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United States v. Bufalino

decided: June 15, 1982.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
RUSSELL BUFALINO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Kevin T. Duffy, J., convicting Russell Bufalino of conspiracy to violate the civil rights of a United States citizen, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241, and endeavoring to obstruct justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1503. Appellant claims he was denied his statutory rights to a speedy trial under 18 U.S.C. § 3161 et seq., and objects to certain evidence introduced against him and to certain jury instructions.

Feinberg, Chief Judge, Oakes, Circuit Judge, and Friedman, Chief Judge, United States Court of Claims.*fn*

Author: Feinberg

FEINBERG, Chief Judge:

Russell Bufalino appeals from a judgment of conviction entered in November 1981 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Kevin T. Duffy, J., after a jury trial. Appellant's principal argument on appeal is that he was denied his statutory right to a speedy trial. We find that this and appellant's other claims are without merit, and we affirm.

Briefly, the events leading to this appeal are as follows. In April 1976, appellant attempted to recover a $25,000 debt from Jack Napoli by threatening to kill him. Unfortunately for appellant, prior to their meeting, Napoli had taken the precaution of concealing a tape recorder on his body, and used it to record Bufalino's conversation. On the basis of Napoli's testimony, Bufalino was indicted for extortion. Anticipating that the government would call Napoli as a witness at trial, appellant arranged with a business acquaintance, James Fratianno, for Napoli's elimination. This arrangement was unsuccessful, possibly because Napoli had joined the Justice Department's Witness Protection Program and had been relocated and given a new identity. In any case, Napoli lived to testify at the extortion trial and Bufalino was convicted of extortion in August 1977 and was sentenced to four years in prison, see United States v. Bufalino, 576 F.2d 446 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 928, 58 L. Ed. 2d 321, 99 S. Ct. 314 (1978). While in jail, appellant again sought to murder Napoli, this time with the aid of another prisoner, Steven Fox, who was about to be paroled. This attempt also failed, but in December 1980, Bufalino was indicted for conspiring to obstruct justice. On April 2, 1981, this indictment was superseded by a second indictment charging Bufalino*fn1 with conspiring to violate the civil rights of a United States citizen, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241 (Count One), and endeavoring to obstruct justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1503 (Count Two).

At trial, James Fratianno, who was by this time also a member of the Witness Protection Program, and Steven Fox, who was in jail on other charges but had been offered the benefits of that program after his release, testified for the prosecution. Bufalino's defense was a general denial. Testifying in his own behalf, appellant denied that he intended to have Napoli killed for his role in the extortion prosecution. He also called several witnesses to contradict elements in the prosecution's case. In rebuttal, the Government played the tape recording of the threat on Napoli's life.*fn2 The jury convicted Bufalino on both counts, and he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and fined $10,000 on Count One and to a concurrent term of five years imprisonment and fined $5,000 on Count Two. Appellant claims that his conviction must be reversed because he was denied his statutory right to a speedy trial, inadmissible testimony was introduced at trial, and certain jury instructions were in error.

I. Speedy Trial

Bufalino's speedy trial claim is based on events that occurred between his arraignment on January 9, 1981*fn3 and the trial, which began on October 19, 1981. Under the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161 et seq., a defendant is entitled to have the charges against him dismissed*fn4 if he is not brought to trial within 70 days of arraignment, unless the excess days fall within a list of exclusions set out in § 3161(h).*fn5 Since Russell Bufalino was tried 283 days after he was arraigned, the issue before us is whether 213 of those days are excludable.

The government has presented us with several ways to reckon the excludable periods that arose in this prosecution. Its most forcefully-urged alternative, which it presented at oral argument, involves excluding one day for Bufalino's co-defendant's bail hearing on January 13 under § 3161(h) (1) (J) [hereinafter "(J)"], two days for the weekend preceding the trial under Fed. R. Crim. P. 45(a); and 210 days for motion practice under § 3161(h) (1) (F) ["(F)"]. To arrive at this figure for motion practice, the government excludes the entire period from January 20, when defense counsel claims to have discussed a schedule for filing pretrial motions with Judge Duffy's law clerk, to July 28, when the court decided all the pending motions with the exception of the government's motion to sequester the jury. In addition, the government excludes the time from September 11, when it moved for a ruling on the admissibility of evidence relating to Bufalino's connections with La Cosa Nostra, to September 30, when that motion was decided.

Appellant objects to this calculation on several grounds. The most cogent of these is that (J) limits the amount of time excludable for the consideration of pretrial motions. Under the subsection, which is reproduced in note 5 supra, a maximum of 30 days is excludable when a "proceeding concerning the defendant is actually under advisement by the court." In this case, a first round of motions was fully submitted by March 24, and a second round (which was precipitated by the filing of a superseding indictment) was fully submitted by May 26. As a result, even if a full period of advisement is allowed for each set of motions, only 60 of the 126 days between March 25 and July 28 are excludable by reason of subsection (J). The Government reads the statute differently. It contends that (J) and (F) should not be read together, that (F) -- which does not impose a numerical limitation on the time it excludes -- is the only subsection that applies to pretrial motions, and, apparently, that (J) refers to other (unspecified) proceedings that could concern a defendant.

The application of (J) to the period of time during which a trial judge considers pretrial motions is an issue of first impression in this circuit, see United States v. New Buffalo Amusement Corp., 600 F.2d 368, 373 n.5 (2d Cir. 1979). While we think that a cursory reading of the two subsections lends some support to the government's position, a careful look at the legislative history of the Speedy Trial Act and its 1979 amendments makes that theory untenable.

We start with the 1974 Act, which provided that:

(h) The following periods of delay shall be excluded . . . in computing the time within which the trial of any such offense must commence:

(1) Any period of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant, including but not limited to --

(E) delay resulting from hearings on pretrial motions;

(G) delay reasonably attributable to any period, not to exceed thirty days, during which any proceeding concerning the defendant is actually under advisement.

Under the 1974 Act, subsection (E), which is the predecessor of current subsection (F), was limited in scope. It was apparently aimed at excluding only the days on which pretrial motions were argued in court, and not the days from the filing of the motion to the hearing thereon, see Frase, the Speedy Trial Act of 1974, 43 U. Chi. L. Rev. 667, 692 (1976). Subsection (G), the predecessor of (J), was intended to deal with delay that arose after ...


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