United States v. Angelo Ramos, No. 04-2004-cr (March 14, 2005)(Newman, Sack and Parker, op. by Sack). In this case, the Court of Appeals rejected a claim that a delay of several years between the time the defendant violated his supervised release by committing a new state crime and the time the violation was actually adjudicated either deprived the court of jurisdiction or amounted to a due process violation.
The relevant facts can be reduced to a simple timeline:
September 18, 1996: Defendant Angelo Ramos is sentenced in federal court to 36 months’ imprisonment and one year of supervised release.
May 1, 2000: Ramos begins his supervised release term.
November 24, 2000: Ramos is arrested and detained in an unrelated state case.
November 29, 2000: Ramos’ probation officer notifies the federal court of the arrest and seeks a warrant, but the court does not order one.
April 21, 2001: Probation officer again seeks a warrant, this time the court orders one.
May 5, 2001: Warrant for Ramos’ arrest is filed.
December 11, 2001: Ramos is convicted in state court, after trial.
February 1, 2002: Ramos receives concurrent four and 12 year terms of imprisonment in his state case.
October 17, 2002: Ramos is brought to federal court for supervised release violation proceedings.
November 1, 2002: Violation hearing is adjourned at Ramos’ request.
July 7, 2003: Ramos moves to dismiss the violation petition claiming, inter alia, that: (1) the delay in seeking revocation unreasonably and unnecessarily prolonged the court’s jurisdiction, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3583(i), and (2) the delay deprived him of due process.
February 27, 2004: District court denies Ramos’ motion to dismiss.
March 25, 2004: Court revokes Ramos’ supervised release and sentences him to one year, consecutive to his state sentence.
The Court of Appeals’ Decision
On appeal, Ramos advanced largely the same claims he made in the district court, but to no avail.
First, in a decision of apparent first impression in this Circuit, the Court recognized that the delay between the filing of the petition for a supervised release violation warrant and the execution of that warrant could result in a due process violation “if the delay does in fact prejudice the defendant by substantially limiting the ability to defend against the charge that the conditions of supervised release were violated.” Here, Ramos had alleged that the delay prejudiced him by rendering a particular witness unavailable; the Court rejected this as “entirely unsupported in the record.”
Next, the Court rejected Ramos’ claim under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(i), which extends the district court’s jurisdiction to adjudicate supervised release violations beyond the expiration of the supervised release term “for any period reasonably necessary for the adjudication of matters arising before its expiration.” The Court divided the relevant events into three distinct periods, each of which it deemed reasonably necessary, giving that term a quite liberal construction. First, the Court held that the period of time during which the state was adjudicating the new criminal charges was reasonably necessary and was in any event caused by Ramos’ own conduct. Second, the period between Ramos’ state conviction and the execution of the federal arrest warrant, which was about 10 months, was also reasonably necessary “for the same reason that this period is not overlong under a due process analysis.” Since Ramos was in state custody anyway, his liberty interests were not infringed, and he suffered no tactical prejudice with respect to the violation proceeding itself. Finally, the 17-month period during which the federal proceeding was pending was also reasonably necessary. Much of the delay was occasioned by Ramos’ own request for an adjournment and the adjudication of his motion to dismiss and, again, he was not prejudiced.
This is a curious decision. Mr. Ramos would appear to have a valid claim that the 10 months that he waited for the federal authorities to execute the warrant after he was convicted in state court (the second of the three periods identified by the Court) was far too long to be reasonable. And yet, the Court was not troubled by this at all, even though there was apparently no valid explanation for why the simple execution of the warrant took so long. The upshot of Ramos seems to be that the Court will approve of any delay in adjudicating a supervised release petition, no matter how long or unexplained, unless the defendant can show that he was prejudiced. This seems like a curious outcome, since the statute says nothing at all about prejudice, but nevertheless it is now the law in this Circuit.