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UNITED STATES v. KNIGHT

June 4, 1993

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
DOUGLAS JOHN KNIGHT, a/k/a JUSTIN KNIGHT, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES L. BRIEANT

 Brieant, J.

 By indictment filed in this district on March 2, 1993, the Grand Jury charged Douglas John Knight, a/k/a Justin Knight, and others unknown, with four separate counts. Count 1 charges Knight, and others unknown, between February 17, 1993 and February 24, 1993, in this district and elsewhere, "unlawfully, wilfully and knowingly did attempt to obstruct, delay and affect commerce by extortion, to wit, the defendant demanded payment of $ 350,000, and subsequently $ 450,000, from Pepsico, and threatened that he would tamper with products and would advertise such tampering, if the money was not paid", in violation of § 1951(a) of Title 18 of the United States Code.

 Count 2, arising out of the same transaction, charges defendant Knight, and others unknown, with having threatened to "tamper with a consumer product that affects interstate and foreign commerce, to wit, the defendant demanded payment of $ 350,000 and subsequently $ 450,000, from Pepsico and threatened that he would tamper with products, and would advertise such tampering, if the money was not paid", in violation of § 1365(d) of Title 18 of the United States code.

 Count 4 reads as follows:

 
"On or about February 24, 1993, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, DOUGLAS JOHN KNIGHT, a/k/a JUSTIN KNIGHT, the defendant, and others unknown to the Grand Jury, unlawfully, wilfully and knowingly did, in the United States, knowingly engage and attempt to engage in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property that was of a value greater than $ 10,000 and was derived from specified unlawful activity, to wit, the defendant did purchase a cashier's check for $ 41,500 at the United Missouri Bank, using money which was a portion of the proceeds of a check which the defendant knew had been obtained by threats to injure the property and reputation of Pepsico, which threats were communicated through interstate commerce. (Title 18, United States code, § 1957)"

 By motion filed April 30, 1993, and heard by the court on May 26, 1993, defendant moved pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. Rules 18 and 21(b) for an order transferring the case in its entirety to the Western District of Missouri. Other relief, including suppression of evidence, was sought, but on consent of both parties no hearing was held on the balance of the motion pending a decision on the issue of venue.

 The defendant argues that the fourth count, the alleged violation of § 1957 of Title 18 of United States Code entitled "Engaging in monetary transactions and property derived from specified unlawful activity", a sort of junior type of money laundering, took place solely in the Western District of Missouri, and that venue is not constitutionally permissible in this district as to Count 4. He also urges that once it appears that this Court must transfer the fourth count to the Western District of Missouri for trial, then in the interests of justice and judicial economy the Court should also transfer the first three counts. This latter contention seems valid, and the Government does not argue to the contrary.

 Pepsico is a resident of this district, where it has its principal office. In addition to the harm to Pepsico resulting from the extortion or the threatened tampering of its consumer products, much of the damage to the consumer products would also result in harm to the citizens of this judicial district. This Court, therefore, has a strong interest in trying the case, to assure the protection of the individual and corporate citizens of this district.

 It is clear that the first three counts of the indictment could have been charged and tried either in Western Missouri or Southern New York, and substantially all of the witnesses who would testify in connection with Count 4 would also be necessary witnesses either for the Government or the defense in the trial of the first three counts. This overlap in evidence is of no relevance on the issue of constitutional venue. The Court also agrees that the interests of justice for the defendant, and judicial economy, require one trial and not two trials.

 The Facts Concerning the Crimes Charged

 Most of the Government's evidence in the case is reflected in documents or taped conversations. While the Court has not listened to the tapes, the Court accepts the uncontested representations made in the papers submitted on this motion and relies on the following facts, as set forth in the complaint, the motion papers and at the oral argument. Defendant's attorney describes the facts as bizarre, and this is the understatement of the week.

 Mr. Knight is a resident of Kansas City, Missouri. He proffers that he is known by the name of "Justin" only to people on the street scene, in hospitals (where he has been a patient or a volunteer helper), and in gin mills.

 
" A short time ago a person that I met not only changed my life, but saved it as well. I personally don't have the means to reward him for it, but I know a wealthy company such as yours could do it for me.
 
I have wrote[sic] another letter to this person. . . . I have included an exact copy of this letter so you know what was said. This person knows nothing about this letter I am writing to you and it is very doubtful he knows who I am."

 The letter continues to direct Pepsico to

 
"ship $ 350,000 in hundred dollar bills to the person on the [Federal Express] airbill I have already filled out. You must use this airbill . . . . I do not want the indivial[sic] that saved my life to know where it came from, otherwise I'm sure he wouldn't accept it under these terms."

 The letter contained a deadline date for shipment, Friday for Saturday delivery, and a threat to tamper with grocery products of Pepsico and to send a copy to major newspapers "with a list of products that should be pulled off the shelves" by Monday, if the ...


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