United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO REOPEN
DETENTION (DKT. NO. 34), BUT DENYING DEFENDANT'S REQUEST
FOR RELEASE PENDING SENTENCING (DKT. NO. 34)
PAMELA PEPPER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
November 7, 2017, the grand jury returned a ten-count
indictment charging Deon Batton and Laura Walton with five
counts of Hobbs Act robbery and five counts of brandishing a
firearm in furtherance of a Hobbs Act Robbery. Dkt. No. 11.
On two days in October 2017, the two committed armed
robberies of a Subway sandwich store, a Taco Bell, a GameStop
store, another Subway, and a Cousins Subs. The first two
robberies took place on October 9, 2017; the last three took
place on October 11, 2017. Id. Laura Walton was the
gunman in the first robbery; both defendants were armed in
the second one; both were armed in the third; Deon Batton
actually discharged a firearm during the fourth robbery, and
the government alleges that Laura Walton kicked one of the
victims (Walton does not remember this); both defendants were
armed in the final robbery. Dkt. No. 33 at 16-19. After her
arrest, Walton confessed to the robberies. She told law
enforcement that she committed the robberies because she
needed money. She selected restaurants as targets because she
had worked at restaurants, and knew how they operated. They
had robbed the GameStop on October 11 only because a nearby
Pizza Hut had been too crowded. Walton admitted to being
armed at each robbery. Batton told law enforcement that the
robberies were Walton's idea. Id. at 19-20.
first appeared in federal court on October 27, 2017. Dkt. No.
4. Pretrial services prepared a bond study for that hearing.
Dkt. No. 3. It noted that Walton had a good relationship with
her parents, and that if released, she could live with her
mother, Jarnell Walton. Walton did not have a passport. At
the time of her arrest, Walton had been working anywhere from
twenty-six to sixty hours a week at Mitchell Manor, an
assisted living and nursing facility in West Allis, making
$13 an hour. It also appeared that she was receiving food
stamps. Pretrial services reported that Walton had a
two-year-old son, whose father was not involved in their
lives on a consistent basis.
bond study showed that, at the age of twenty-six, Walton had
no prior criminal history; all of her encounters with law
enforcement involved traffic violations. She reported no
mental health problems, stated that she'd used marijuana
only once in her life, and drank only socially. The only
issues of note reported by pretrial services were medical
ones: Walton reported suffering from asthma, migraines, and
arthritis and a herniated disk in her back which caused her
pain. She had a prescription for Imitrex for the headaches
and an opioid pain killer for her back.
study noted one other thing: that Walton's mother had
reported to the pretrial services officer that Walton
“may have” abused opiates by taking Oxycodone and
Percocet that hadn't been prescribed to her.
Judge Joseph considered all of this (as well as information
she learned at the hearing, such as the fact that Walton is a
high school graduate). Dkt. No. 4. According to the minutes
of the detention hearing, however, Judge Joseph ordered
Walton detained, because she had been involved in five armed
robberies where loaded firearms had been brandished, and had
admitted that fact after her arrest. Id.
December 29, 2017-about two months later-Walton's counsel
asked Judge Joseph to reopen the detention hearing. Dkt. No.
19. He told the court that Walton's mother, Jarnell, was
willing to act as Walton's third-party custodian.
Id. at 2. He explained that Walton had been free of
opiates for more than seventy-five days, which meant that she
was ready to start drug treatment. Id. at 3. He
noted that Walton would not have any association with Deon
Batton, and that his review of the discovery did not support
the government's assertion that Walton had instigated the
particularly emphasized Walton's health issues. He
explained that Walton already had had procedures to relieve
the pain in her back, and that she needed another
procedure-“radio frequency ablation”-to deaden
the pain nerve root. Id. at 3. Counsel argued that
because this treatment would relieve Walton's pain in the
long term, it could help “to reduce the need for
opioid-based pain medication to which Laura became
addicted.” Id. Counsel also mentioned
Walton's asthma, migraines and-not mentioned in the bond
study-sickle cell disease. Id. Counsel stated that
at the time Walton was arrested, she “had been abusing
opioids for a long time, ” but that since being in
custody, she had been attending AA meetings at the Dodge
County Detention Facility. Id. at 4. Counsel also
argued that Walton had displayed symptoms of mental health
issues, and was willing to submit to a mental health
counsel explained that Walton needed to make arrangements for
her three-year-old son-legal options for custody-as well as
helping him manage his trauma over the likely looming federal
sentence. Id. For all of these reasons, counsel
argued that Walton had great incentive to comply with any
conditions of release. Id. at 4-5.
response, the government reiterated the serious, violent and
aggressive nature of the robberies, and Walton's role in
them. Dkt. No. 20. The government also pointed out that
Walton had been living with her mother-the person who now was
willing to be her third-party custodian-at the time she'd
committed these crimes; that fact had not prevented her from
committing the robberies. Id.
Joseph denied Walton's request for release. Dkt. No. 23.
She concluded that Walton's motion presented sufficient
facts to rebut the presumption of detention raised by 18
U.S.C. §3142(e), and the fact that Walton was charged
with committing crimes of violence. Id. at 3. But
Judge Joseph noted that the question of whether Walton had
rebutted the §3142(e) presumption was only one of
several factors a court must weigh in deciding whether a
defendant posed a risk of flight or a danger to the
community. Looking at all of the factors a court must
consider under 18 U.S.C. §3142(g), Judge Joseph
concluded that the government had met its burden of
persuasion to show that there was no condition or combination
of conditions that would assure that Walton was not a danger
to the community. Id. at 4.
the serious and violent nature of the charges, Judge Joseph
explained that she found it “particularly relevant to
the assessment of future dangerousness . . . that these five
armed robberies were allegedly committed over a mere three
day time span.” Id. Judge Joseph acknowledged
Walton's “admirable” history of juggling
work, school and family responsibilities, but found that
“her alleged crime spree suggests unpredictability, a
lack of control, or impulsiveness which would pose a serious
risk of future danger to the community.” Id.
Judge Joseph agreed that Walton's desire to obtain
medical treatment, to seek drug and mental health treatment,
to make arrangements for her son and to prepare him for her
possible incarceration was “valid and sympathetic,
” but concluded that it did not “overcome the
finding that Walton's alleged crime spree suggests a
serious risk of danger to the community.” Id.
change of counsel (not related to Walton), this court
scheduled a status conference for June 7, 2018. Dkt. No. 32.
At that status conference, defense counsel reported that the
defendant had signed a plea agreement. The court scheduled a
change of plea hearing for June 22, 2018. Id. The
parties filed a plea agreement on June 18, 2018, which
provided for Walton to plead guilty to the five robbery
counts and the final §924(c) count. Dkt. No. 33. Under
the indictment, Walton had faced a 107-year mandatory
minimum-seven years on the first §924(c) count, and a
consecutive twenty-five year sentence on each of the
following four §924(c) counts. The plea agreement
reduced her mandatory minimum exposure to seven years. Walton
appeared before this court, and entered her guilty plea in
accordance with the plea agreement, on June 22, 2018. Dkt.
No. 37. The court scheduled the sentencing hearing for
September 26, 2018-three months from now.
on the day of the guilty plea, Walton's current counsel
filed this motion to reopen the detention determination,
asking the court to release Walton pending the September 26,
2018 sentencing hearing. Dkt. No. 34. Counsel assured the
court that she did not "make this motion lightly or
casually, ” and that she was doing so “only
because of the unique condition of Ms. Walton."
Id. at 2. Counsel listed four reasons that Walton
was seeking release pending sentencing: (1) To complete
health procedures she had been undergoing at the time of her
arrest; (2) to obtain drug counseling before she is
incarcerated; (3) to provide respite for her mother, who had
to assume the care of Walton's ...