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United States v. Debrum

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 19, 2015



GEORGE A. O'TOOLE, Jr., District Judge.

The defendant, Joseph Debrum, is charged with violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b), enticing or coercing a minor to engage in sexual activity, and 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a) and (e), enticing or coercing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct in order to produce images of that conduct. On August 31, 2015, the defendant appeared before Magistrate Judge Kelley for his initial appearance.[1] The government moved for the defendant's detention pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 3142(f)(1)(A), (B), and (E) and 18 U.S.C. §§ 3142(f)(2)(A) and (B). The government requested additional time to prepare for the detention hearing. The United States Marshals Service ("USMS") stated that it lacked locally available resources to house the defendant because of his various medical issues. The magistrate judge released the defendant to his residence in Taunton, Massachusetts pending his detention hearing. Conditions of his release required him to execute an unsecured bond of $10, 000, report to Pretrial Services as directed, surrender any passport and not obtain another, avoid all contact with anyone under eighteen years of age, refrain from possessing any weapons, remain in twenty-four hour home incarceration with location monitoring, refrain from internet use, and notify Pretrial Services of any contact with law enforcement.

A two-day detention hearing was held before the magistrate judge on September 2 and 11, 2015. Following testimony by Special Agent Janet Connolly and additional evidence, the magistrate judge issued an oral order on September 11 requiring the detention of the defendant, and later that day she issued a written order. The magistrate judge found that the government had established by clear and convincing evidence that no condition or combination of conditions would reasonably assure the safety of any other person and the community if he was released. She concluded, however, that he was not a flight risk, finding that the defendant had met his burden to rebut the presumption and that the government did not establish by a preponderance of the evidence that he poses a risk of flight such that no condition or combination of conditions could reasonably assure his appearance as required. After consultation with the USMS, it was arranged for the defendant to be detained at the Albany County Correctional Facility ("ACCF") in New York, because that facility appeared to be able to address the defendant's medical needs in a detention setting, unlike the usual local detention facilities.

That same day, the defendant filed an emergency motion for stay of the detention order and a notice of appeal of the detention order pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3145(b). The appeal was assigned to me as the miscellaneous business judge for the month of September, and I held a hearing on the defendant's motion that afternoon. By then, however, the magistrate had denied his emergency motion for a stay and the defendant was already en route or had already arrived at ACCF, approximately three hours away. As the emergency stay request was moot, I continued the case for a detention hearing to receive additional evidence, including information regarding how ACCF was equipped to handle the defendant's medical needs.

In preparation for the hearing and at the defense counsel's request, the Clerk's Office attempted to coordinate the defendant's transportation to the courthouse so he could be physically present at the hearing. I learned via email from the USMS that medical personnel at the Albany facility had informed the USMS that they strongly advised against moving the defendant because of his medical condition. Medical personnel reported that every one to two hours the defendant's pressure wounds required dressing, he needed to be repositioned, and his clothing had to be changed. The USMS reported that it was not equipped to handle the defendant's medical needs in connection with the court appearance.

On October 1, a status conference was held with the parties to discuss the defendant's presence at the hearing.[2] I shared two emails from the USMS with the parties. The status conference was continued to October 5 to give defense counsel additional time to speak with his client and medical personnel at ACCF. On October 5, defense counsel reported that he had consulted with his client and medical personnel and, based upon medical advice and his understanding of his client's condition and needs, he could not advocate for his client's physical presence at the detention hearing, although his client expressed a desire to attend. The government also argued that the defendant's presence by videoconference was appropriate under the circumstances.

On October 8, an evidentiary hearing on detention was held with the defendant appearing via live videoconference. The government recalled Special Agent Connolly to testify about uncharged offenses against other minor victims, the defendant's medical care at ACCF, and issues related to eviction proceedings against the defendant and his fiancee, Nancy Reardon. The defendant called ACCF Health Services Administrator Gloria Cooper and Dr. Silver Masaba via videoconference to testify about the defendant's medical care at ACCF and his current condition.

Additionally, on October 8, 2005, Pretrial Services submitted a memorandum regarding a third-party custodian investigation of the defendant's mother, Filomena Bruneau, completed at my request. The probation officer found the defendant's mother to be a suitable third-party custodian if the Court were inclined to release the defendant. She reported that the mother is well-established in her community of New Bedford, worked for thirty years in the same position prior to retirement, is close to the defendant and helps provide backup care for him, and has expressed a willingness to assist in supervising the defendant in the community and to report any violations of conditions of release.

I. Relevant Facts

The defendant is charged with offenses related to his online communications with a minor female. The magistrate judge's detention order describes them in some detail and it is unnecessary to repeat them here. In sum, the defendant allegedly established a relationship with the child through a course of deceit, threats, and manipulation, and coerced her to take sexually explicit photographs of herself and send them to him. There is evidence that he engaged in a similar course of conduct with other minor females as well.

The defendant is a thirty-nine year old lifelong resident of Massachusetts. He has lived at his current residence in government-subsidized housing for approximately fifteen years. He previously performed clerical work, but has been unemployed for over ten years. He collects Social Security Disability Income. He has little in the way of assets.

Prior to his detention, the defendant lived with his fiancee who also serves as his full-time, paid caretaker. They have been in a relationship for thirteen years and have lived together for the past eleven. Currently, the two are involved in separate eviction proceedings. The defendant and his fiancee have entered into Agreements for Judgment in the state housing court agreeing to vacate the apartment on or before December 4, 2015.

The defendant faces serious health issues. He was born with spina bifida and is paraplegic. He is wheelchair-bound and requires assistance performing activities of daily living, including toileting, bathing, and transferring in and out of his wheelchair. He is stool incontinent and wears diapers. He also has Type II diabetes, is insulin-dependent, and is on a special diet. He has high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He takes numerous medications.[3] Furthermore, medical personnel advises that he sit in a wheelchair for no more than two hours at a time because of pressure wounds which are susceptible to further skin breakdown and infection. Indeed, medical personnel advised against even transporting the defendant to the courthouse in Springfield, Massachusetts, less than two hours away from ACCF. The defendant requires frequent care to change his position in bed and to change his soiled clothing as his diapers exacerbate the sores and possibility of infection. Additionally, because of problems attaching his urostomy bag, his urostomy currently leaks urine on a constant basis.

ACCF appears equipped to handle the defendant's medical care. Personnel at the facility have experience with prisoners and detainees with spina bifida, paraplegia, diabetes, and incontinence. The defendant receives his medication and assistance with hygiene, transferring, and repositioning. The facility is treating the pressure wounds, which were present before the defendant was detained. ACCF personnel are working to schedule a consult for his urostomy issue and, once that is resolved, will take him to a local wound clinic for specialized care of the pressure wounds. The medical evidence does not indicate that the defendant is experiencing pain or discomfort beyond what is endemic to his multiple physical ...

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