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United States v. Jones

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 21, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TAIWAN JONES, Defendant.

          RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          Victor A. Bolden United States District Judge

         Taiwan Jones is before this Court, because he has allegedly violated the terms of his supervised release. Mr. Jones is currently being supervised by the United States Probation Office for the District of Connecticut ("Probation"), under 18 U.S.C. § 3605, as part of a criminal sentence imposed by the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Transfer of Jurisdiction, ECF No. 1-1 at 1.[1] Mr. Jones has moved to dismiss the Petition for a Violation of Supervised Release and terminate his supervised release. Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 24. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED, and his term of supervised release is terminated, effective immediately.

         BACKGROUND

         Probation raises several issues regarding Mr. Jones's compliance with his supervised release conditions. First, Mr. Jones allegedly violated the terms of his supervised release by committing another offense. He was arrested on October 7, 2015 and charged with criminal trespass. Allegedly, Mr. Jones had been sleeping in Union Station in Hartford, Connecticut and refused to leave. Violation Rep., ECF No. 15 at 2. Mr. Jones also claimed to be homeless at the time. Id. In addition, Mr. Jones allegedly denied being on supervised release, refused to meet with his Probation officer while in state custody on the criminal trespass charge, failed to notify Probation of a change in his residence or employment, and stopped participating in mental health treatment. Id. at 3-4.

         Under the sentencing guidelines calculations provided by Probation, Mr. Jones's alleged conduct, if true, would constitute a Grade C violation, which when coupled with his original criminal history category of VI, would result in a guideline imprisonment range of eight to fourteen months. Id. at 4; see also U.S.S.G. §§ 7B1.1; 7B.1.4(a). The parties have not voiced any objection to these calculations.

         Pending the resolution of the criminal trespass charge, Mr. Jones remained in state custody from October 7, 2015 until November 4, 2015. Violation Rep., ECF No. 15 at 5. When the State declined to prosecute his criminal trespass charge, it transferred him into federal custody. Id. He has remained in federal custody through the date of this ruling. Including the time spent in state custody, Mr. Jones has been detained for nearly ten months.

         Once in federal custody, Mr. Jones's lawyer requested a competency evaluation and hearing on two occasions under 18 U.S.C. §§ 4241 and 4247. Mot. for Competency Evaluation, ECF No. 11; Joint Mot. for Psychiatric Examination, ECF No. 19. The Court granted the requests. See Orders, ECF Nos. 14, 20. Because doctors had difficulty conducting the examination of Mr. Jones, the evaluation took longer than anticipated.

         On June 2, 2016, while the report on Mr. Jones's psychiatric examination was still in the process of being completed, Mr. Jones's counsel moved to dismiss the Petition for a Violation of Supervised Release and asked that this Court terminate his supervised release. Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 24. He argues that because Mr. Jones is mentally ill, he is not competent to stand trial on the violation of his supervised release and is not suitable for supervision. Id. at 2.

         On June 29, 2016, the Court received a report, dated June 22, 2016, from a forensic psychologist at the Bureau of Prisons. The report opines that Mr. Jones is suffering from a major mental illness and is not competent at this time to assist in his defense and make rational decisions. The report also indicates that, if the Court were to order that antipsychotic medication be administered forcibly under 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d), the psychologist believes to a "substantial probability" that Mr. Jones would regain competence.

         In response to the motion filed on Mr. Jones's behalf and following the completion of the psychiatric examination and the report, this Court held a telephonic hearing to address the pending issues. During that hearing, the Government did not object either to the request to dismiss the Petition for a Violation of Supervised Release or the request to terminate Mr. Jones's supervised release. Both sides noted the length of time of Mr. Jones's incarceration-nearly ten months-as well as Mr. Jones's need for mental health treatment, rather than further criminal supervision. While Probation supported an order to forcibly medicate Mr. Jones to restore his competency in order for him to be tried on the supervised release violation charges, it did not object to terminating supervised release, if the Court decided to dismiss the Petition.

         DISCUSSION

         While the Motion to Dismiss the Petition for a Violation of Supervised Release and terminate supervised release was filed on Mr. Jones's behalf first, the Court nevertheless will address the issues raised by the psychological examination first and determine whether the Court should order that Mr. Jones receive medication involuntarily in order to restore his competence and stand trial for the alleged violations of his supervised release. Although, in this instance, addressing the issues in this order does not lead to a different result, any other order of priority may encourage the filing of motions to dismiss, while competency determinations are pending.

         The Court concludes that it cannot, consistent with the United States Constitution, order that Mr. Jones be forced to take medication. The United States Constitution only permits the "Government involuntarily to administer antipsychotic drugs to a mentally ill defendant facing serious criminal charges in order to render that defendant competent to stand trial [ ] if the treatment [1] is medically appropriate, [2] is substantially unlikely to have side effects that may undermine the fairness of the trial, and, [3] taking account of less intrusive alternatives, is necessary significantly to further important governmental trial-related interests." Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166, 179 (2003). The circumstances where forced mental health treatment is justified are rare, and do not exist here. See id. at 179-80.

         First, Mr. Jones's alleged criminal violation is not of sufficient importance to the Government to justify the forced imposition of medication. See Id. at 180 (to justify the forced administration of medication, the Court must find "important governmental interests are at stake, " considered in light of the Government's role to "to protect through application of the criminal law the basic human need for security."). The Court does not take lightly Mr. Jones's alleged violations of his supervised release conditions. Compliance with such conditions is important and facilitates a criminal defendant's successful re-entry into the community. But his alleged violations, such as sleeping overnight in Union Station, do not carry sufficient weight in the particular circumstances of this case to warrant forcibly administering medication. Ordering Mr. Jones to take medication would significantly interfere with his liberty and is not proportional to offenses with which he is charged. See Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 221, 229 (1990) (recognizing the "significant liberty interest" of a convicted, incarcerated criminal in "avoiding the unwanted ...


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