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United States v. Okwesa

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

June 18, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
IKE C. OKWESA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES C. CACHERIS, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Ike C. Okwesa's ("Defendant") Rule 58(g) appeal from a judgment of conviction entered by United States Magistrate Judge Ivan D. Davis on February 20, 2014. [Dkt. 1.] For the reasons that follow, the Court will affirm the judgment.

I. Background

On November 23, 2013, United States Park Police officer Enrique Wong issued Defendant a citation for operating a vehicle in excess of the authorized speed limit, in violation of 36 C.F.R. ยง 4.21(c). (Notice of Appeal (as paginated by CM/ECF) at 2-3.) Specifically, Defendant was cited for traveling 73 miles per hour in a 50 mile per hour zone on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. ( Id. at 2.)

On February 20, 2014, Defendant appeared before Judge Davis for a bench trial on the aforementioned citation. (Notice of Appeal at 3.) The evidence adduced at trial established that Officer Wong observed Defendant's vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed. (Summ. of Proceedings [Dkt. 3] at 1-2.) Officer Wong then clocked Defendant's vehicle traveling 73 miles per hour using the "LTI Ultralight laser." ( Id. at 2.) Officer Wong testified that he was positioned at a 90 degree angle to Defendant's vehicle when he activated the laser and there was no obstructions blocking his view. ( Id. ) Officer Wong further testified that there was no chance the reading came from another vehicle. ( Id. ) Officer Wong then reviewed his qualifications and confirmed that the laser was functioning properly on the day in question. ( Id. ) Consistent with Officer Wong's testimony, the Government introduced the certificate of calibration for the laser used to register Defendant's speed that day. ( Id. )

Defendant briefly cross-examined Officer Wong, asking, among other things, whether he remembered Defendant stating that he pulled him over in error. (Summ. of Proceedings at 2.) Officer Wong testified that he could not recall the specifics of their conversation. ( Id. ) Defendant did not call any witnesses or present any evidence. ( Id. at 3.) When asked if he wanted to take the stand and testify on his own behalf, Defendant replied "No sir." ( Id. at 3.) Defendant then rested his case.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Davis found Defendant guilty and sentenced him to pay a fine of $135.00 with a mandatory special assessment of $10.00 and a $25.00 processing fee. (Summ. of Proceedings at 3.) The judgment was executed that same day.

On March 5, 2014, Defendant noticed the instant appeal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 58(g). (Notice of Appeal at 1.) Defendant did not file a brief and his notice states only the following: "I was not guilty as convicted and I would like to show this." ( Id. ) The Government filed its opposition on April 22, 2014, arguing that Defendant has failed to raise a viable claim that is capable of review on appeal. (Gov't Br. [Dkt. 5] at 2-3.)

Having been fully briefed, this matter is ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 58(g)(2)(B), a defendant may appeal a magistrate judge's judgment to a district judge within 14 days of its entry. "The scope of the appeal is the same as in an appeal to the court of appeals from a judgment entered by a district judge." Fed. R. Crim. P. 58(g)(2)(D). Thus, 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).

On appeal to the district court, the record consists of "the original papers and exhibits in the case together with any transcript, tape, or other recording of the proceedings and a certified copy of the docket entries...." Fed. R. Crim. P. 58(g)(2)(C). Where the issue presented on appeal is purely a question of law, the district judge reviews the decision de novo. United States v. Smith, 115 F.3d 241, 244 (4th Cir. 1997). Findings of fact are reviewed for clear error, and credibility determinations are not susceptible to judicial review but rather are the sole province of the fact finder. See Bursey, 416 F.3d at 306; United States v. Lomax, 293 F.3d 701, 705 (4th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted).

III. Analysis

The basis for Defendant's appeal is unclear. As noted above, his sole argument for relief is "I was not guilty as convicted and I would like to show this." (Notice of Appeal at 1.) To the extent Defendant is seeking to re-litigate his case before this Court, his appeal must be denied. It is well-settled that a defendant who is convicted by a magistrate judge is not entitled to a trial de novo in the district court. See Bursey, 416 F.3d at 305 ("An appellate review conducted by a district court after a bench trial before a magistrate judge is not a trial de novo [.]"); United States v. Jackson, No. 98-4065, 1998 WL 609705, at *2 (4th Cir. 1998) ("The district court's review of a conviction entered by a magistrate judge is not a trial de novo; rather the district court's review is the same as the review by a court of appeals of a decision by a district court." (citations ...


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