This is not a case where the presumption of detention arises, and the provisions of the Bail Reform Act require release on personal recognizance or upon the execution of an unsecured appearance bond “unless the judicial officer determines that such release will not reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required or will endanger the safety of any other person or the community.”[10] If release under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(b) will not reasonably assure the defendant's appearance and the safety of the community, release should be ordered with the least restrictive conditions that will meet those objectives.[11] Only if no condition or combination of conditions exist that will reasonably assure the defendant's appearance and the safety of the community should the defendant be detained.[12] The government bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant's appearance at trial cannot be reasonably assured by any combination of conditions of bail.[13] The factors to be considered are: the nature and circumstances of the offense charged; the weight of the evidence; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the nature and seriousness of the danger posed by defendant's release.[14]

         B. Analysis

         The Court has reviewed de novo the entire record of the March 29th detention hearing as well as all of the parties' briefing. At the hearing, the Government emphasized that flight within the United States was its concern and offered evidence (via testimony from U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Kevin Bodden) that when Constantin was arrested, his wife was in possession of several false forms of identification bearing his picture. The Government noted that Constantin's criminal activity had involved the use of a computer and a car which are now “unaccounted for.” Also of concern to the Government was the evidence that Constantin's criminal activity was apparently undertaken with a group of accomplices who in some cases remain at large, are “mobile” throughout the United States, and may have the capability to make a new fake ID for Constantin. In closing, the Government contended that all of the above evidence, combined with what it called the “strength of the case” against Constantin, weighed in favor of detention.

         The defense called Constantin's brother, Augustin Constantin, to testify at the hearing. Augustin testified that Cristian Constantin had been living and working with him in Florida prior to his arrest, and that Cristian was welcome to return and live and work with him if granted pre-trial release. Per Augustin, Constantin's pregnant wife also lives with him (since the hearing, Constantin's wife has given birth to a daughter). Augustin said he understood that the Government considers Cristian a flight risk and stated that he was willing to alert the Government in the event that Cristian fled. In addition to Augustin's testimony, the defense offered two exhibits related to Cristian Constantin's application for asylum in the United States. In lieu of closing argument, Constantin filed a Memorandum in Support Grant Pre-Trial Release.[15] Therein, he reviews the 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g) factors and argues that the Government has not demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Constantin is a flight risk.

         Having made a de novo review of the record, the Court now examines the evidence and pleadings in the context of the 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g) factors.

         1. Nature and Circumstances of the Offense Charged

         At the time of his detention hearing, Constantin had been charged by criminal complaint. He was subsequently indicted on two counts that together carry a statutory maximum of 25 years imprisonment.[16] The Government contends, and Magistrate Judge Wilder-Doomes concurred in her Ruling, that the “severity of the penalties facing the defendant should weigh in favor of detention.”[17] In his Motion for Revocation of Detention Order, Constantin disagrees that the statutory maximum is the relevant calculation, arguing that he “will likely face less than 5 years” because the “guideline range for a person with a criminal history category of zero and a conviction under [these] statutes could range between 18-24 months and 51-63 months.”[18] For its part, the Government says there is not “sufficient information to make a guideline estimate for the defendant until it has obtained and reviewed his Presentence Report.”[19]

         In similar cases within the Fifth Circuit, courts have analyzed the “nature and circumstances” factor by reference to the statutory penalties, not the likely guideline sentence.[20] Until the Presentence Report is completed, any projected guideline sentence is necessarily conjecture. The Court has no reason to believe that Constantin's guideline projection is ...


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