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United States v. Fanyo-Patchou

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

December 12, 2019




         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Marie Christine Fanyo-Patchou's motion for review of the detention order of the Honorable Brian A. Tsuchida, United States Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 108). Having considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, [1] the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion and REVOKES the detention order (Dkt. No. 70) for the reasons explained herein.


         From September 2018 until November 2018, Ms. Fanyo-Patchou 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.) As part of that alleged campaign, Ms. Fanyo-Patchou purportedly disseminated information about John Doe's sexual orientation-including nude images of John Doe and his husband-to the Cameroonian community. (See Id. at 3-6.)

         On November 14, 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigations interviewed Ms. Fanyo-Patchou “regarding her [potential] involvement in a hate crime and subsequent internet stalking.” (See Dkt. No. 110-5 at 2.) The interviewing agents advised Ms. Fanyo-Patchou about the nature of the interview and began to ask her about her relationship with John Doe. (See Id. at 3.) It appears, however, that Ms. Fanyo-Patchou ended the interview quickly after the interviewing agents pressed her about her claim that she did not learn that John Doe was gay until she arrived in the United States. (See id.)

         On August 1, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Ms. Fanyo-Patchou and her two codefendants on charges of cyberstalking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2261A(2)(A)-(B) and conspiracy to commit cyberstalking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2-6.) Five days later, Ms. Fanyo-Patchou was arrested in Washington, D.C., and brought before a magistrate judge in the District of Maryland. (Dkt. No. 108-1 at 2.) The judge ordered Ms. Fanyo-Patchou detained and remanded to the custody of the marshals for transport to Seattle. (Id. at 41.) Upon Ms. Fanyo-Patchou's arrival in Seattle, the Government moved to have her detained pending trial. (Dkt. No. 51.) Pretrial Services disagreed with the Government's position and recommended release to Maryland subject to special conditions. (Dkt. No. 55 at 3-4.)

         Judge Tsuchida held a hearing on the Government's motion on September 5, 2019. (Dkt. No. 108-4.) At the hearing, Judge Tsuchida expressed his desire to explore options for having Ms. Fanyo-Patchou released locally. (Id. at 24.) He therefore set a hearing for September 11, 2019, to discuss those options. (Id. at 27-28.) Over the next six days, Pretrial Services explored the possibility of Ms. Fanyo-Patchou being released locally. (See Dkt. No. 68 at 2-3.) Pretrial Services concluded that it would “consider release” if Ms. Fanyo-Patchou secured an appropriate release address in Seattle. (See Id. at 3.) However, Ms. Fanyo-Patchou was unable to secure such an address by the time of the September 11 hearing. (Dkt. No. 108-7 at 3-4.) Consequently, Judge Tsuchida stated orally that he would order her detained “without prejudice, ” allowing Ms. Fanyo-Patchou to revisit the issue if she later secured a lease on an apartment. (See Dkt. No. 108-7 at 4-9.)

         Following the September 11 hearing and detention order, Jake Epps, Ms. Fanyo-Patchou's boyfriend and the father of her unborn child, secured for her a lease on an apartment in Seattle. (See Dkt. No. 110-4 at 4.) Ms. Fanyo-Patchou then moved for Judge Tsuchida to reconsider his detention order. (Dkt. No. 80.) But even though Ms. Fanyo-Patchou now had a place to stay in Seattle, Judge Tsuchida denied Ms. Fanyo-Patchou's motion. (See Dkt. No. 83.) Judge Tsuchida concluded that due to her weak ties to the community and the seriousness of her alleged offense, she posed a serious risk of flight and a danger to the community. (See Id. at 1-2.)


         “Only in rare circumstances should [pretrial] release be denied.” United States v. Motamedi, 767 F.2d 1403, 1404 (9th Cir. 1985). These words reflect the essential principle that “[i]n our society liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial is the carefully limited exception.” United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 755 (1987). That exception is to be invoked “only for the strongest of reasons.” Sellers v. United States, 89 S.Ct. 36, 38 (1969) (Black, J., in chambers). Those reasons are not present in this case.

         A. Standard of Review

         When a magistrate judge initially orders a defendant detained pending trial, the district court reviews the magistrate judge's decision de novo. United States v. Koenig, 912 F.2d 1190, 1192-93 (9th Cir. 1990). In this context, de novo means that “the district court should review the evidence before the magistrate and make its own independent determination whether the magistrate's findings are correct with no deference.” Id. The district court may also consider new evidence offered by the parties. Id.

         B. Eligibility for a Detention Hearing

         As a threshold matter, the Court must determine if Ms. Fanyo-Patchou is eligible for a pretrial detention hearing. A defendant is eligible for a detention hearing only if their case falls into one of the categories listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f). See United States v. Twine, 344 F.3d 987, 987 (9th Cir. 2003). “[T]he requisite [categories] for invoking a detention hearing in effect serve to limit the types of cases in which detention may be ordered prior to trial.” United States v. LaLonde, 246 F.Supp.2d 873, 875 (S.D. Ohio 2003) (quoting S. Rep. No. 98-225, at 20 (1984)). Accordingly, unless the Government can show by a preponderance of the evidence that a case falls into one of those categories, the defendant cannot be detained. See United States v. Friedman, 837 F.2d 48, 49 (2d Cir. 1988); United States v. Villatoro-Ventura, 330 F.Supp.3d 1118, 1124 (N.D. Iowa 2018).

         Here, the Government argues that Ms. Fanyo-Patchou is eligible for a detention hearing because (1) there is a serious risk that she will obstruct justice, see § 3142(f)(2)(B); (Dkt No. 113 at 9); (2) there is a serious risk that she will flee, see § 3142(f)(2)(A); (Dkt. No. 113 at 8); and (3) cyberstalking is a “crime of violence, ” see ยงยง 3142(f)(1)(A), 3156(a)(4)(B); (Dkt No. 113 at 8 n.9). The Court finds that the Government has failed to establish a serious risk of obstruction but has established a serious risk of flight. Consequently, Ms. Fanyo-Patchou is eligible for a detention hearing, and it ...

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