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United States v. Dickerson

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 2, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
KENNETH DICKERSON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT C. BRACK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the government's appeal of Magistrate Judge Fouratt's order of release for Defendant Kenneth Dickerson. Judge Fouratt ruled that strict conditions of release would be enough to prevent Mr. Dickerson from fleeing law enforcement or threatening the community. The government disagrees, citing evidence that it repeatedly failed to disclose to Judge Fouratt.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant Kenneth Dickerson is a 56-year-old man living in New Mexico. The government suspects Mr. Dickerson and another individual, Ethan Watts, of being part of a Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) that distributes methamphetamine. (See Doc. 148 at 3-4.) As part of its investigation into the DTO, the government intercepted and read text messages between Mr. Dickerson and Mr. Watts. (See Id. at 4.)

         Based on the intercepted texts, the government determined that in July 2017 Mr. Dickerson gave almost all his money to Mr. Watts so Mr. Watts could buy four ounces of methamphetamine for Mr. Dickerson. (See Id. at 6-7.) Unsettled about leaving almost all his money to Mr. Watts for a drug transaction, Mr. Dickerson texted Mr. Watts, “ok bro if something happens kill the motherfuckers.” (See Id. at 6.)

         Later that day, government agents saw Mr. Dickerson stop by Mr. Watts's residence for a few minutes. (Id. at 7.) As Mr. Dickerson was driving away from Mr. Watts's residence, police detained Mr. Dickerson. (Id.) In Mr. Dickerson's pocket and car, police found four ounces of methamphetamine, which Mr. Dickerson admitted was his. (See id.)

         Mr. Dickerson subsequently tried to hide from Mr. Watts the fact that police had seized his methamphetamine, texting Mr. Watts, “They stole my colt python and the 4 i had im sorry but ill get you even if i have to sale my bike.” (See Id. at 8.)

         Afterwards, government agents arrested and charged Mr. Dickerson for a series of crimes associated with the trafficking of methamphetamine in New Mexico, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine. (See Id. at 10.)

         First Detention Hearing

         Mr. Dickerson appeared before Magistrate Judge Fouratt in Las Cruces, New Mexico, for a detention hearing. (See Doc. 106 at 1.) At the detention hearing, the government told Judge Fouratt that there was no evidence that Mr. Dickerson possessed any firearms during the course of the government's investigation into the DTO, (see Doc. 144 at 3 (emphasis added)), even though Mr. Dickerson had allegedly texted an associate, “They stole my colt python[1] . . . ” (Doc. 148 at 8 (emphasis added)). The government also told Judge Fouratt that there was no evidence that Mr. Dickerson made any threats against any person during the course of the government's investigation into the DTO, (see Doc. 144 at 3 (emphasis added)), even though Mr. Dickerson had allegedly texted an associate, “ok bro if something happens kill the motherfuckers” (Doc. 148 at 6 (emphasis added)).

         Despite the government's shocking failure to correctly inform Judge Fouratt of the danger to the community Mr. Dickerson posed, Judge Fouratt still ordered that Mr. Dickerson be detained pending trial. (Doc. 120 at 2.) At the time of the detention hearing, there was no suitable third-party custodian who could watch over Mr. Dickerson if he were released, and Judge Fouratt determined that no conditions of release could reasonably ensure that Mr. Dickerson would appear in court and that Mr. Dickerson would not threaten the community. (See Doc. 144 at 7.)

         Second Detention Hearing

         After Judge Fouratt's ruling, Mr. Dickerson's father was identified as a potential third-party custodian. Based on this new information, Mr. Dickerson asked Judge Fouratt to reconsider his ruling, and Judge Fouratt agreed that the previously unknown information about Mr. Dickerson's father warranted reconsideration of Mr. Dickerson's detention. (See id.)

         In reconsidering Mr. Dickerson's detention, Judge Fouratt noted some red flags that suggested Mr. Dickerson would flee or be a danger to the community: among other things, Mr. Dickerson had multiple brushes with law enforcement in the past; he did not appear as required for state court proceedings on multiple occasions; and he ...


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