The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINFELD
This is the not unusual situation where a defendant who pled guilty and testified as a government witness recants his trial testimony against a codefendant who was convicted. As is often the case, the recantation occurs only after the statute of limitations on perjury bars any prosecution based upon his trial testimony.
Based upon the recantation, the convicted defendant, Joseph Manfredi, now moves, more than five years after his conviction following a month long trial, "to set aside the verdict" on the ground that the prosecution knowingly used perjured testimony, and for "a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence."
Horace Marble, the witness, was indicted with Joseph Manfredi and twelve other defendants as members of a conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws, which was described by our Court of Appeals as "a large-scale narcotics ring from suburban New York and New Jersey which supplied dealers and distributors in Harlem."
Prior to his appearance as a government witness at the trial of petitioner, Marble was interviewed at various times by former Assistant United States Attorneys John M. Walker, Jr. and Gerald A. Feffer and Special Narcotics Agent Francis E. White. Marble also testified before a grand jury. During these pretrial proceedings he gave information as to his illicit activities and those of other alleged participants.
Upon the trial, consistent with his prior statements and grand jury testimony, Marble admitted he was a large-scale narcotics dealer with a criminal record, which included narcotics, robbery, assault and petty larceny convictions and numerous arrests on an assortment of charges. He testified that over a substantial period he had purchased large amounts of heroin from Joseph LaCosa, a defendant and a nephew of Joseph Manfredi, the movant. These purchases eventually were at the rate of two kilos of heroin weekly, with the total sales in excess of one million dollars. Of particular importance on this application is Marble's testimony that on a number of occasions LaCosa made known to him that the source of his (LaCosa's) supply was his uncle, Joseph Manfredi.
Robert Roseboro, another codefendant, also pled guilty and was a government witness. Roseboro testified that he, too, was a large-scale purchaser of heroin from LaCosa, who told him that his uncle was his boss and the supplier of the heroin. In addition to Marble's and Roseboro's testimony, there was independent circumstantial evidence to establish Manfredi's role in the conspiracy. This included surveillance by narcotics agents of LaCosa and Manfredi and various trips by LaCosa to Manfredi's home in New Jersey, which followed or preceded telephone calls wherein LaCosa discussed with other conspirators "his connection." The Court of Appeals held that Marble's and Roseboro's testimony confirmed the circumstantial events relating to Manfredi, and further that the statements made by LaCosa to them "were made in furtherance of the conspiracy, since LaCosa was obviously trying to impress his customers with the importance, connections, wealth and power of his uncle in order to build sound 'customer relations.'"
In support of the instant motion, the petitioner, Joseph Manfredi, relies upon an affidavit of Horace Marble, presently confined to Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone, Minnesota, in which Marble states:
At no time did Joey [LaCosa] tell me his connection was his uncil [sic] and the first time I heard of a uncil [sic] was from [Narcotics] Agent White. I have never in fact met or heard of Joey's uncil [sic] in till [sic] Agent White told me of him when I first told White my statement he kept coming up with this uncil [sic] and without telling in words he made it knowen [sic] to me it were this uncil [sic] (word) he wanted in my statement and because I felt at that time this was the only thing that would help me. I used the word uncil [sic]. So I now state that at the triel [sic] I did lie in my testamony [sic] when I had said Joey told me his uncil [sic] was his connection . . ..
The petitioner also submits an affidavit of a private investigator employed by his present counsel (not his trial counsel) to the effect that in an interview of LaCosa at a federal penitentiary LaCosa (who did not testify at the trial) denied that he ever told Marble or Roseboro that his uncle, Manfredi, was the connection or the boss of the narcotics operation. The investigator also reports that one Arthur Michael Newman, not otherwise identified, told him and the lawyer representing defendant on this motion that Roseboro admitted to him he lied at the trial about Manfredi's involvement. Further, the investigator states that during the course of a recorded telephone conversation, Roseboro told him, the investigator, that Manfredi had absolutely nothing to do with the narcotics conspiracy. Hearsay affidavits even further removed are submitted by two fellow prisoners, who state that Roseboro told them that he lied at the trial when he testified against Manfredi and that he and Marble had been propositioned by Agent White to say that Joey LaCosa told them that his uncle was the connection for the heroin in return for leniency upon sentencing.
The government, in opposition to this motion, has submitted an affidavit from Agent White in which he categorically denies that he ever directed Marble or Roseboro to testify that LaCosa had said his uncle was his heroin connection. Walker, the former Assistant United States Attorney, who questioned Marble on many occasions in preparation for trial, has submitted an affidavit in which he states that Marble "was consistent in stating that LaCosa told him during the time of the conspiracy that LaCosa's 'uncle' was his heroin connection." He and former Assistant United States Attorney Feffer further swear that in advance of trial Roseboro made similar statements. These Assistants and Agent White also aver that to the best of their knowledge Marble and Roseboro testified truthfully at the trial. Additionally, the government has submitted the 3500 material which was furnished during the trial to counsel for the defendants.
The immediate issue is whether the recanting statement of Horace Marble upon the record requires a hearing pursuant to 28 U.S.C., section 2255. The motion itself does not automatically mandate a hearing.
Significantly, the hearsay statements of the private investigator as to what Roseboro allegedly told him during the course of the recorded telephone conversation is not submitted; neither is the recording offered. Nor is an affidavit submitted from either Roseboro or LaCosa supporting the hearsay statements of the private investigator and fellow prisoners. The hearsay and double hearsay statements are incompetent and inadmissible and will not be considered on this motion.
Thus the sole affidavit to be considered as to whether or not a hearing is mandated is that of Marble. The denials in the affidavits of Assistant United States Attorneys and Agent White are not deemed part of the records and files of this case, but they may be considered as showing that petitioner's factual allegations are "not to be deemed admitted for the purpose of determining whether a hearing should be had";
they may also "be considered in assessing the sufficiency of the petitioner's supporting affidavit."
Moreover, the 3500 material
is part of "the files and records of the case" under section 2255.
Based upon all relevant documents and the files and records of this case, I am of the view that Horace Marble's affidavit by itself, which should be viewed with suspicion,
is insufficient to mandate a hearing to consider petitioner's claim. Otherwise, we may as well recognize that an unsupported retraction by a witness of his trial testimony would automatically give him, if confined, as well as his codefendants, a free trip to the courthouse
every time such a general allegation is made. Section 2255 "does not strip the district courts of all discretion to exercise their common sense."
Petitioner's basic contention is that his conviction was the product of the prosecution's knowing use of Marble's alleged perjured trial testimony. Yet close analysis of Marble's affidavit indicates that it makes no allegation to support such a charge, nor is any proof tendered to support it. In order to require a hearing, an affidavit must set forth specific facts which petitioner can establish by competent evidence.