United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
HONORABLE JOHN C. COUGHENOUR, JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Christian
Djoko's motion to review and revoke the detention order
of the Honorable Michelle L. Peterson, United States
Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 58). Having considered the
parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court
GRANTS the motion and REVOKES the detention order (Dkt. No.
40) for the reasons stated herein.
September 2018 until November 2018, Mr. Djoko and two
codefendants allegedly conducted a campaign of harassment
against John Doe, a gay man from Cameroon who lives in
Seattle. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2-6.) According to the Government,
that campaign was multifaceted. (See Dkt. No. 73 at
4-6.) Mr. Djoko purportedly disseminated information about
John Doe's sexual orientation-including nude images of
John Doe and his husband-to the Cameroonian community.
(See Dkt. No. 1 at 3-6.) Mr. Djoko is also accused
of providing false information to the United States
Citizenship and Immigration Services in an attempt to have
John Doe deported. (See Dkt. Nos. 75-3, 75-4,
75-17.) And on October 21, 2018, Mr. Djoko and codefendant
Rodrigue Kamdem allegedly assaulted John Doe. (Dkt. No. 1 at
connection with that alleged assault, the Seattle Police
Department arrested Mr. Kamdem on November 3, 2018. (Dkt No.
73 at 6.) Following Mr. Kamdem's arrest, detectives
telephonically interviewed Mr. Djoko about the assault on
November 7. (Dkt. No. 58-6 at 1.) Two days later, a detective
called Mr. Djoko's family and advised them that Mr. Djoko
should report to the detective. (Id.) Mr. Djoko
complied with the detective's request and reported to the
police the next day. (Id.) Mr. Djoko was then
charged on November 17 with malicious harassment in violation
of Washington Revised Code § 9A.36.080. (Dkt. No. 73 at
6.) He was subsequently released pending trial.
(Id.) Over the next nine months, Mr. Djoko made all
his required court appearances. (See Dkt. No. 58 at
August 1, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Mr. Djoko and
his two codefendants on charges of cyberstalking and
conspiracy to commit cyberstalking. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2-6) The
next day, the government advised Mr. Djoko's state
counsel of the federal charges and informed counsel that Mr.
Djoko had until August 9 to self-surrender. (Dkt. No. 58-7 at
1.) Mr. Djoko complied with the government's deadline and
self-surrendered on August 8. (Id. at 2.) That same
day, state prosecutors dismissed Mr. Djoko's malicious
harassment charge. (Dkt. No. 58-6 at 2.)
Mr. Djoko self-surrendered, the government moved to have him
detained pending trial, claiming that he posed a serious risk
of flight and a serious risk of obstruction of justice.
(See Dkt. No. 14 at 1.) Pretrial services disagreed
with the government's assessment and recommended that Mr.
Djoko be released subject to standard and special conditions.
(See Dkt. No. 27 at 5-6.) A detention hearing was
held on August 16, 2019, before Judge Peterson. (Dkt. No.
58-1.) At the hearing, Judge Peterson found that the case
qualified for a hearing because Mr. Djoko posed a serious
risk of obstructing justice. (See Id. at 40.) Judge
Peterson then weighed the factors for detention under 18
U.S.C. § 3142(g), concluding that no conditions could
assure Mr. Djoko's appearance and the community's
safety. (See Dkt. No. 40 at 1-2.) Judge Peterson
therefore ordered that Mr. Djoko be detained pending trial.
(See Id. at 2-3.)
government has charged Mr. Djoko with committing deplorable
acts. (See Dkt. No. 73 at 4-6.) Those acts, if
proven true, amount to a systematic campaign to
“out” a man's sexual orientation in a way
that put that individual in real danger. (See id.)
But to qualify for pretrial detention, a person must do more
than commit deplorable acts; they must meet the statutory
prerequisites set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3142. The
government argues that those prerequisites are met because
Mr. Djoko poses a serious risk of flight and obstruction of
justice, because cyberstalking is a “crime of violence,
” and because no condition or combination of conditions
will reasonably assure the appearance of Mr. Djoko and the
safety of the community. (See Dkt. No. 73 at 1-2.)
The Court disagrees. While Mr. Djoko poses a serious risk of
obstruction, the special conditions recommended by pretrial
services will reasonably assure Mr. Djoko's appearance
and the community's safety.
Propriety of a Detention Hearing
“In our society liberty is the norm, and detention
prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited
exception.” United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S.
739, 755 (1987). To ensure that pretrial detention would
continue to be an exception, Congress limited the categories
of cases eligible for pretrial detention to those listed in
18 U.S.C. § 3142(f). See United States v.
Twine, 344 F.3d 987, 987 (9th Cir. 2003); United
States v. LaLonde, 246 F.Supp.2d 873, 875 (S.D. Ohio
2003) (quoting S. Rep. No. 98-225, at 20 (1984))
(“[T]he requisite circumstances for invoking a
detention hearing in effect serve to limit the types of cases
in which detention may be ordered prior to trial.”).
Accordingly, unless the government can show by a
preponderance of the evidence that a case falls into one of
those categories, a defendant cannot be detained pending
trial. See United States v. Villatoro-Ventura, 330
F.Supp.3d 1118, 1124 (N.D. Iowa 2018); United States v.
Friedman, 837 F.2d 48, 49 (2d Cir. 1988).
case, the government argues that a detention hearing was
appropriate for three reasons. First, the government claims
that there is a “serious risk that [Mr. Djoko] will
flee.” See § 3142(f)(2)(A); (Dkt. No. 73
at 9-10). Second, the government contends that there is a
“serious risk that [Mr. Djoko] will obstruct or attempt
to obstruct justice.” See §
3142(f)(2)(B); (Dkt. No. 73 at 9-10). And third, the
government argues that cyberstalking is a “crime of
violence.” See § 3142(f)(1)(A); (Dkt. No.
73 at 10-12). The Court finds that the government has failed
to establish a serious of risk of flight but has established
a serious risk of obstruction. As a result, it is unnecessary
to for the Court to consider whether cyberstalking is a
“crime of violence” or if that term is, as Mr.
Djoko claims, unconstitutionally vague. (See Dkt.
No. 58 at 12-14.)
Risk of Flight
government argues that a detention hearing was appropriate
because there is a “serious risk of that [Mr. Djoko]
will flee.” See § 3142(f)(2)(A); (Dkt.
No. 73 at 9-10.) The Court concludes otherwise.
begin with, Mr. Djoko appears to have significant reasons to
stay in Western Washington. Mr. Djoko has been in the country
on an F1 student visa for the past seven years. (Dkt. No. 58
at 8.) During that time, Mr. Djoko has regularly enrolled in
classes. (See Dkt. No. 58-9.) He also plans to
enroll for classes this fall should he be ...