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United States v. Donagal

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 18, 2014



JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on defendant Jeremy Donagal's "Motion for Reconsideration For Pre-Trial Release, " ECF No. 111, and for review under 18 U.S.C. § 3145 of the September 8, 2014 detention order issued by the Honorable Kandis A. Westmore, United States Magistrate Judge. ECF No. 110. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will affirm Judge Westmore's detention order and deny Defendant's motion.


On May 22, 2014, a grand jury returned an indictment, charging Defendant Jeremy Donagal with conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; with the manufacture, distribution, and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); with the sale of counterfeit drugs, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 331(i)(3); and with international money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2)(A). ECF No. 1. Donagal was arrested pursuant to a no-bail warrant on May 28, 2014. ECF No. 60. Judge Westomre held a detention hearing on June 26, 2014, ECF No. 73, and subsequently ordered that defendant be detained in custody pending trial. See id. (minutes reflecting June 26, 2014 order of detention from the bench) ECF No. 105 (September 8, 2014 written order of detention). Defendant now petitions the Court for review of Judge Westmore's September 8, 2008 detention order.


A. Standard of Review

The Court reviews the pretrial detention order of a magistrate judge de novo. United States v. Koenig, 912 F.2d 1190, 1191 (9th Cir. 1990). Although the Court considers the evidence presented to the magistrate judge, it accords no deference to the magistrate judge's findings of fact and ultimate conclusion. Id. at 1193.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(b), the Court shall release a defendant on personal recognizance or appearance bond, unless the Court "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." The Court may impose conditions that it deems necessary to guard against a defendant's flight or danger to the community. See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(c). In deciding whether conditions could reasonably assure the defendant's appearance and the safety of the community, the Court evaluates four 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). To prevent a defendant's release, the government must prove that a defendant is a danger to the community by clear and convincing evidence, or it must prove that a defendant is a flight risk by a preponderance of the evidence. United States v. Motamedi, 767 F.2d 1403, 1406 (9th Cir. 1985). "Doubts regarding the propriety of release are to be resolved in favor of defendants." United States v. Townsend, 897 F.2d 989, 994 (9th Cir.1990).

Under the Bail Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3141 et seq., there is a presumption that a defendant should be detained pending trial in cases where there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed a drug trafficking offense that includes a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more. 18 U.S.C.A. § 3142(e)(3)(a). Where the presumption applies, the burden of production shifts to the defendant, although the burden of persuasion continues to rest with the government. United States v. Hir, 517 F.3d 1081, 1086 (9th Cir. 2008). Even if the defendant proffers evidence to rebut the presumption in favor of detention, "the presumption remains in the case as an evidentiary finding militating against release, to be weighed along with other evidence relevant to factors listed in § 3142(g)." Id . (citation omitted).

The Court now turns to the factors required under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g) to determine whether conditions of release could reasonably assure defendant's appearance at trial and protect the community.

B. Factors for Consideration

1. Nature and circumstances of the offense charged

The Government alleges that Defendant is the leader of a large, industrial illegal drug manufacturing operation. Defendant's organization allegedly produced over a million illegal alprazolam (Xanax) tablets per week, as well as producing and distributing significant quantities of GHB, steroids, and other drugs. The government further proffers that Defendant arranged for large quantities of Xanax powder and pill-making equipment to be shipped from China, usually to his co-defendants or other nominee addresses. To pay for this material, he wired significant sums of cash to his connections in China, often through Western Union. The government further asserts that Defendant sold his pills online, including using the underground websites Silk Road, Silk Road 2.0, and a personal website, and he shipped drugs to 48 states. Defendant was paid by his customers in cash and in the digital currency of Bitcoins. The government proffered that agents seized over $200, 000 in cash and $25, 000 in Bitcoins from Defendant's operation, but it claims that this figure represents a small fraction of the proceeds earned by Defendant. At the time of his arrest, Defendant was in possession of the machinery and raw ingredients necessary to produce very considerable quantities of additional illegal drugs, as detailed below. The magnitude of the Defendant's drug manufacturing and distribution organization weigh in favor of detention.

In addition to the foregoing alleged crimes, the Court must also consider the potential sentence Defendant could receive if convicted. "Consideration of the nature of the offenses charged involves consideration of the penalties." United States v. Townsend, 897 F.2d 989, 995 (9th Cir. 1990). Under 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 844(b)(1)(C), Defendant faces a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison for each offense. A prison sentence of this magnitude weighs in favor of a finding of risk of flight and against detention. United States v. Nguyen, No. CR07-344RSL, 2008 WL 4163135, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 4, 2008) (finding ...

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