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United States v. Horvath

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 15, 2017



          ESTHER SALAS, U.S.D.J.

         Before the Court is Defendant Rickie Horvath's motion for bail pending appeal pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3143(b)(1), 18 U.S.C. § 3145(c), and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 38(b). (D.E. No. 373 (“Motion”)). The Government opposes Mr. Horvath's Motion. (August 31, 2017 Letter Brief in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion (“Opp.”)). The Court declined to hold oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b). See L. Civ. R. 78.1(b); L. Crim. R. 1.1. For the reasons discussed below, Mr. Horvath's Motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Mr. Horvath is a 56-year-old man suffering from multiple health impairments, including a severe heart condition. (Motion at 1-2). On May 25, 2016, Mr. Horvath pleaded guilty to conspiring and agreeing with others to distribute oxycodone, contrary to 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C), in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. (D.E. No. 305 (“Plea Agreement”)). At the time of his plea agreement, Mr. Horvath was imprisoned as a state prisoner in connection with theft and insurance-fraud charges unrelated to the federal matter.[1] Mr. Horvath was released from state prison on July 8, 2016, and immediately transferred into federal custody.

         On March 16, 2017, Mr. Horvath requested release from federal prison due to his deteriorating health condition. (D.E. No. 343). On March 24, 2017, the Court granted Mr. Horvath's request and released him on bail conditioned on home confinement, among other restrictions. (D.E. No. 346).

         Four months later, on July 24, 2017, the Court sentenced Mr. Horvath. (D.E. No. 363). In doing so, the Court adopted Mr. Horvath's Presentence Report (“PSR”) without changes. Accordingly, Mr. Horvath had a total offense level of 21 and a criminal history category of III. Based on these calculations, Mr. Horvath faced an advisory guidelines sentencing range of 46 to 57 months' imprisonment.

         At the sentencing hearing, Mr. Horvath moved for a downward departure due to his medical condition and his prior confinement in Union County Jail. Specifically, he “argued for a sentence of supervised release conditioned on community service, drug and mental health treatment with credit for all time served in custody since the issuance of the federal detainer against him on or about September 18, 2015, until his release on March 24, 2017.” (Motion at 3). The Court granted a downward variance and sentenced Mr. Horvath to 41 months' imprisonment. In effect, the Court treated Mr. Horvath as if he had a criminal history category II-which essentially negated Mr. Horvath's Union County conviction for sentencing purposes-and thus faced an advisory guidelines sentencing range of 41 to 51 months' imprisonment. The Court analyzed the factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) on the record at length. In all, the sentencing hearing lasted two and a half hours. (D.E. No. 363).

         On August 26, 2017, Mr. Horvath received a notice to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) at Butner Low FCI in Butner, North Carolina, on September 5, 2017. (D.E. No. 373-12). On August 28, 2017, Mr. Horvath requested that this Court stay his surrender for thirty days “to allow for him to continue to recuperate from his heart surgery and so that his anticipated application for bail pending appeal may be argued and considered by the Court.” (Motion at 4-5). Mr. Horvath filed the present Motion on August 30, 2017. The next day, the Government opposed the Motion, and the Court granted Mr. Horvath's request to stay his surrender for thirty days. Mr. Horvath's Motion is ripe for adjudication.

         II. Discussion

         A. Legal Standard

         Congress enacted the Bail Reform Act of 1984 to create a presumption in favor of post-conviction detention. United States v. Miller, 753 F.2d 19, 22-24 (3d Cir. 1985); 18 U.S.C. § 3143(b). Under this statute, a defendant must establish

(1) that [he or she] is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community if released; (2) that the appeal is not for purpose of delay; (3) that the appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact; and (4) that if that substantial question is determined favorably to the defendant on appeal, that decision is likely to result in reversal or an order for a new trial of all counts on which imprisonment has been imposed.

Miller, 753 F.2d at 24. In addition, a defendant convicted of an offense within the Controlled Substances Act punishable by more than 10 years must “clearly show[] that there are exceptional reasons why such person's detention would not be appropriate.” 18 U.S.C. § 3145(c); see also United States v. Epstein, No. 14-0287, 2016 WL 1435717, at *1-2 (D.N.J. Apr. 12, 2016) (discussing the meaning of “exceptional reasons” under § 3145(c)).

         Relevant here, under the third prong's substantial-question analysis, “a court must determine that the question raised on appeal is a ‘substantial' one, i.e., it must find that the significant question at issue is one which is either novel, which has not been decided by controlling precedent, or which is fairly doubtful.” Miller, 753 F.2d at 23. To that end, a defendant “must demonstrate that the issues are debatable among jurists of reason; that a court could resolve the issues [in a different manner]; or that the questions are adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.” United States v. Smith, 793 F.2d 86, 89 (3d Cir. 1986). This analysis does not, however, “involve a ...

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