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Coronavirus Has Man Jailed On NYS Gun Charge Released By Judge Nathan New Facts

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Decrypt - LightRead - Honduras - Source

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 19 --  On January 22, Dante Stephens was before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Alison J. Nathan charged with possession of crack cocaine and marijuana while serving a three year period of Supervised Release imposed by Judge Nathan after conviction for selling the same substances. 

  Judge Nathan on January 22 imposed a 22 month period of Supervised Release.  On March 18 Judge Nathan reversed her previous March 6 order detaining Stephens on a gun charge. She ordered him released based on COVID-19: "The Court concludes that the Defendant has met his burden by demonstrating at least one compelling reason that also necessitates his release under this provision. Namely, the obstacles the current public health crisis poses to the preparation of the Defendant’s defense constitute a compelling reason under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(i). See id. (providing that the Court “may . . . permit the temporary release of [a] person, in the custody of a United States marshal or another appropriate person, to the extent [it] determines such release to be necessary for preparation of the person’s defense”). The spread of COVID-19 throughout New York State—and the country—has compelled the BOP to suspend all visits—including legal visits, except as allowed on a case-by-case basis—until further notice. See Federal Bureau of Prisons, Federal Bureau of Prisons COVID-19 Action Plan, (explaining that “legal visits will be suspended for 30 days” nationwide and that “case-by-case accommodation will be accomplished at the local level”). This suspension impacts the Defendant’s ability to prepare his defenses to the alleged violation of supervised release in advance of the merits hearing scheduled for March 25, 2020. Defense counsel represents that after contacting the MCC Legal Department to arrange legal calls with the Defendant, “the MCC did not permit a legal call to Mr. Stephens.” Dkt. No. 2789-1 at 10. He further proffers that other defense counsel have faced similar obstacles in attempting to communicate with their clients. Id. The Government neither responds to nor contests these factual representations, and so the Court relies upon them here. See generally Dkt. No. 2791... Accordingly, the Court orders the Defendant released from the custody of the Bureau of Prisons to the custody of his mother, with whom he lives, subject to the additional conditions of supervised release of 24-hour home incarceration at his current residence in the Bronx and electronic location monitoring as directed by the Probation Department."

 On March 19 in the SDNY Magistrates Court, relocated to larger Courtroom 23A to permit social distance, more complaints were made about the lack of legal calls, this time to the MDC in Brooklyn. Inner City Press will have more on this.

  Back in February Dante Stephens was captured on video with a backpack later found to have a loaded gun in it. On March 4 in the SDNY Magistrates Court, Assistant US Attorney Jessica Feinstein argued to Magistrate Judge Kevin N. Fox that Stephens should be detained.    

Stephens' appointed lawyers proposed that he remain detained until he had two financially responsible person co-sign his bond, and that he subject to home confinement. They emphasized that New York State had yet to bring an indictment on the February gun charge and had released Stephens on one dollar bail.    Judge Fox ruled that Stephens should be released later that day, with one financially responsible person to sign in a week's time.  

 AUSA Feinstein asked Judge Fox to stay his ruling so that the US Attorney could appeal to the SDNY Part I judge.   

 Fox did not grant a stay, and Inner City Press later heard that neither the week's Part I Judge nor Judge Nathan, who is conducting an Iran sanctions trial that Inner City Press is also covering, could hear the case that evening. 

 On March 5, as Inner City Press reported as picked up here, a Coronavirus scare in Judge Nathan's 9th floor courtroom threw her schedule off.

 So it was on March 6 that Dante Stephens appeared for the appeal, in a bright green wind breaker. It did not go well. Though he walked in on his own to Courtroom 110 which Judge Nathan is using while hers is cleaned, soon two US Marshals moved into the gallery behind him.
  AUSA Feinstein said she had spoken to the NYS Assistant DA in the case and they intend to move forward on the gun charge. Stephens' long time lawyer brought up the disparity of UN briber Ng Lap Seng getting bailed with a private security guard. There was talk of a cousin in Mount Vernon he could stay with.

  Judge Nathan asked the Probation Officer questions, about drug treatment and the video of the White Plains Road and 228th Street bodega.

  Then Judge Nathan overrule Judge Fox, as had happened before Judge Denise Cote two hours before. The Marshals moved in; the green windbreaker and shoes came off and handcuffs were applied to Dante Stephens. 

The case is US v. Stephens, 15-cr-95 (Nathan).  


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