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United States v. Thomas

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi.

August 19, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CASSANDRA FAYE THOMAS

Thomas H. Freeland, IV, Interested Party, Pro se.

Joyce Freeland, Interested Party, Pro se.

For USA, Plaintiff: David M. Blank, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE - Inspector General, Office of Counsel to the Inspector General, Washington, DC; Jason Scott Gilbert, Jerry L. Rushing, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE - Jackson, Jackson, MS; Treasure Rimes Tyson, ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, Jackson, MS.

OPINION

Daniel P. Jordan III, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Page 815

ORDER

This matter is before the Court on several outstanding motions: Defendant's Motion to Allow Payment of Attorneys' Fees, Costs and Expenses from Funds Subject to Forfeiture Order [161], Defendant's Motion to Modify Conditions of Release Pending Appellate Disposition [166], and the Government's Motion for Forfeiture of Property [174]. Having considered the submissions of the parties and the relevant authority, the Court rules that Defendant's motions are denied and the Government's motion is granted.

I. Factual Background

On April 8, 2011, Defendant Cassandra Faye Thomas was found guilty by a jury of all ten counts of the Indictment filed in this case. The Indictment included a notice of forfeiture, and the Government moved for a preliminary order of forfeiture on August 30, 2011 [91]. The matter was addressed during a telephonic status conference on September 27, 2011, during which Thomas requested a stay of the forfeiture issues due to the then pending post-trial motions. Though the Court indicated that it would grant the requested stay, it instructed Thomas to file a motion seeking it. See Sept. 27, 2011 Minute Entry. No motion followed, and Thomas did not respond to the Government's motion until June 28, 2012 [117]. In her response, Thomas objected to the forfeiture of funds held in her AmSouth Bank account claiming they were not traceable to the offense of conviction. She also requested a hearing, which occurred during the first part of the sentencing hearing on August 6, 2012.

During that hearing, the Court asked Thomas's counsel whether " the statute requires [the Court] to order forfeiture [of the AmSouth Bank account] as substitute property." Aug. 6, 2012 Tr. [163] at 47--48. Counsel conceded, " I think that authority is correct." Id. at 48; see also id. at 134. Nevertheless, counsel wanted more time for research. Id. at 135. The Court then stated that it would docket a preliminary order of forfeiture and would give Defendant " time to make any arguments for modifications." Id. at 137.

The Court entered the Preliminary Order of Forfeiture [149] on August 8, 2012. That order found that the proceeds contained

Page 816

in three bank accounts, two BankPlus accounts and the AmSouth Bank account, " shall be forfeited to the United States." Id. ¶ 2. The Order also provided that " Defendant shall have five days from the date of this order to suggest revisions or modifications pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(b)(2)(B)." Id. ¶ 12. Thomas filed no suggested revisions, and the Court resumed her sentencing hearing on August 17, 2012.

At the conclusion of that hearing, the Court sentenced Thomas to a total term of incarceration of 168 months but permitted her to remain out on bond pending appeal. As for the forfeiture issue, Thomas's counsel indicated that, after reviewing the Preliminary Forfeiture Order and the applicable law, Defendant " decided not to oppose" the order. Aug. 17, 2012 Tr. [171] at 2. The Court therefore announced from the bench: " The court orders forfeiture as reflected in the preliminary order of forfeiture." Id. at 20.

Following the sentencing, the Court entered its Judgment on August 27, 2012 [152]. The judgment included the following provision related to forfeiture: " The defendant shall forfeit the defendant's interest in the following property to the United States: Pursuant to the Order of Forfeiture dated August 8, 2012." Id. at 6.

Thomas timely appealed her conviction and sentence [153], and the conviction was affirmed on August 1, 2013. In its opinion, the Fifth Circuit noted that " Thomas [did] not challenge her sentence" on appeal. United States v. Thomas, No. 12-60707, 724 F.3d 632, *6 (5th Cir. Aug. 1, 2013). The pending motions are now ripe for consideration.

II. Analysis

A. Conditions of Release

While her appeal was pending, Thomas filed a motion to modify the terms of her release

so that she can (1) seek employment and be allowed to work during normal business hours, (2) travel to Belzoni, Mississippi to visit and care for her mother, (3) to [sic] transport her mother to medical appointments, (4) to [sic] attend school events when her daughter has activities, ...

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