United States District Court, E.D. New York
January 14, 2005.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
ASTRA MOTOR CARS, et al., Defendants. SANFORD EDMONSTON, Defendant-Movant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS PLATT, JR., Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Defendant Sanford Edmonston ("Defendant") moves this Court to
grant a severance under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 14(a)
and a speedy trial pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3161.
Defendant and his Co-Defendants were first arraigned on this
indictment before this Court on September 9, 2004.*fn1 At
that time, all Defendants were advised that this case appeared to
be a complex case pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(8)(B)(ii) on
the grounds that the eighty three count indictment alleged a
multi-state motor-vehicle theft ring involving at least 100 motor
vehicles and thousands of documents.
Defendant's counsel had an apparent conflict of interest in
representing Defendant on the indictment and expressed to this
Court that Defendant would defer his consent to designate this
case as complex until the conflict was resolved or he retained
new counsel. During a status conference held on December 10,
2004, Defendant's new counsel moved to sever his case and
requested a speedy trial on the ground that the Defendant is
currently in pre-trial confinement.
A trial court is vested with broad discretion to grant a speedy
trial exclusion when in its view the case's complexity makes it
necessary to grant counsel additional time to prepare in order to
ensure a fair trial. See United States v. Breen, 243 F.3d 591
(2d Cir. 2001); United States v. Gambino, 59 F.3d 353 (2d Cir.
In deciding whether a case is complex within the meaning of
18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(8)(B)(ii), the Court may consider the volume of
documents and physical evidence as well as the number of
defendants involved. See United States v. Beech-Nut Nutrition
Corp., 871 F.2d 1181 (2d Cir. 1989).
As the Defendant correctly points out, the Second Circuit has
repeatedly observed, "the length of an exclusion under §
3161(h)(8)(B)(ii) should reasonably be related to the actual
needs of the case, and should not be used either as a calender
control device or as a means of circumventing the requirements of
the Speedy Trial Act." United States v. LoFranco, 818 F.2d 276
(2d Cir. 1987). The Defendant objects to this case being
designated as complex by citing the Government's argument that
the case is complex "in light of the number of defendants in this
case." (Def.'s Mem. at 4). The reason this case is designated as
complex is not grounded solely on the relatively large number of
defendants, but also the extraordinary volume of
discovery.*fn2 (Gov't. Mem. at 3). The Government and
Co-Defendants have taken into consideration "the actual needs of
the case," namely that this case requires a thorough and
coordinated review of the reams of files seized from the Astra
Under the circumstances, this Court sees no reason why this
case should not remain designated as a complex case.
The Government correctly points out that the decision to sever
a trial under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure ("Rule") 14 "is
confided to the sound discretion of the trial court." United
States v. Feyrer, 333 F.3d 110, 114 (2d Cir. 2003). Before
granting a request for a severance, the party requesting the
severance must demonstrate substantial prejudice: "[W]hen
defendants properly have been joined under Rule 8(b), a district
court should grant a severance under Rule 14 only if there is a
serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a specific trial
right of one of the defendants, or prevent the jury from making a
reliable judgment about guilt or innocence." Zafiro v. United
States, 506 U.S. 534, 539 (1993); see also United States v.
Friedman, 854 F.2d 535, 563 (2d Cir. 1988) ("[T]he defendant
must show that he or she suffered prejudice so substantial as to
amount to a `miscarriage of justice.'").
Defendant has not demonstrated any reason as to why he is
prejudiced by a joint trial, except to remind this Court that he
is incarcerated awaiting trial. As incarceration alone is not a
factor addressed by either Rule 8 or 14, this argument has no
merit. Regardless it has no application here. In its papers the
Government has detailed the extensive proof with respect to the
joint culpability of the Defendant and the other principle
individual in the case, Michael Pescatore, and the lengthy trial
involving the same witnesses and other evidence that will
necessarily follow in order to try them both. In short, they are
the leaders of this alleged multi-state motor vehicle theft ring.
Defendant's motion to sever is denied at this time because the
Defendant has not shown that he has, or will suffer, substantial
prejudice in a joint trial. Furthermore, this case should be, as
it has been, designated as a complex case. Finally, Defendant
should remain incarcerated until trial.
Defendant's motion for a speedy trial and a severance is