Antonio Briggs was arraigned on August 17, 2010 for his alleged involvement in a major multi-defendant, multi-count narcotics prosecution. On September 1, 2010 he was ordered detained without bail pending trial in the matter. Pretrial detention cannot be used for punitive purposes. Pretrial detention is only permissible to insure the defendant’s presence at trial or when a defendant is a danger to society. However there is a presumption in Federal narcotics cases where the maximum sentence is over ten years favoring detention. Following the magistrate’s order detaining Briggs on September 1, 2010 he appealed to the District Court which upheld the detention on March 4, 2011.
Earlier this year Briggs moved in the District Court for the setting of bail based on the lengthly pretrial detention which he alleged was a violation of due proscess. The motion was denied and this appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals followed. The Second Circuit upheld the denial of bail. The court considered “the strength of the evidence justifying detention, the government’s responsibility for the delay in proceeding to trial, and the length of the detention itself.” The court found that the government had a strong case. Wiretaps provided strong evidence of guilt showing that he was a major player in a large drug distribution organization. There was evidence that he attmpted to interfere with the prosecution and that despite owning a business and having a close family that he might attempt to leave the jurisdiction. At least part of the responsibility for the delay was based upon motions made by codefendants and joined by Briggs asking for continuances.
While the length of the delay is not singularly determinative the court was concerned about the 26 month delay. While it did not find a current due process violation it was clearly concerned that further delay would result in a violation of due process. It ordered the District Court to move forward to trial and it invited Briggs to reopen the appeal if the trial had not begun by February 1, 2013 or the District Court had not set a reasonable bail by that date.