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United States v. Robinson

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 8, 2016



          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge

         Presently pending and ready for resolution is an appeal from a judgment of conviction filed by Appellant Palmer Robinson ("Appellant"). For the following reasons, the judgment will be affirmed.

         I. Background

         On October 19, 2014 Prince George’s County Police Officer M. Donahue responded to a call about a single-car accident. (ECF No. 12, at 12). Officer Donahue notified the United States Park Police of the incident because the accident occurred on the United States Fish and Wildlife Refuge (the "Fish and Wildlife Refuge"). United States Park Police Officer Megan Farrell responded to the scene. (Id. at 26). After questioning Appellant and conducting field sobriety tests, Officer Farrell arrested Appellant. At the United States Park Police Station, she administered two breath tests, which indicated a blood alcohol content of .101 and .099. (See ECF Nos. 11, at 2; 12, at 76). The Government subsequently charged Appellant with (1) driving under the influence of alcohol; (2) driving while intoxicated; (3) unsafe operation of a motor vehicle; (4) failure to maintain proper control; and (5) damage to government property.

         On November 12, 2015, the case proceeded to bench trial before Magistrate Judge Thomas M. DiGirolamo. Appellant objected to a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Park Police (the "Memorandum of Understanding"). Judge DiGirolamo declined to admit the document, but took "judicial notice of the fact that Park Police has authority to perform law enforcement functions on Fish and Wildlife." (ECF No. 12, at 63-64). The Government called Officers Donahue and Farrell to testify. Both officers stated that Appellant had the smell of alcohol on his breath. (Id. at 18, 31). Officer Farrell explained that based on her observations and Appellant’s performance on the field sobriety tests, she placed Appellant under arrest and administered the breath tests. (Id. at 41-42). Based on the testimony and evidence, Judge DiGirolamo found Appellant guilty of all charges. (Id. at 77-78).

         Appellant was granted three motions for extension of time to file an appeal. (ECF Nos. 4; 6; 8). On April 18, 2016 Appellant filed the pending appeal (ECF No. 9), and the Government responded (ECF No. 11).

         II. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 58(g)(2)(B), "[a] defendant may appeal a magistrate judge’s judgment of conviction or sentence to a district judge within 14 days of its entry" by "fil[ing] a notice with the clerk specifying the judgment being appealed and . . . serv[ing] a copy on the adverse party." Rule 58(g)(2)(D) provides that "[t]he scope of the appeal is the same as in an appeal to the court of appeals from a judgment entered by a district judge." The record on appeal consists of the original papers and exhibits in the case, together with any transcript, tape, or other recording of the proceeding and a certified copy of the docket entries. Fed.R.Crim.P. 58(g)(2)(C).

         In reviewing a judgment of conviction entered by a magistrate judge, a "district court utilizes the same standards of review applied by a court of appeals in assessing a district court conviction, " rather than conducting a "trial de novo." United States v. Bursey, 416 F.3d 301, 305 (4th Cir. 2005). A magistrate judge’s conclusions of law are subject to de novo review, while his findings of fact are reviewed only for clear error, just as would be the case were the matter on appeal from a District Court bench trial to a Court of Appeals. See United States v. Orme, 851 F.Supp. 708, 709 (D.Md. 1994), aff’d, 51 F.3d 269 (4th Cir. 1995).

         Review for sufficiency of the evidence proceeds on a familiar standard:

"A defendant challenging the sufficiency of the evidence faces a heavy burden." United States v. Foster, 507 F.3d 233, 245 (4th Cir. 2007). In a sufficiency of the evidence challenge, [the court] view[s] the evidence on appeal in the light most favorable to the government in determining whether any rational trier of fact could find the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. United States v. Collins, 412 F.3d 515, 519 (4th Cir. 2005). [It] review[s] both direct and circumstantial evidence, and accord[s] the government all reasonable inferences from the facts shown to those sought to be established. United States v. Harvey, 532 F.3d 326, 333 (4th Cir. 2008). [It does] not review the credibility of the witnesses and assume[s] that the [fact-finder] resolved all contradictions in the testimony in favor of the government. United States v. Kelly, 510 F.3d 433, 440 (4th Cir. 2007). [The court] will uphold the [fact-finder’s] verdict if substantial evidence supports it and will reverse only in those rare cases of clear failure by the prosecution. Foster, 507 F.3d at 244-45.

United States v. Cone, 714 F.3d 197, 212 (4th Cir. 2013).

         III. Analysis

         Appellant contends that Judge DiGirolamo erred in taking judicial notice of the Memorandum of Understanding and in finding him guilty of all charges ...

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