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United States v. Leonard

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 7, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Matthew Francis Leonard, Defendant.

          ORDER

          David G. Campbell United States District Judge

         Defendant Matthew Francis Leonard has appealed Judge Eileen Willett's detention order. Doc. 19. The government has filed a response (Doc. 31), and defense counsel has informed the Court's staff that no reply will be filed. No party has requested a hearing.

         I.

         The Court's review of the detention decision is de novo. See United States v. Koenig, 912 F.2d 1190, 1192-93 (9th Cir. 1990). The Court must “review the evidence before the magistrate” and any additional evidence submitted by the parties “and make its own independent determination whether the magistrate's findings are correct, with no deference.” Id. at 1193. Under the Bail Reform Act of 1984, Defendant must be detained if the Court finds that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure his appearance at trial or the safety of the community. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e).

         Judge Willett detained Defendant as both a danger to the community and a flight risk. Doc. 13. The government contends that the Court should affirm on both grounds. The government must prove that Defendant is a danger to the community by clear and convincing evidence, 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f), and that he is a flight risk by a preponderance of the evidence, United States v. Motamedi, 767 F.2d 1403, 1406 (9th Cir. 1985).

         Parties may proceed by proffer at a detention hearing under the Bail Reform Act. United States v. Cabrera-Ortigoza, 196 F.R.D. 571, 574 (S.D. Cal. 2000) (collecting authorities). In this case, both parties provide various exhibits and factual proffers in their filings. No party has requested an evidentiary hearing, and Defendant has not objected to the proffers or exhibits in the government's response.

         II.

         Defendant contends that he is a farmer on the Navajo reservation who makes about $400 per month raising corn on his family farm. He asserts that he is not a flight risk, having never travelled far beyond the reservation, and that he is not a danger to the community. His appeal asserts that the Facebook posts cited by the government were made when he was young, and mostly contain quotations from various rap songs. Doc. 19.

         The government provides a detailed factual proffer, much of it supported by exhibits. The government notes that Defendant is an active member of the Red Skins Kings (RSK), a violent criminal gang on the Navajo reservation. He is charged with three counts: (1) misprision related to the murder of two people (committed by his brother); (2) making material false statements regarding his knowledge of RSK, its members, and its activities; and (3) tampering with proceedings by concealing his brother's location and helping him evade a federal arrest warrant for murder.

         The government proffers the following additional facts. Citations are to exhibits attached to the government's response; footnotes are also from the response:

RSK is a violent criminal street gang that operates in Lukachukai, Arizona, on the Navajo Indian Reservation. RSK instills fear in the community by committing violent acts such as murder and sexual assault. RSK uses social media to threaten and intimidate those who would interfere with the gang's criminal activities. RSK members show their gang allegiance by wearing maroon or Washington Redskins clothing; claiming status as “westside” or “WS”; or getting tattoos of “RSK, ” “Kingz, ” “XIV, ” or a crown. RSK graffiti appears in stretches of up to sixty miles on the reservation.
Defendant is an admitted member of RSK, and he appears to be the acting leader of the gang. His brother, D.L., was the leader of RSK, but he is currently incarcerated pending trial for a RICO conspiracy, multiple murders and other related charges in case number, CR 15-8076-PCT-DGC. On July 18, 2015 (when Defendant's brother was actively evading arrest), Defendant posted on Facebook, “I'm the king right now.” (Ex. 2 at 4.) D.L. was arrested ten days later in Tempe, Arizona. Since his brother's incarceration, Defendant got a crown tattoo on his back. (Ex. 4 at 3.) One of Defendant's Facebook names is “Mathew Last King Leonard.” (Ex. 2 at 1.) Defendant has sought to recruit new members for the gang (id. at 4-5), leading law enforcement to believe that he is helping his brother to run the gang while his brother is in jail. Both of Defendant's parents are also members of RSK (see Ex. 5 re: his father), and his mother is also incarcerated pending trial on a RICO charge in the case cited above.
In December 2014, Defendant's brother murdered two people, D.C. and R.H. He shot them, took them to a wash, dismembered them, and burned them in the middle of the night. During this attack, he was communicating with Defendant and his parents on the phone. Two days later, Defendant posted on Facebook, “Snitches end up in ditches” and “I hear a lots of haters talking when I'm not around, I'm come up and let that choppa chop em down. #ThisLifeiLead.”[1] (Ex. 3 at 5.) In February 2015, Defendant told law enforcement that he knew nothing about the missing men. When asked about his Facebook post in a subsequent law enforcement interview, Defendant responded, “fuck ‘em, snitches get what they have coming to ‘em.” During the February 2015 interview, Defendant also told law enforcement that he did not know what “Kingz” or RSK were, and that he did not know how to contact K.G., an RSK member who was a suspect with Defendant's brother in a separate murder investigation. K.G. is also indicted in the RICO conspiracy case. Approximately one month prior, on January 8, 2015, Defendant and K.G. were stopped together with a number of weapons in that murder victim's car. The car had the victim's blood in it.
Defendant later admitted that he is in fact a member of RSK, and phone records show that he had regular contact with murder suspect, K.G. Defendant's affiliation with RSK is documented on social media and through his tattoos. For example, in 2015, Defendant posted “Kingz until the day I D-I-E, XIV for eternity, official Scrap Killa and to all you smurfs. Hide before my bullets find you… #RSKXIV.” (Ex. 2 at 3.) When the FBI began to investigate one of his brother's murder cases, Defendant posted on Facebook, “me and my niggas don't tell.” (Ex. 3 ...

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