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U.S. v. CASILLAS

August 3, 2005.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
PAUL CASILLAS, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WAYNE BRAZIL, Magistrate Judge

DETENTION ORDER

For the reasons set forth below, the court has concluded, based on clear and convincing evidence, that no terms and conditions could be imposed on the pretrial release of defendant Paul Casillas that would reasonably assure the safety of the community. It follows that he must be DETAINED.

Mr. Casillas was arrested by local law enforcement officers on January 6, 2004, pursuant to a warrant issued by a state court after he allegedly violated the terms and conditions of parole he was serving at the time. In the course of the arrest, a loaded firearm was found in his car, along with more than 500 rounds of ammunition for it. Mr. Casillas does not contest these facts; in fact, he admitted them in state parole revocation proceedings.

  Mr. Casillas initially appeared before me, pursuant to a writ, on May 24, 2004. He waived a detention hearing at that time because he still had time to serve on the state parole violation. Late last year, when he was about to complete the custodial portion of the sentence imposed by the state court for the parole violation, Mr. Casillas asked for a bail hearing on the pending federal charges (on February 26, 2004, the Grand Jury had indicted him for knowingly possessing a firearm after earlier suffering a felony conviction).

  In connection with that request, Mr. Casillas was interviewed by a psychologist and by the admissions director of the New Bridge residential drug treatment program. Even though the psychologist's report reflected mixed findings and factors, the court, after a full detention hearing on January 5, 2005, ordered Mr. Casillas released to New Bridge for thirty days to give him a chance to try to show that he could and would participate in the rehabilitation program there. The court's decision to give Mr. Casillas this opportunity was conditioned on two sureties, his significant other and her mother, signing a $100,000 surety bond.

  Mr. Casillas entered the New Bridge program on January 14, 2005. A week later, on January 22, without seeking or receiving permission from anyone, Mr. Casillas packed up his belongings and left the New Bridge program, in violation of the court's pretrial release order and the conditions of his bond. His excuse for taking this action was that his significant other had called him to report that her personal belongings had been stolen from her room.

  On Monday, January 24, 2005, the public defender who had been representing Mr. Casillas' spoke to him by phone and urged him to call his Pretrial Services officer. That officer ordered him to return to New Bridge that afternoon, but Mr. Casillas wanted more time with his significant other and children — so he did not return to New Bridge until the next morning, Tuesday the 25th.

  In anticipation of being test for unlawful use of controlled substances, Mr. Casillas (when questioned by the Pretrial Services officer) admitted that on Sunday, the 24th, he had consumed about five beers and had taken Vicodin that had not been prescribed for him.

  On January 28, 2005, the court held another detention hearing in this matter — to address Mr. Casillas' admitted violations of the court's order of January 5, 2005. At the end of that hearing, after considering all the pertinent factors, the court ordered Mr. Casillas detained pending disposition of the federal charges. The defense waived written findings.

  On July 8, 2005, new counsel for Mr. Casillas filed a motion to revoke the detention order of January 28th. The moving papers asserted that "[t]here are changed circumstances and facts not previously considered by the magistrate at the time detention was ordered."

  At the hearing on this motion, held today (August 3, 2005), defense counsel could point to no "changed circumstances" and no "facts not previously considered by the magistrate." That being the case, the magistrate declined to reconsider his earlier order, but agreed to prepare this writing to memorialize the bases for his finding on January 28, 2005, that releasing Mr. Casillas, on any conditions, would create an unreasonable risk of danger to the community.

  A good many factors, none disputed, support the court's order to detain Mr. Casillas — in addition to his demonstrated failure (as described above) to understand that he is not entitled to decide on his own which court orders he will follow, and when.

  In conjunction with his arrest in January of 2004, Mr. Casillas admitted possessing the pistol and the hundreds of rounds of ammunition — and admitted that he had purchased the weapon for $200, suspecting that it had been stolen. He further admitted that he had been a member of a street gang — but that he feared for his safety after he had attempted to drop out of the gang. He asserted that he had been shot at several times during the month preceding his arrest. All this occurred against the following background. Mr. Casillas was on parole and already had violated its terms (by failing to attend a court-ordered meeting, by failing to report to his parole officer as directed, and by providing false information about his residence).

  During his interview with the psychologist (to gather information to help the court determine whether Mr. Casillas was an appropriate candidate for the New Bridge program), Mr. Casillas admitted that he had spent more time in custody than out of custody since he was about 14 years old. He was disciplined in the juvenile court system several times — most seriously for assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and for threatening a potential witness (in 1997). He admitted to membership in a street gang and to having been involved in violent activities in connection with that membership. He said that when he was not in custody (as a minor and as an adult), he "used drugs, ran around, [and ...


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