United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
V. EAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court are Defendant's Motion for Bill of
Particulars and Brief in Support (Dkt. # 14) and
Defendant's Motion to Revoke Detention Order and Request
for Release on Conditions (Dkt. # 15). Defendant argues that
the indictment does not provide sufficient notice concerning
the underlying conduct for counts two and three, and he
requests a bill of particulars providing him some guidance as
to the factual basis for these charges. Dkt. # 14. Defendant
also requests that the magistrate judge's detention order
be revoked, and he argues that there are conditions of
release that will reasonably assure his appearance and
protect the safety of other persons. Dkt. # 15. Defendant
requests a hearing on his motion for review of the detention
order. Dkt. # 30. The Court has reviewed the parties'
briefing and the transcripts of the hearings before the
magistrate judge, and finds that a hearing on defendant's
motion is unnecessary.
6, 2019, a grand jury returned an indictment (Dkt. # 2)
charging defendant with sex trafficking by means of force,
fraud, or coercion in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591
(count one), obstruction or attempted obstruction of
enforcement of § 1591 (count two), and retaliation
against a witness, victim, or informant (count three). The
events giving rise to count two allegedly occurred between
November 20, 2018 and January 9, 2019, and count three is
based on an incident that occurred on January 9, 2019.
Defendant was arrested on June 24, 2019, and he made his
initial appearance on the same day. Counsel was appointed to
represent defendant, and defendant pled not guilty to the
charges in the indictment. Dkt. # 7. Plaintiff filed a motion
to detain defendant pending trial (Dkt. # 5), and a detention
hearing was set for June 26, 2019.
detention hearing, plaintiff called Tulsa Police Department
(TPD) Officer Justin Oxford to testify concerning the facts
giving rise to defendant's arrest. Dkt. # 24, at 4.
Oxford testified that TPD officers checked a website called
“Cityxguide” for advertisements concerning the
solicitation of commercial sex acts. Id. at 5. The
officers particularly focused on cases in which the person
posting the advertisement appeared to be a minor, because TPD
was working to locate juveniles who could be victims of human
trafficking. Id. On November 20, 2018, Oxford
responded to an advertisement and set up a “date”
with a woman later identified as M.W., and he arranged to
meet her at the Peoria Inn in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Id.
at 6. Oxford arrived at the Peoria Inn and noticed a black
male in a vehicle watching Oxford as he approached M.W.'s
room, and the black male was later identified as Ramar Palms.
Id. Oxford advised M.W. that she was under arrest
after she agreed to perform a commercial sex act, and he
notified his arrest team to apprehend Palms as well.
Id. at 7. Oxford searched the hotel room, and he
found an identification card for Palms and a .380 caliber
handgun. Id. Oxford confiscated M.W.'s cell
phone, and numerous messages between M.W. and Palms were
found on the phone. Id. The arrest team found some
marijuana in Palms' vehicle, as well as contact
information for past clients. Id. at 8.
told Oxford that she met Palms while she was working as a
bartender and they started dating. Id. at 9. Palms
later told M.W. that he was a pimp and that she was going to
work for him. Id. M.W. claimed that Palms wanted her
to go on at least five “dates” every night and
that he would physically abuse her if she failed to go on
enough dates. Id. Palms and M.W. were married six
days after the prostitution sting, and M.W. claims that Palms
forced her to marry him to create a spousal privilege that
would prevent her from testifying against him. Id.
at 10. On December 7, 2018, defendant was charged in state
court with procuring for prostitution and unlawful possession
of a controlled drug. Dkt. # 15, at 4.
January 9, 2019, a physical altercation occurred involving
M.W. and Palms, and the facts concerning the incident are
disputed by the parties. M.W. told Oxford that she went to
the Market Pub in Tulsa, and she ran into Palms with some
other women. Id. at 11. A verbal altercation started
and Palms allegedly dragged her out of the bar and threw her
on the ground. Id. Palms allegedly said that he knew
that M.W. was working with the police and that he was going
to kill her. Id. Palms attempted to drag M.W. into a
car, but the altercation was broken up when some people came
out of the bar. Id. Oxford met with M.W. after the
incident, and she had sustained physical injuries consistent
with the incident she described. Palms claims that M.W. went
to the Market Pub and she knew that he would be there. Dkt. #
15, at 3. He states that M.W. became upset that he was with
other women and a confrontation occurred in the parking lot.
Id. at 4. He claims that they subsequently
“parted ways” and he denies that he threatened or
physically harmed M.W. Id. On January 11, 2018, the
Tulsa County district attorney brought additional charges of
intimidation of a witness, assault and battery, robbery,
kidnapping, and threatening an act of violence against Palms
based on the January 9, 2018 incident. Dkt. # 15, at 5.
set up an appointment for M.W. to visit the Family Safety
Center and obtained a domestic violence report, and he had 72
hours after receiving the report to arrest Palms. Dkt. # 24,
at 12. Oxford had an informant who advised Oxford that Palms
was staying at the Shadow Mountain Apartments in Tulsa, and
he went to the apartments to set up surveillance.
Id. However, the informant later called Oxford and
told him that Palms had gone to Louisiana. Id. M.W.
had previously traveled to Louisiana with Palms, and the
information appeared to be credible. Id. at 12-13.
On June 13 or 14, 2019, the district attorney's office
notified Oxford that M.W. had received a threat from an
unidentified female, and the person told M.W.
“everything would be all right” as long as she
did not testify against Palms. Id. at 13.
cross examination at the detention hearing, Palms'
attorney asked Oxford if he was able to gather any evidence
that would corroborate M.W.'s account of the January 9,
2019 incident, but Oxford was not able to locate any
witnesses who were present or surveillance footage from the
bar. Id. at 16. Oxford later received affidavits
from two witnesses who were allegedly present, and the
affidavits were provided as part of Palms' defense at a
preliminary hearing in state court. Id. at 17.
Hannah McDonnell claims that she was present for the January
9, 2019 altercation between M.W. and Palms, and
McDonnell's friend, Sasha Hawkins, was also present. Dkt.
# 15-4; Dkt. # 15-5. Both women state that they were with
Palms at the bar, and a woman claiming to be Palms' wife
initiated a confrontation with Palms. Id. M.W. also
accosted McDonnell, and Palms and M.W. walked out to the
parking lot. Id. McDonnell and Hawkins went out to
the parking lot, but their statements somewhat diverge at
this point. McDonnell states that she heard a noise coming
from the parking lot, and when she went out to the parking
lot she found M.W. in a fetal position near the tire of a
vehicle. Dkt. # 15-4. Palms yelled at M.W. and told Hawkins
to take M.W.'s purse. Id. Palms said that M.W.
had a gun in her purse, but McDonell denies that Palms
physically harmed M.W. Hawkins states she followed Palms and
M.W. out of the bar, but she did not initially hear any
yelling. Dkt. # 15-5. Palms yelled that M.W. had a gun, and
Hawkins states that she observed a gun in M.W.'s right
jacket pocket. Id. Hawkins claims that Palms shoved
M.W., but Palms did not accuse M.W. of working with the
police or otherwise threaten her. Id. Oxford
testified that the affidavits did not detract from his
assessment of M.W.'s credibility, because the affidavits
were provided by a defense attorney for Palms and the
witnesses did not voluntarily come to the police to make the
statements. Dkt. # 24, at 20.
testified that he was aware that M.W. had been involved in
prostitution before she met Palms and that Palms had not
previously been arrested in connection with pandering or
prostitution. Id. at 24-25. Oxford acknowledged that
he did not have any independent evidence to corroborate
M.W.'s claims that Palms physically abused her prior to
January 9, 2019 or that Palms made her go on a certain number
of “dates” every evening. Id. at 25-28.
Oxford also did not attempt to gather evidence to support the
confidential informant's claim that Palms had gone to
Louisiana after the January 9, 2019 incident. Id. at
30. On re-direct examination, Oxford testified that he
clearly observed that M.W. had serious physical injuries
after the January 9, 2019 incident and that her firearm has
not been seen since that date. Id. at 36.
mother, Natalie Palms, testified at the detention hearing,
and she stated that she was not aware of defendant leaving
for Louisiana in the past three months. Id. at 42.
She testified that Palms had a prior criminal matter in state
court and he always attended his court hearings. Id.
at 43. She was not aware of any prior actions by defendant
that would suggest that he was a violent person or that he
would engage in domestic violence. Id. at 43-44. On
cross examination, she testified that defendant does not have
a job and he does not have a history of stable employment,
and she is not generally aware of his location. Id.
at 45. However, defendant does answer his phone whenever she
counsel represented that defendant was on bond as to the
pending state court charges at the time of the detention
hearing, but that he had been detained from February 4 to
March 31, 2019 on the state charges. Id. at 48.
Defendant was released on bond after the kidnapping and
threats of act of violence charges were dismissed by the
state court and his bond was reduced. Id. Defense
counsel has provided transcripts of two preliminary hearings
in state court at which M.W. testified, and he argues that
there are significant inconsistencies in her testimony that
call her credibility into question. Dkt. # 15-1; Dkt. # 15-2.
Defense counsel advised the magistrate judge that defendant
could live with Kristian Shepherd, the mother of one of his
children, while this case is pending, but the magistrate
judge noted that the pretrial services report showed that
defendant could not recall his address for the two years
prior to the date of the detention hearing. Dkt. # 24, at 51.
counsel argued that this case involves violence against a
potential victim of sex trafficking and defendant faces a
statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years as to count
one. Id. at 53. He asked the magistrate judge to
consider the risk of harm to the victim if defendant were
released pending trial and that defendant was on a deferred
sentence on state charges when he was arrested in November
2018. Id. at 55-56. There is also evidence that
defendant may have fled to Louisiana in January 2019, and the
fact that he allegedly committed the offenses charged in this
case while on deferred sentencing suggests that conditions of
release are likely to be ineffective. Id. at 56.
Defense counsel argues that defendant has a history of making
his court appearances on the state court charges and he has
been on bond since March 31, 2019 without incident.
Id. at 57-58. He claims that M.W. initiated the
January 9, 2019 incident and there is no evidence that
defendant has actively sought out M.W. to cause her harm.
Id. at 60. Defendant's primary argument against
pretrial detention is that M.W. is an unreliable witness with
an incentive to shift blame from herself to defendant, and
the evidence that defendant committed a federal crime is
based solely on M.W.'s misleading statements to Oxford.
Id. at 65. The magistrate judge took the matter
under advisement and reviewed the transcripts of the state
court preliminary hearings before issuing a ruling as to
27, 2019, the magistrate judge held a hearing and granted
plaintiff's motion to detain defendant pending trial.
Dkt. # 12. The magistrate judge noted that she had considered
all of the testimony offered at the detention hearing, as
well as the affidavits of McDonnell and Hawkins and the
transcripts of the state court preliminary hearings. Dkt. #
27, at 3. Defendant does not have a substantial criminal
history, but he was serving a deferred sentence for
possession of illegal drugs when he was arrested in November
2018. Id. The magistrate judge acknowledged that
there were credibility issues concerning M.W., and this
called into question the weight of the evidence as to the
charged offenses. Id. at 4. However, she found
Oxford's testimony credible concerning his observations
of the harm to M.W. following the January 9, 2019 incident,
and there was evidence that M.W. had been threatened by an
unknown female in June 2019. Id. at 5 . She also
stated that defendant had failed to account for the firearm
that was taken from M.W. on January 9, 2019, regardless of
whose version of events is believed. Id. These facts
raise a substantial concern for the safety of ...