United States District Court, D. New Mexico
Letitia Carroll Simms Assistant United States Attorney United
States Attorney's Office Albuquerque, New Mexico
Attorneys for the Government
Corlew Bhalla, Joseph E. Shattuck Marco & Shattuck
Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorneys for the Defendant
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTER comes before the Court on the Defendant's Appeal
of Detention Order, filed March 5, 2018 (Doc.
51)(“Appeal”). The Court held a hearing on March
19, 2018. The primary issue is whether Defendant Adonis Baker
presents a flight risk or is a danger to the community, and
should therefore remain in custody pending trial, or whether
the Court can furnish conditions of release that can reduce
those risks to acceptable levels. The United States of
America has shown, by clear-and-convincing evidence, that
Baker is a danger to the community, and has shown, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that Baker is a flight risk.
The Court denies Baker's Appeal, thereby affirming the
Honorable Laura Fashing, United States Magistrate Judge for
the United States District Court for the District of New
Mexico's Order of Detention Pending Trial, see
Order, filed September 29, 2017 (Doc. 15)(“Order of
Detention”), and Magistrate Judge Fashing's Order
Denying Motion to Release Defendant From Custody, filed
January 2, 2018 (Doc. 46)(“Order Denying Motion to
Court sets forth the facts as the United States alleges them
in its Indictment, filed September 21, 2017 (Doc.
1)(“Indictment”), and as the United States
Probation Office describes them in the Bail Report (disclosed
October 13, 2017)(Doc. 24)(“Bail Report”),
bearing in mind that Baker is presumed innocent of all
charges, see Estelle v. Williams, 425 U.S. 501, 503
(1976)(“The presumption of innocence, although not
articulated in the Constitution, is a basic component of a
fair trial under our system of criminal justice.”
(citing Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432, 453
(1895))). The Court recites the United States' version of
the facts because the high burden of proof placed on the
United States necessitates that it has a cogent, internally
consistent version of events,  and not out of any predisposition
to believe the United States' side of the story. See
In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 365 (1970)(“[W]e
explicitly hold that the Due Process Clause protects the
accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a
reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the
crime with which he is charged.”).
Bail Report indicates that Baker was born in Alabama and has
lived in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area for the last four
years. See Bail Report at 1-2. Baker has a father
and a sister, who both reside in Birmingham, Alabama.
See Bail Report at 2. Baker has daily contact with
his sister and weekly contact with his parents. See
Bail Report at 2. His mother is believed to reside in
Indiana. See Bail Report at 2. Baker advises that he
has been in a relationship for the past two years and that he
has no children. See Bail Report at 2.
has been unemployed since 2013 and could not provide the name
of his last employer. See Bail Report at 2. Baker
does not have a United States of America passport and has
never traveled outside of the United States. See
Bail Report at 2.
has a 2013 conviction for a drug-related offense.
See Bail Report at 3. He has a certificate of
completion from the State of Alabama Department of
Corrections Substance Abuse Program, granted on October 27,
2006. See Bail Report at 3. The Bail Report also
references other documentation admitting past drug addiction.
See Bail Report at 3. No. evidence suggests Baker
has current or past mental health conditions. See
Bail Report at 3.
2003, Baker has been charged with criminal conduct five
times, not including the current charges. See Bail
Report at 5-6. From 2003 to the present, Baker was charged
with the following: (i) theft of property (April 2003); (ii)
robbery (May 2003); (iii) assault/reckless endangerment
(March 2005)(Baker's only charge for violent behavior);
(iv) possession of marijuana less than two ounces and
possession of a controlled substance less than twenty-eight
grams (August 2012); and (v) improper use of evidence of
registration, improper display of registration plate, and no
driver's license (November 2015). See Bail
Report at 5-6. Baker was convicted of the theft of property,
the robbery, the misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and of
improper display of his registration plate. See Bail
Report at 5-6.
hearing on the Appeal, on March 19, 2018, see
Transcript of Detention Hearing (taken March 19,
2018)(Court)(“March 19 Tr.”), the Court
elicited details of Baker's past convictions from his
counsel. See March 19 Tr. at 4:8-9 (Court). Baker
alleges that his theft of property conviction was a petty
theft, involving shoplifting from Walmart. See March
19 Tr. at 4:19-22 (Court). Baker also alleges that his
robbery conviction was a purse snatching, committed by
another individual while Baker drove the car involved in the
crime. See March 19 Tr. at 4:23-5:2 (Baiz). Baker
asserts that the circumstances of his assault/reckless
endangerment charge are that he ran a few red lights, and
then an officer stopped to investigate him and see whether
the car he was driving was stolen. See March 19 Tr.
at 5:10-13 (Baiz). There is no disposition for that charge
mentioned in the Bail Report. See March 19 Tr. at
5:6-9 (Court). After Baker's robbery conviction, he was
placed on probation and then his probation was revoked,
because he had a dirty urine test due to cocaine use.
See March 19 Tr. at 5:16-20 (Baiz). Baker asserts
that his traffic-related offenses are that he was found to
have a newly-purchased car that had not been registered with
the DMV. See March 19 Tr. at 6:19-21 (Baiz). Baker
has previously violated probation, and has had an active
warrant since April 28, 2014, extraditable in Texas only, for
a probation violation related to the possession of marijuana
charge. See Bail Report at 5-6. Baker has also
failed to appear, and in December 2015, the County of
Bernalillo, New Mexico, issued a failure to appear bench
warrant for Baker on his traffic-related offenses.
See Bail Report at 6. Bernalillo County canceled the
warrant in May, 2017, when he was convicted of improper
display of his registration plate and ordered to pay fines
and fees. See Bail Report at 6.
contends that, because he is a felon, he does not possess a
firearm. See Transcript of Hearing at 3:20-21 (taken
September 29, 2017)(Baiz)(“Sept. 29 Tr.”). At the
September 29, 2017, detention hearing, however, Homeland
Security Investigations Agent Morgan Langer testified that
almost every alleged victim interviewed stated that Baker
“was armed at all times.” Sept. 29 Tr. at 9:10-11
(Langer). Langer also testified that he found “some
handgun ammunition” in Baker's apartment, although
he did not find a firearm. See Sept. 29 Tr. at
9:21-10:1 (Langer, Court). Langer relayed what he had learned
through his investigation of Baker: that Baker
“targeted women that were often homeless, often
drug-addicted, vulnerable women, and would use that to
recruit them through force, coercion, threats, violence, into
a life of prostitution where the proceeds from their
prostitution activities would be turned over to Mr. Baker and
some of his associates.” See Sept. 29 Tr. at
8:12-18 (Langer). Langer testified that there were reports of
women who were drugged and awoke in different cities,
including cities outside of New Mexico. See Sept. 29
Tr. at 8:23-25 (Langer). At least one victim reported Baker
holding a gun to her head. See Sept. 29 Tr. at
11:2-4 (Simms, Langer). Another reported Baker holding her
head under water. See Sept. 29 Tr. at 11:5-7 (Simms,
Langer). Of the six named victims, three reported that Baker
had committed acts of violence against them, and a fourth
reported that Baker had threatened her with violence.
See Sept. 29 Tr. at 15:2-4 (Langer). Langer
testified that Baker used “physical violence, beatings
with his hands . . . threats with a firearm . . . sexual
violence” and rape against the victims. Sept. 29 Tr. at
10:19-11:1 (Simms, Langer). Langer reported that Baker lured
the juvenile victim identified in the Indictment, a runaway
from Phoenix, Arizona, into his car with drugs. See
Sept. 29 Tr. at 22:7-11 (Langer). Langer alleges that, once
the juvenile was in Baker's car, she noticed it had
disabled locks. See Sept. 29 Tr. at 22:12-13
(Langer). Langer then asserts that Baker drove the juvenile
from Phoenix to Albuquerque for the purpose of engaging in
prostitution, but that Baker released her after she refused
to engage in prostitution. See Sept. 29 Tr. at
22:13-16 (Langer). Langer testified that other victims
reported that they were too afraid of Baker to cooperate in
the investigation. See Sept. 29 Tr. at 23:5-12
twelve-count Indictment charges Baker with sex trafficking by
means of force, threats, fraud, and coercion; coercion and
enticement to engage in prostitution; transportation for
prostitution; sex trafficking of a child; and transportation
of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
See Indictment at 1-6. The United States asserts that
the penalties Baker faces on at least four of the twelve
counts in the original Indictment are a mandatory fifteen
years in prison, that may run consecutively. See
Sept. 29 Tr. at 26:9-12 (Simms).
United States Probation Office (“USPO”)
recommends that Baker remain in custody, as it appears there
“is no condition or combination of conditions that will
reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant as required
and the safety of the community.” Bail Report at 4. In
support of its recommendation, the USPO alleges ten factors
which indicate that Baker poses a danger to the community:
(i) Nature of Instant Offense; (ii) Prior Arrests and
Convictions; (iii) Substance Abuse History; (iv) Violent
Behavior History; (v) Pretrial, Probation, Parole, or
Supervised Release Status and Compliance; (vi) Criminal
Activity While Under Supervision; (vii) History/Charge
Involving a Child; (viii) History/Charge involving Sex
Offense/Abuse; (viv) Safety Concerns for the Community or a
Specific Individual; and (x) Criminal History. See
Bail Report at 4. In the Addendum to the Bail Report, filed
March 16, 2018 (Doc. 57)(“Addendum”), the USPO
also cites the fact that three of the victims have not been
located. See Addendum at 1.
September 21, 2017, a federal grand jury returned the
twelve-count Indictment in United States v. Baker,
No. CR 17-2556 JB (D.N.M.)(Browning, J.). Magistrate Judge
Fashing held a detention hearing on September 29, 2017.
See Sept. 29 Tr. at 1. After the September 29, 2017,
detention hearing, Magistrate Judge Fashing concluded that a
rebuttable presumption arises under 18 U.S.C. §
3142(e)(3) that no condition or combination of conditions
will reasonably assure Baker's appearance as required and
the safety of the community, because there is probable cause
to believe that Baker committed an offense involving a minor
victim. See Order of Detention at 2. According to
Magistrate Judge Fashing, Baker did not introduce sufficient
evidence to rebut this presumption. See Order of
Detention at 2. Additionally, weighing the factors set forth
in 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g) and the information presented at
the detention hearing, Magistrate Judge Fashing concluded
that the United States proved by clear-and-convincing
evidence that Baker is a danger to the community, and by a
preponderance of the evidence that Baker is a flight risk.
See Order of Detention at 2. Magistrate Judge
Fashing noted Baker's previous failure to appear in court
as ordered, his lack of stable employment, his history of
violence or use of weapons, the lengthy period of
incarceration which he will face if he is convicted of the
present charges, and the weight of the evidence against him,
in supporting her conclusions that Baker is a flight risk and
a danger to the community. See Order of Detention at
the Order of Detention, Baker filed a Motion to Release
Defendant from Custody, filed December 20, 2017 (Doc.
42)(“Motion to Release”). In the Motion to
Release, Baker asserts that he has a minimal criminal
history, family members in Birmingham who are willing to
serve as third-party custodians, and that he has an
employment history pre-dating 2013. See Motion to
Release at 3. Baker requests that “he be allowed to
live and work in Birmingham and reside with his father and
grandmother as he is not either a danger to the community or
a flight risk.” Motion to Release at 3.
United States filed a response to the Motion to Release.
See United States' Response to Defendants'
Motion to Release Defendant from Custody, filed December 28,
2017 (Doc. 45)(“Response to Motion to Release”).
In the Response to Motion to Release, the United States
argues that a rebuttable presumption arises under 18 U.S.C.
§ 3142(e)(3) that there is no condition or set of
conditions that will reasonably assure Baker's appearance
as required and the safety of the community, because there is
probable cause to believe Baker violated 18 U.S.C.
§§ 1591 and 2423, both offenses involving minor
victims. See Response to Motion to Release at 1-2.
Specifically, the United States asserts that Baker “is
alleged to have lured a minor into his vehicle in Arizona,
and drove her to New Mexico while she was passed out under
the influence of drugs, so that she could work as a
prostitute for him.” Response to Motion to Release at
1-2. The United States argues that Baker did not put forth
sufficient information in his Motion to Release to overcome
the presumption in his case. See Response to Motion
to Release at 2. The United States argues that Baker's
proposed living arrangements in Alabama do not overcome the
rebuttable presumption against release, because the nature of
the charges against Baker indicate “he will drive
hundreds of miles from city to city to victimize women by
forcing them into prostitution.” Response to Motion to
Release at 2. The United States asserts that Baker failed to
advance any reason why his proposed living arrangement would
overcome the presumption in favor of detention in his case.
See Response to Motion to Release at 2.
United States argues that Baker is a flight risk, because he
has minimal ties to New Mexico, a history of failure to
appear, and an outstanding misdemeanor warrant in Texas
(demonstrating his unwillingness to appear in court), and is
facing a mandatory minimum of fifteen years'
incarceration on multiple charges. See Response to
Motion to Release at 2.
United States also argues that Baker is a danger both to the
community and to the victims, because, the United States
alleges, Baker regularly possessed a firearm, used physical
violence, threats, and drugs to control women, and trafficked
women -- including a minor -- using force, fraud, and
coercion. See Response to Motion to Release at 2-3.
Finally, the United States argues that, because Baker is
facing a long period of incarceration, he has an interest in
finding and silencing his victims. See Response to
Motion to Release at 2-3.
although Magistrate Judge Fashing stated that Baker's
criminal history is not significant, she asserted that it
does not demonstrate that he is not a flight risk or a danger
to the community, and it is not sufficient to rebut the
presumption in favor of detention. See Order Denying
Motion to Release at 2-3. In support, Magistrate Judge
Fashing highlighted that Baker's criminal history
includes a probation revocation on his robbery conviction
from May, 2006, a probation violation with an active warrant
from 2012, and a failure to appear on a misdemeanor charge in
Magistrate Judge Fashing cited to the victims' reports of
violence and threats of violence testified to at the
detention hearing by Langer. See Order Denying
Motion to Release at 3. Magistrate Judge Fashing noted that
Counts 1 and 2 of the Indictment allege that Baker engaged in
the conduct testified to at the hearing, as far back as 2012.
See Order Denying Motion to Release at 4. According
to Langer's testimony, Baker has been unemployed since
2013, and has an apartment in Albuquerque, a residence in
Phoenix, and traveled to Phoenix, Colorado Springs, Las
Vegas, and elsewhere during the investigation. See
Order Denying Motion to Release at 4. Magistrate Judge
Fashing also notes that the United States represented at the
hearing that at least four of Baker's charged offenses
carry a minimum sentence of fifteen years of incarceration.
See Order Denying Motion to Release at 4.
Judge Fashing denied the Motion to Release, concluding that,
considering the testimony that Langer provided at the
detention hearing, the fact that Baker
has family members in Alabama who may be willing to serve as
third-party custodians, and that he has an employment history
prior to 2013, has no material bearing on whether Baker is a
flight risk or a danger to the community. This information is
also insufficient to overcome the presumption that Baker is
both a flight risk and a danger.
Denying Motion to Release at 4. Accordingly, Magistrate Judge
Fashing declined to reopen the detention hearing and denied
Baker's request for release. See Order Denying
Motion to Release at 4.
appeals the Order of Detention and the Order Denying Motion
to Release. See Appeal of Detention Order, filed
March 5, 2018 (Doc. 51)(“Appeal”). Baker argues
that circumstances in his case are such that the rebuttable
presumption under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e) “is overcome
and the Court should release Baker from custody.”
Appeal at 2. Baker first cites to his minimal criminal
history, the willingness of his father and grandmother to
serve as third party custodians, and his employment history
before 2013. See Appeal at 4. As Magistrate Judge
Fashing stated in the Order Denying Motion to Release:
All the reasons that Baker gives for his release -- that he
“has a minimal criminal history, ” that he is
from Birmingham, Alabama and has family members there who are
willing to serve as third party custodians, and that he has a
history of employment before 2013, Doc. 42 at 2-3 -- were
known to Baker on September 29, 2017 (the day of his
detention hearing), and he could have presented this
information to the Court then. Indeed, the Court considered
Baker's criminal history at the detention hearing, and
although that history is not significant, it was not
sufficient to rebut the presumption that he is both a flight
risk and a danger to the community.
Denying Motion to Release at 2.
argues that the facts of the Indictment alleging that he was
involved in allegations in 2012 are false. See
Appeal at 5. Baker asserts he was living in Beaumont, Texas
and working at Subway Sandwiches, until at least 2013, and
therefore could not have been involved in the “acts in
the indictment between June 2012 and June 2013.” Appeal
at 5. Baker also asserts that the alleged victim
“principally” responsible for the allegations of
violence against women, V.A., never stated during her
interview with Baker's defense team that she was afraid
of Baker. Appeal at 5. Baker further asserts only one audio
recording of an interview with a government witness has been
disclosed to him thus far in discovery. See Appeal
at 5. In that recording, “Jessica, ” one of the
victims, repeatedly stated to a police officer, despite being
prompted to say that she felt coerced, that she was
“not afraid of Baker and that she was engaging as a sex
worker because she wanted to, not because she was forced. She
also stated that Baker would not do anything violent because
he was a ‘caring person.'” Appeal at 5.
Baker asserts that he is not a danger, and argues that the
“clear and convincing evidence” standard that the
United States must meet requires “proof that the
particular defendant actually poses a danger to the
community, not that the defendant in theory poses a
danger.” Appeal at 6 (citing United States v.
Patriarca, 948 F.2d 789, 792 (1st Cir. 1991)). Because
Baker asserts that the allegations that witnesses are afraid
of him are false, Baker contends that he does not actually
pose a danger to the community, and therefore that the United
States has not established dangerousness by
clear-and-convincing evidence as required to support his
pretrial detention. See Appeal at 6.
that, based on a consideration of the § 3142(g) factors,
he “does not pose a risk of danger to the community,
nor is he at risk of non-appearance” such as could not
be managed by the imposition of reasonable conditions, Baker
requests that he “be allowed to live at La Pasada
Halfway House” pending trial. Appeal at 6. In
conclusion, Baker requests that the Court “set this
matter for a hearing as soon as possible; reverse the
Magistrate Judge's order of detention in this cause
[sic]; enter an order setting reasonable conditions of
release; and provide for such other and further relief to
which the Court may find Baker to be justly entitled.”
Appeal at 8.
The United States' Response.
United States requests that the Court deny Baker's
Appeal, as he “did not introduce sufficient evidence to
rebut the presumption of detention, and has offered no new
evidence that circumstances have since changed.”
Response at 1. The United States argues that there “are
no conditions that will reasonably assure Defendant's
presence at future hearings, or assure the safety of the
community.” Response at 1.
United States first asserts that the information Baker
presents in his Appeal regarding his criminal history, family
ties, and employment background is not new. See
Response at 3-4. The “Magistrate found such information
does not have a material bearing on whether the Defendant is
a flight risk or a danger to the community. Not only is this
information not new, but it was considered by the Magistrate
upon the Defendants [sic] Motion for Release.” Response
at 4 (citing Order Denying Motion for Release at 3-4).
United States notes that, when Baker refers to the acts in
the Indictment between June 2012 and June 2013, he is
referring to “Counts 1 and 2, which actually allege a
period from June 2012 through June 3, 2015.” Response
at 4. The United States maintains that, even if Baker was
living and working in Texas until 2013, he could still be
found guilty of these counts, because they allege a period
until 2015. See Response at 4.
United States takes the position that it is untrue that V.A.
never said that she was afraid of Baker during her interview
with Baker's defense team, and furthermore, the United
States argues that this fact is “irrelevant to the
weight of the evidence.” Response at 4. The United
States argues that whether a victim is currently scared of a
defendant is not necessarily probative of whether the
defendant ever used force, fraud, or coercion to compel
victims to work as prostitutes. See Response at 4-5.
Moreover, the United States relays that, upon V.A.'s
information and belief, she was specifically asked