U.S. v. Selby, No. CR. JFM-03-0372.

Decision Date03 August 2004
Docket NumberNo. CR. JFM-03-0372.
Citation333 F.Supp.2d 367
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. Franklin Keith SELBY Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Debra Lynn Dwyer, Office of the United States Attorney, Thomas M. DiBiagio, Baltimore, MD, for Plaintiff.

Jeffrey E. Risberg, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Baltimore, MD, for Defendant.


GAUVEY, United States Magistrate Judge.

I. Background

Franklin Keith Selby was indicted for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and the Government moved for his pretrial detention on the grounds of dangerousness under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1) and risk of flight under 18 U.S.C. 3142(f)(2)(A). The defendant challenged the Government's motion for detention based on dangerousness, arguing that he had not previously been convicted of two or more offenses as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(A)-(C) and that the charge he faced was not "a crime of violence;" therefore, the Government was not entitled to move for detention on that ground. The Government did not contest that the charge was not considered a crime of violence in this district, but asserted that Mr. Selby's prior 1995 conviction in state court for rape and robbery served as two or more offenses under § 3142(f)(1)(A)-(C). It was agreed that the convictions for these charges arose from the same criminal episode and were charged in the same indictment, but the parties disagreed as to whether these convictions should be considered two separate offenses for purposes of § 3142(f)(1)(D). The Court proceeded with the detention hearing, but reserved judgment on the issue and requested briefing on whether the conviction on multiple counts of violent crimes stemming from the same criminal episode results in "two or more offenses" under section (f)(1)(D) of the Bail Reform Act.

Having considered the parties' submissions and arguments, the Court ruled from the bench that the Government did not have grounds to move for pretrial detention under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(D), and that there was no serious risk of flight under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(2)(A), and released the defendant on certain conditions. This opinion memorializes and supplements that bench ruling denying consideration of dangerousness as a basis for defendant's pretrial detention based on his criminal history.

II. Discussion
A. Detention Under the 1984 Bail Reform Act

The Bail Reform Act of 1984 ("the Act"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 3141 et seq., authorizes a court to order a defendant's detention pending trial in certain circumstances if "no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and the community...." 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e).

The Government may move for pretrial detention under § 3142(e) if at least one of the six categories listed in § 3142(f) is met. United States v. Byrd, 969 F.2d 106, 109 (5th Cir.1992). In the instant case, the Government moved for detention under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(D),1 arguing that Mr. Selby had previously been convicted of two crimes of violence in a Maryland state court.2 Specifically, the Government argued that Mr. Selby's January 17, 1995 convictions for (1) First Degree Rape and (2) Robbery with a Dangerous and Deadly Weapon, constitute the requisite convictions of "two or more offenses" under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(D). Objecting, the defendant asserted that 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(D) requires that the predicate convictions stem from separate criminal episodes, and since Mr. Selby's prior convictions for the rape and robbery arose from the same criminal episode and were charged in the same indictment, they should be considered only one offense under the Bail Reform Act. The Government countered that the statute should be interpreted literally as simply requiring convictions for two offenses, regardless of whether they resulted from one criminal episode, and that Mr. Selby's convictions should be counted as two separate crimes with separate penalties, qualifying as the two predicate convictions for 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(D).

Consequently, in deciding whether to grant the Government's motion for a detention hearing on dangerousness grounds, the Court must determine whether "convicted of two or more offenses" should be construed literally to mean any two convictions, regardless of whether they were committed simultaneously, or nearly simultaneously, during a single criminal episode; or whether that language should be construed to mean the number of times a defendant engaged in a course of criminal conduct for which he was convicted.

While the Court acknowledges the superficial appeal of the literal interpretation that the Government advances, the Court has concluded that such an interpretation contravenes legislative intent and the body of federal case law construing similar language in related criminal statutes.

B. Statutory Interpretation

This issue before the Court is one of statutory interpretation. Accordingly, the Court commences by applying the cardinal rule that a court must first examine the plain language of the statute itself. Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337, 340, 117 S.Ct. 843, 136 L.Ed.2d 808 (1997) (stating that "if the statutory language is unambiguous and `the statutory scheme is coherent and consistent,'" judicial inquiry ends) (internal citations omitted); Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470, 485, 37 S.Ct. 192, 61 L.Ed. 442 (1917) (holding that the plain meaning rule requires "that the meaning of a statute must, in the first instance, be sought in the language in which the act is framed, and if that is plain, ... the sole function of the courts is to enforce it according to its terms"). If the "statutory language is plain and admits of not more than one meaning, the duty of interpretation does not arise." Caminetti, 242 U.S. at 485, 37 S.Ct. 192. Nonetheless, if after considering the language, the court finds it to be unclear and ambiguous, then the court is permitted to inquire into the statute's legislative history in order to effect the intent of the legislature. See Robinson, 519 U.S. at 340-42, 117 S.Ct. 843. Moreover, there are acknowledged "rare cases [in which] the literal application of a statute will produce a result demonstrably at odds with the intentions of its drafters ..." Griffin v. Oceanic Contractors, Inc., 458 U.S. 564, 571, 102 S.Ct. 3245, 73 L.Ed.2d 973 (1982), so that the plain meaning of the statutory text is inconclusive. Ultimately the goal of the Court is to discern and "always give effect to the intent of the legislature." Robinson, 519 U.S. at 341, 117 S.Ct. 843 (1997).

With these guidelines in mind, the Court turns to the contested phrase, "convicted of two or more offenses." When determining the existence of ambiguity, the court is guided "by reference to the language itself, the specific context in which that language is used, and the broader context of the statute as a whole." United States v. Jennings, 323 F.3d 263, 266-67 (4th Cir.2003) (quoting Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337, 341, 117 S.Ct. 843, 136 L.Ed.2d 808, (1997)). Generally, a court may find that "[a]mbiguity exists when a statute is capable of being understood by reasonably well-informed persons in two or more different senses." United States v. Iron Mountain Mines, Inc. 812 F.Supp. 1528, 1557 (E.D.Cal.1992) (citing 2A SUTHERLAND, STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION §§ 45.02 at 5 (5th ed.1992)).

At first glance, the term "convicted of two or more offenses" appears clear and unambiguous. As the Government posits, this phrase could be interpreted to mean that a defendant need only have been charged and convicted of violating two separate statutes, regardless of whether the underlying criminal acts resulted out of more than one criminal episode, were distinct in time, or unrelated. Such a reading presents a very literal interpretation based on the plain language; however, specific statutory language cannot be read in a vacuum, but rather, must be read in the broader context of the statute and the embodying law itself. Robinson, 519 U.S. at 341, 117 S.Ct. 843. Although the Government's interpretation is logical, a second and equally plausible interpretation exists. When interpreting the statute in the broader context of the criminal law as discussed below, one conversant with criminal law could understand the requirement of "convicted of two or more offenses" to mean that the prior two convictions must have resulted from two separate criminal episodes, in order to count as predicate convictions. See infra Part II.C. Based upon these two plausible interpretations, the Court finds "convicted of two or more offenses" ambiguous. Consequently, the Court is entitled to go beyond the statute's plain language to interpret its intended meaning. Robinson, 519 U.S. at 340-42, 117 S.Ct. 843.

Alternatively, as discussed below, the literal application of the statute would do violence to the intentions of its drafters, allowing further examination of all sources of legislative intent to effect the intent of Congress. Griffin v. Oceanic Contractors, Inc., supra.

Interpretation of any provision of the Bail Reform Act must necessarily be informed by the radical and controversial change that the act wrought. Prior to 1984, judges could detain only those defendants considered likely to flee before trial or those defendants who threatened to harm, or did harm witnesses, jurors or other participants in the judicial process. The drafters recognized that "a pretrial detention statute may ... be constitutionally defective if it ... does not limit[] pretrial detention to cases where it is necessary to serve the societal interests it is designed to protect." [S. Report 98-225, 8]. While the Supreme Court ultimately approved pretrial detention based on dangerousness in U.S. v. Salerno,3 the Court was clear that the Act is preventative, rather than punitive, in nature. 481 U.S. 739,...

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3 cases
  • U.S. v. Allen
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • January 13, 2006
    ...§ 3142(f)(1)(D) because the defendant had only one prior "offense" rather than the two offenses required by law. See United States v. Selby, 333 F.Supp.2d 367 (D.Md.2004)(holding that predicate convictions must arise from separate criminal episodes in order for a defendant to be detained on......
  • U.S. v. Pereira
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
    • September 25, 2006
    ...Campbell, 28 F.Supp.2d 805, 809 (W.D.N.Y., 1998). I respectfully disagree with the contrary holding in the case of United States v. Selby, 333 F.Supp.2d 367 (D.Md., 2004) (holding that under the Bail Reform Act, for a defendant to have been convicted of two or more offenses constituting cri......
  • United States v. Anderson
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    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • April 7, 2016
    ...42 n. 5 (emphasis in original). In finding detention appropriate, the district court rejected a contrary holding in United States v. Selby, 333 F.Supp.2d 367, 369 (D.Md.2004), where the court found that in order for a defendant to have been convicted of two or more crimes of violence under ......

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