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United States v. Vasko

United States District Court, D. Kansas

September 6, 2019

STACY A. VASKO (01), Defendant.


          Daniel D. Crabtree, United States District Judge.

         Defendant Stacy A. Vasko has asked the court to review and amend the Order Setting Conditions of Release (Doc. 6) entered by United States Magistrate Judge Angel Mitchell on August 20, 2019. See Doc. 8. After reviewing the parties' filings on this motion[1] and hearing their oral arguments during a hearing on September 3, 2019, the court grants Ms. Vasko's motion in part and denies it in part. Specifically, the court vacates the August 20 Order (Doc. 6) and replaces it with the Amended Order Setting Conditions of Release filed contemporaneously with this Order as Doc. 13. That Amended Order now establishes the conditions that apply to the defendant while released and pending trial.

         This Memorandum and Order outlines the court's reasons for its ruling.


         Ms. Vasko makes two related but nonetheless distinct arguments. The first one operates at a broad and general level. It contends that the court "shall order" pretrial release of the defendant on "personal recognizance" or on unsecured bond unless the judicial officer determines that: (1) such a release will not "reasonably assure" the defendant's appearance as required, or (2) "will endanger the safety of any other person or the community" as a whole. See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(b). This proposition isn't controversial for § 3142(b) says as much. Because the government has failed to demonstrate either predicate Ms. Vasko argues that the court erred by imposing any conditions on her. Ms. Vasko's second argument, something of a backstop, contends that even if some conditions are warranted, the conditions adopted in Doc. 6 are far too broad and thus impermissibly intrude on her freedom. This result, she argues, contradicts § 3 l42(c)(B). This provision requires the court-even when it concludes that conditions are required to assure reasonably the appearance of the defendant or protect the safety of any person or the community as a whole-to adopt "the least restrictive . . . condition, or combination of conditions" that will accomplish those two outcomes. Id.


         The Indictment charges that Ms. Vasko, while employed by the United States Postal Service, "embezzled, stole, and removed letters and mail, and articles and things contained" in it, namely, "gift cards, entrusted to her" which she had come to possess when deposited as mail. Doc. 1 at 1. It thus accuses Ms. Vasko of committing a felony under § 1709 of Title 18 of the United States Code. If convicted on this charge, Ms. Vasko faces a sentence no greater than five years in federal prison and restitution, among other things. A summons directed Ms. Vasko to appear in court on this charge (Doc. 2), and she did so on August 12, 2019.

         The Pretrial Services Report about Ms. Vasko concluded that she has lived in Salina, Kansas, for the last 16 years. Currently, she lives with her two sons, the youngest one born just a few weeks ago. She has "regular contact" with her parents and "weekly contact" with her sister, who lives in a nearby town. Ms. Vasko works as a housekeeper at Presbyterian Manor in Salina, a facility providing various levels of living options to seniors. She has held this job since February 2019.

         This report also finds that Ms. Vasko has four criminal convictions, though some of them later were expunged under state law. Her convictions are for: Disorderly Conduct (2006, sentenced to five days incarceration); a traffic violation (2006); Theft by Deception from Three Businesses within 72 hours (2008, suspended sentence of six months incarceration); and Theft of Property or Service (2012, sentence unreported). More recently, about four months ago, Ms. Vasko was charged with Driving Under the Influence, Following Too Closely, and "Liability Insurance." These charges are currently pending before the Municipal Court of Salina, Kansas. Ms. Vasko reported to the Pretrial Services Officer that she was under the influence of Ambien prescribed for her by her mental health provider-in other words, she had not consumed alcohol or some other form of a drug of abuse. Also, she reported that she has discontinued use of Ambien.

         Ms. Vasko reported that she has participated in therapy with a mental health provider for the last 12 months, including, currently, outpatient treatments. Also, she reported that she has received mental health treatment since 2008 and currently takes two medications prescribed for her by her provider. Otherwise, she reports, she is in "excellent physical health" and experiencing no current medical problems.

         The court discusses other aspects of Ms. Vasko's history and characteristics, as relevant to the court's analysis of the current motion, elsewhere in this Order.


         The Order Setting Conditions of Release (Doc. 6) imposed nine conditions on Ms. Vasko. Doc. 6 at 1-2. She disputes three of them. They are the conditions requiring her to: (a) "submit to supervision by and report for supervision to the Pretrial Services Office" of the United States Probation Office; (b) "continue or actively seek employment;" and (c) "get medical or psychiatric treatment as deemed advisable by Pretrial Services." See Doc. 6 at 2. Ms. Vasko's motion does not challenge the other six conditions imposed by Doc. 6, [2] so this Order reimposes each one of those six conditions.

         The first question the court must decide is whether the government has discharged its threshold burden. That is, has it demonstrated that release on personal recognizance without conditions-except for those forbidding further crimes and requiring DNA collection-"will not reasonably assure the appearance of the [defendant] as required or will endanger the safety of any other person or the community." § 3142(b). Subsection (g) ...

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