The opinion of the court was delivered by: SONIA SOTOMAYOR
In this civil forfeiture action, plaintiff, the United States of America (the "Government"), moves for an impanelling of an anonymous jury and for the imposition of certain other measures to secure the jury during the trial process. For the reasons discussed below, the Government's motion is granted.
This case is a civil action brought by the Government pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(7) (1993) to forfeit defendant in rem, the building and real property located at 77 East 3rd Street, New York, New York (together the "Building"). The Government maintains that the New York City Chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (the "Club") used the Building to store and distribute narcotics.
Sandy Framer Alexander and the Church of Angels, Inc. (the "Church of Angels") claim legal title to the Building and intervene as claimants. Alexander and the Church of Angels dispute each others title to the Building. Colette Alexander, Alexander's wife, also claims a life-tenancy in the property based on a written covenant that is disputed by the Church of Angels. Both Sandy and Colette Alexander were members of the Church of Angels and of the Club. Sandy Alexander was an officer and director of the Club and a trustee of the Church of Angels. Trustees of the Church of Angels have also been officers, directors and members of the Club.
This action was the product of a nation-wide undercover investigation of the Club by the federal, state and local authorities from November of 1977 to May 1985. The Government concluded from the investigation that the Club was conducting illegal drug operations through its local chapters, including the New York City Chapter, located at 77 East 3rd Street.
On May 1, 1985, the Government filed a Complaint under 21 U.S.C. § 881(b) against the Building. On the basis of the Government's Complaint, the Clerk of the Court issued a "Warrant for Arrest of Article In Rem" pursuant to Rule C(2) of the Supplemental Rules Concerning Maritime Claims, ordering the seizure of the Building. On the same day, the Government also obtained six (6) separate search warrants for five (5) apartments and the common areas in the building at 77 East 3rd Street and five (5) warrants for the arrest of members and former members of the New York City Chapter of the Club. Indictments against a dozen Club members and trustees of the Church of Angels nationwide, including claimants Sandy and Colette Alexander, were subsequently returned.
On or about June 18, 1985, the parties to this action agreed to a Consent Order, which allowed the record owners of the Building to continue to occupy the premises and remain record owners of the Building pending the outcome of this action. At or about the same time, the Government also filed a Notice of Pendency against the Building with the Clerk of New York County. Thereafter, the Government moved, and ultimately was granted, a stay of this action pending the outcome of the criminal prosecutions of the Club members.
At this time, the criminal prosecutions have resulted in convictions for narcotics-related offenses of almost all of the defendants charged as a result of the Government's investigation. Sandy Alexander, on December 12, 1985, pled guilty to distributing one kilogram or more of cocaine, and to engaging in a "continuing criminal enterprise" in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 848. He received a sentence of 16 years, which was later reduced to 14 years. Sandy Alexander has been released from prison and lives in New York City but not in the Building. Colette Alexander, on June 19, 1986, pled guilty to possessing cocaine and she received a suspended sentence and four years probation for her offense. She currently lives in Florida. Almost all of the convicted defendants have been released from prison and some, after cooperating with the Government, are in witness protection programs.
The Stipulation of Facts dated September 15, 1993 (the "Stipulated Facts"), which have been agreed upon by the parties and which contains a fuller and more complete description of the charges, convictions and sentences of the various Club members arrested as part of the criminal action and of the Club members involvement in the Church of Angels, is incorporated by reference herein.
After review of the affidavits submitted by all parties on the motion before me, I have ...