United States v. Seger

Decision Date29 January 2014
Docket NumberNo. 1:98–cr–00065–JAW.,1:98–cr–00065–JAW.
Citation993 F.Supp.2d 30
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. Robert SEGER.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maine

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Gail Fisk Malone, Nancy Torresen, Office of the U.S. Attorney, Bangor, ME, for United States of America.

ORDER CLARIFYING SUPERVISED RELEASE

JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR., Chief Judge.

In 1999, the Court sentenced Robert Seger to 120 months incarceration and thirty-six months supervised release for the possession, receipt, distribution, and production of child pornography. Mr. Seger's term of incarceration was due to end on March 20, 2008. However, the Government moved to civilly commit Mr. Seger as a “sexually dangerous person” under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, 18 U.S.C. § 4248(a) (2006) (Adam Walsh Act). During the civil commitment proceeding, Mr. Seger remained incarcerated. After a federal district court denied the Government's motion to civilly commit Mr. Seger, he was released from incarceration on February 6, 2013. Mr. Seger now moves the Court to clarify whether his term of supervised release began to run on March 20, 2008, when he was originally scheduled to be released from prison, or on February 6, 2013, when he was actually released. The Court clarifies that Mr. Seger's period of supervised release began to run on February 6, 2013, and will terminate on February 6, 2016.

I. FACTS

Mr. Seger and the Government do not dispute the historical facts of this case. The Court sentenced Mr. Seger in 1999 to 120 months incarceration and thirty-six months supervised release.1J. (ECF No. 8); see Renewed Mot. to Clarify Terms of Supervised Release at 1 (ECF No. 19) (Feb. 7, 2013) ( Def.'s Mot.); Gov't's Resp. to Def.'s Renewed Pro Se Mot. to Clarify Terms of Supervised Release at 1 (ECF No. 21) (Feb. 22, 2013) ( Gov't's Original Resp.). On March 10, 2008, ten days before the conclusion of his sentence, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh, North Carolina moved to have Mr. Seger civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person, pursuant to the provisions of the Adam Walsh Act. Def.'s Mot. at 1; Gov't's Original Resp. at 1. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) retained physical custody of Mr. Seger pending the outcome of the civil commitment proceeding. Def.'s Mot. at 1; Gov't's Original Resp. at 2.

On March 11, 2008, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina held Mr. Seger's civil commitment case in abeyance pending the resolution of United States v. Comstock, 507 F.Supp.2d 522 (E.D.N.C.2007), aff'd,551 F.3d 274 (4th Cir.2009), rev'd,560 U.S. 126, 130 S.Ct. 1949, 176 L.Ed.2d 878 (2010), on remand,627 F.3d 513 (4th Cir.2010), cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 3026, 180 L.Ed.2d 865 (2011) (mem.). Order Staying Case (ECF No. 2), United States v. Seger, No. 5:08–hc–02304–MU (E.D.N.C. Mar. 11, 2008). The district court lifted this stay on June 11, 2010. Order (ECF No. 7), United States v. Seger, No. 5:08–hc–02304–MU. On January 23, 2013, following motion practice and a trial, the district court determined that Mr. Seger was not a sexually dangerous person and ordered his release from the custody of the BOP. Order (ECF No. 101), United States v. Seger, No. 5:08–hc–02304–MU. This chronology shows that in total, Mr. Seger spent nearly five years of additional time in the custody of the BOP after his scheduled release date. During this time, Mr. Seger was classified as a civil detainee but was housed at the same Federal Correctional Institution where he served his incarceration. Def.'s Mot. at 2; see Gov't's Resp. at 2 (declining to dispute this fact).

On March 7, 2011, shortly before his confinement was due to end, Mr. Seger moved this Court to clarify the terms of his supervised release, raising essentially the same issue he now raises. Pro Se Mot. for Order to Clarify Terms of Supervised Release (ECF No. 11). The Court dismissed that motion without prejudice because the legal issue was not ripe for judicial review. Order on Mot. to Clarify Terms of Supervised Release (ECF No. 18). Mr. Seger, acting pro se, renewed his motion to clarify on February 7, 2013. Def.'s Mot. The Government responded on February 22,2013. Gov't's Original Resp.

On December 2, 2013, the Court appointed counsel for Mr. Seger, Notice (ECF No. 24), and on December 19, 2013, Mr. Seger through his attorney filed a memorandum in support of his motion to clarify. Def.'s Mem. in Support of Renewed Mot. to Clarify Terms of Supervised Release and/or Acknowledgment of Its Completion (ECF No. 25) ( Def.'s Mem.). The Government responded on January 21, 2014, incorporating its prior response and responding to arguments in Mr. Seger's subsequent memorandum. Gov't's Resp. to Def.'s Renewed Pro Se Mot. to Clarify Terms of Supervised Release at 3 ( Gov't's Resp.) (ECF No. 29).

II. THE POSITIONS OF THE PARTIESA. Robert Seger's Motion

Mr. Seger begins with his primary argument—the proposition that a term of supervised release begins to run “on the day the person is released from imprisonment.” Def.'s Mot. at 3 (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3624(e)). He further notes that “the only time a period of supervised release can be tolled is when a defendant subject to supervised release is incarcerated for a new criminal conviction.” Id. (citing United States v. Hernandez–Ferrer, 599 F.3d 63, 67 (1st Cir.2010)). Because his civil confinement was not an incarceration pursuant to a new criminal conviction, Mr. Seger concludes that there were no legitimate grounds for tolling the period of his supervised release. Id. He further concludes that his term of supervised release “must be deemed to have begun on March 20, 2008, concluding 36 months later on March 20, 2011.” Id.

Mr. Seger cites three cases from federal district courts reaching the same conclusion, and two recent cases from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Id. (citing United States v. Turner, 689 F.3d 1117 (9th Cir.2012); United States v. Bolander, 487 Fed.Appx. 349 (9th Cir.2012); United States v. Wade, No. 06–cr–103–RCJ–GWF (D.Nev.2009); United States v. Shideler, No. 95–cr–8105–JIC (S.D.Fla.2010); and United States v. Mays, No. 03–cr–16–JDS (D.Mont.2010)).

Mr. Seger also asserts that he will suffer a hardship if the Court again declines to rule on this matter because of the restrictive conditions of his supervised release. Id. at 4.

B. Mr. Seger's Memorandum

In Mr. Seger's supporting memorandum, he first notes that, unlike his first petition for the same relief filed in 2011, the pending petition presents a ripe controversy and therefore the Court retains jurisdiction to determine the instant petition. Def.'s Mem at 1–3. Next, Mr. Seger offers several arguments in support of his position that his term of supervised release began to run upon the conclusion of his term of criminal imprisonment in 2008. Noting that beginning in 2008, his confinement became clearly civil in nature, Mr. Segar argues [t]o conflate civil detention with criminal imprisonment would render proceedings pursuant to [the Adam Walsh Act] unconstitutional under the Due Process, separation of powers, ex Post Facto, and perhaps other constitutional clauses.” Id. at 4–5. He reiterates his prior argument that the tolling provision of 18 U.S.C. § 3624(e) only allows for tolling of the supervised release period with respect to a person who is “imprisoned in connection with a conviction.” Id. at 5. On this basis, Mr. Seger submits that because the detention at issue resulted from a civil proceeding, his term of supervised release was never tolled and instead started upon the expiration of his criminal sentence on March 20, 2008. Id. at 5–6.

Mr. Seger then argues that the Ninth Circuit's favorable interpretation of § 3624 in Turner is more consistent with First Circuit caselaw than the Eighth Circuit's contrary conclusion in United States v. Mosby, 719 F.3d 925 (8th Cir.2013).2Id.at 6–11. He explains that Turner, which stated that a § 4248 civil commitment proceeding is not “imprisonment that would toll a term of supervised release,” 689 F.3d at 1121, “dove-tails” with Hernandez–Ferrer; there, the First Circuit determined that “the fact that Congress provided for a tolling period of supervised release only when an offender is imprisoned for a different crime is a decisive argument for the proposition that Congress did not intend to toll a period of supervised release for any other reason (including an offender's fugitive status).” Id. at 8–9 (quoting Hernandez–Ferrer, 599 F.3d at 68). By contrast, the Eighth Circuit never reached the tolling issue and instead found that the term of supervised release had not commenced upon conclusion of the defendant's prison term because the defendant had not been released from custody until after his § 4248 petition had been denied. Id. at 9–10 (citing Mosby, 719 F.3d at 928). Mr. Seger argues that Mosby has “fleeting appeal” because the Eighth Circuit erroneously relied on a Supreme Court case, United States v. Johnson, 529 U.S. 53, 120 S.Ct. 1114, 146 L.Ed.2d 39 (2000), in which the analysis of § 3624(e) focused on time served “by dint of a criminal conviction” and not, as here, as a result of a civil proceeding.

Finally, Mr. Seger acknowledges that a primary purpose of supervised release, as stated in Johnson, is to provide supervision, but argues Hernandez–Ferrer and other cases demonstrate that this purpose “cannot override the explicit limitation of the tolling provision recognized in Hernandez–Ferrer ....” Id. at 11. He asserts that the caselaw focuses on “whether the detention was in relation to a criminal conviction,” and not on “whether the person was supervised or not.” Id. at 12.

C. The Government's Response

The Government opposes Mr. Seger's interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 3624(e). It draws a distinction between tolling and the commencement of supervised release. Gov't's Resp. at 3–4. It notes that civil commitment proceedings under the Adam Walsh Act stay a defendant's release from imprisonment, so that the...

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    ...also United States v. Neuhauser, 745 F.3d 125 (4th Cir. 2014); United States v. Mosby, 719 F.3d 925 (8th Cir. 2013); United States v. Seger, 993 F. Supp. 2d 30 (D. Me. 2014). The Ninth Circuit has taken a different view (over the dissent of Judge M. Smith), in United States v. Turner, 689 F......

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