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United States v. Nixon

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

March 27, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
KEON ANTHONY NIXON, a/k/a Young Taz, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Colorado (D.C. No. 1:16-CR-00193-WYD-1)

          R. Scott Reich, The Reich Law Firm, LLC, Denver, Colorado for the Defendant-Appellant.

          Paul Farley, Assistant United States Attorney (Robert C. Troyer, United States Attorney, with him on the brief), Office of the United States Attorney, Denver, Colorado for the Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Before BACHARACH, BALDOCK, and PHILLIPS, Circuit Judges.

          BACHARACH, Circuit Judge.

         This appeal grew out of dual prosecutions of Mr. Keon Nixon. In state court, he was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault, and use of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. After these charges were filed, federal authorities indicted Mr. Nixon for possessing a firearm after a felony conviction. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). But federal authorities then waited almost a year to arraign Mr. Nixon.

         After Mr. Nixon was eventually arraigned, he moved to dismiss the federal indictment, contending that the delay in the federal case violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The district court denied the motion, concluding that

. federal authorities had a valid reason for the delay,
. Mr. Nixon had waited too long to invoke his right to a speedy trial after learning of the federal charge, and
. the delay had not created prejudice.

         We agree with these conclusions and affirm the denial of Mr. Nixon's motion to dismiss.

         I. The state and federal charges against Mr. Nixon take two separate tracks.

         Before charging Mr. Nixon with murder, state authorities had also brought multiple counts of possessing a firearm after a felony conviction in violation of state law. Months later, the factual allegations underlying these charges led federal authorities to indict Mr. Nixon for possessing a firearm after a felony conviction in violation of federal law. Given the federal indictment, state authorities moved to dismiss their gun charges, telling the state court and Mr. Nixon that he was "being federally charged."

         By that time, state authorities had begun the murder case against Mr. Nixon. In light of that case, federal authorities decided to postpone their prosecution. After the federal indictment was pending almost a year, however, federal authorities decided that they couldn't wait any longer. So they brought Mr. Nixon to federal court for an arraignment.

         A few weeks later, Mr. Nixon moved to dismiss the indictment based on a denial of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. While this motion was pending, the state murder case went to trial and Mr. Nixon was acquitted. Shortly thereafter, the district court denied Mr. Nixon's motion to dismiss.

         II. We conclude that the delay didn't violate the Sixth Amendment.

         We reject Mr. Nixon's speedy-trial claim.

         A. Standard of Review

         The sole issue is whether the federal delay violated the Sixth Amendment. The district court concluded that the delay hadn't violated the Sixth Amendment, and we engage in de novo review of that legal conclusion. United States v. Dirden, 38 F.3d 1131, 1135 (10th Cir. 1994). For factual findings underlying this legal conclusion, however, we apply the clear-error standard of review. United States v. Black, 830 F.3d 1099, 1111 (10th Cir. 2016).

         B. Application of the Constitutional Test for a Speedy Trial

         We apply these standards of review to the constitutional test for a speedy trial.

         1. Length of the Delay as a Trigger for Further Scrutiny

         Under this test, the threshold inquiry is whether the federal delay was long enough to create a presumption of prejudice. United States v. Batie, 433 F.3d 1287, 1290 (10th Cir. 2006). Prejudice is generally presumed when the delay approaches one year. Id. A presumption of prejudice is required to trigger further examination of a defendant's Sixth Amendment claim. Id.

         The delay period starts with the indictment or arrest, whichever comes first. Jackson v. Ray, 390 F.3d 1254, 1261 (10th Cir. 2004). Here the indictment came first. With the indictment as the starting point, some courts end the delay period with the trial or denial of the motion to dismiss. E.g., United States v. Villarreal, 613 F.3d 1344, 1350 (11th Cir. 2010). But here no federal trial took place, [1] so we treat the ruling on the motion to dismiss as the end of the delay period.

         This delay period consisted of approximately fifteen months. Because this period exceeded one year, it created a presumption of prejudice, triggering further scrutiny. See United States v. Seltzer, 595 F.3d 1170, 1176 (10th Cir. 2010) (holding that the length of the delay was presumptively prejudicial because it exceeded one year).

         2. The Four Applicable Factors

         When engaging in further scrutiny, we consider four factors:

1. the length of the delay
2. the reason that the government gave for the delay
3. the defendant's assertion of a speedy-trial right
4. the prejudice to the defendant

Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530 (1972). We have not yet decided the appropriate standard to review the district court's rulings on these factors. United States v. Medina, No. 17-1455, slip op. at 22, ___{ F.3d___ (1 0 t h C i r . Mar. 12, 2019) (to be published). And we need not do so here because even under de novo review of the rulings on each factor, we would affirm because the second, third, and fourth factors would support the government. See id. (declining to decide the standard of review for the rulings on the four factors because we could "decide this appeal under de novo review").

         a. ...


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