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U.S. v. BALJIT

April 11, 2002

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF
V.
KRISHENDAT BALJIT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR Marrero, U.S. District Judge

  ORDER

On October 23, 2001, defendant Krishendat Baljit (hereinafter "Baljit") filed a motion to preclude the Government's use of statements that he made during voluntary appearances made at "proffer sessions" with Government representatives. In an Order dated March 5, 2002. the Court denied Baljit's motion and indicated that it would provide a detailed explanation of the basis and authority for its decision at the start of the trial. On March 12, 2002, the Court explained its reasoning for the March 5, 2002 Order in a statement on the record and also ruled on two in limine motions that had been filed by the Government. The Court hereby directs that its March 5, 2002 Order be amended by incorporating the Court's statement on the record, a copy of which is attached hereto.

SO ORDERED.

Statement of the Court Regarding Defendant Krishendat Baljit's Motion to Preclude Statements Made at Proffer Sessions and the Government's Motions In Limine

March 12, 2002

In this statement, the Court addresses several issues. The first relates to defendant Baljit's motion to preclude the use at trial of statements that he made at proffer sessions with the Government. The second issue relates to the Government's motion on the admissibility of testimony that Baljit hid mail that was dated incorrectly. The third and final issue relates to the Government's motion on the admissibility of evidence that the defendant's brother, Deodat Baljit, tampered with the "H6" meter.

Baljit's Motion to Preclude Proffer Session Statements

On October 23, 2001, defendant Baljit filed a motion to preclude the use of statements that he made at proffer sessions with the Government, asserting, among other things that: (1) the Government knew that counsel who represented him at the time he participated in the proffer sessions was laboring under multiple irreconcilable and unwaivable conflicts of interest, violating Baljit's right under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution to be free from self-incrimination and his Sixth Amendment right to counsel; and (2) the Government had an obligation to call those conflicts of interest to the Court. On November 13, 2001, the Government filed papers in opposition to Baljit's motion, asserting, among other things, that: (1) Baljit's Fifth Amendment right to be free from self-incrimination was not violated; (2) Baljit did not have a Sixth Amendment right to counsel during the proffers sessions; and (3) the Government fully complied with its ethical obligations.

In a Decision and Order dated March 5, 2002, the Court denied defendant Baljit's motion, finding no violation of either his Fifth Amendment right to be free from self-incrimination or his Sixth Amendment right to counsel under the circumstances at issue. The Court also indicated that it would provide a detailed explanation of the basis and authority for the decision at the start of the trial.

The second observation that the Court made in connection with the instant motion is that Baljit's proffer sessions occurred well before the Government initiated any formal proceedings against him. Accordingly, Baljit had neither a Sixth Amendment right to counsel at the time he participated in the proffer sessions nor a corollary Sixth Amendment right to conflict-free counsel. The right to counsel does not attach until the initiation of formal judicial proceedings, "whether by way of formal charge, indictment, preliminary hearing, or arraignment." Kirby v. United States, 406 U.S. 682, 689 (1972). The principal case on which Baljit relies in his motion, United States v. Ming He, 94 F.3d 782 (2d Cir. 1996), is inapposite. The defendant in that case made inculpatory statements in debriefing sessions that occurred after he had been indicted and after he had pleaded guilty. In contrast, Baljit made inculpatory statements in this case long before his indictment.

Government's Motion to Introduce Evidence that Baljit Hid Incorrectly Dated Mail

On February 28, 2002, the Government filed a number of pretrial motions. The Government has withdrawn several of these motions but there are two before the Court that Baljit has opposed. In the first motion, the Government seeks a ruling on the admissibility of testimony, pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), that Baljit, in violation of United States Postal Service rules and regulations, hid metered mail that was dated incorrectly behind correctly dated mail to avoid detection by postal officials that some mail was not being transported to the post office for processing on the same day it was stamped by the postal meter. The Government concedes that this conduct did not cause any financial loss to the Postal Service, but asserts that it provides background evidence of the charged conspiracy and demonstrates the "attitude of illegality that permeated at API; an attitude that fostered the commission of the charged postage meter fraud."

Under the "inclusionary approach" to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) followed in this Circuit, evidence of prior acts is admissible for any purpose other than to show a defendant's criminal propensity. See United States v. Pitre, 960 F.2d 1112, 1118 (2d Cir. 1992) (citing United States v. Roldan-Zapata, 916 F.2d 795, 804 (2d Cir. 1990)). Evidence of prior acts may be admitted to inform the jury of the background of the conspiracy charged, to complete the story of the crimes charged, and to help explain to the jury how the illegal relationship between participants in the crime developed. See id. (citing Roldan-Zapata, 916 F.2d at 804). Such evidence may also be ...


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