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United States v. Young

September 4, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
TRENT YOUNG, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kenneth M. Karas, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant Trent Young ("Defendant") has moved for a bill of particulars, seeking more specific information about the conduct alleged in the Indictment. For the reasons outlined below, Defendant's request is DENIED.

I. Background

Defendant Trent Young is charged with three counts of unlawfully, wilfully, and knowingly transporting individuals who had not attained the age of eighteen years in interstate commerce with the intent that the individuals engage in sexual activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a) ("Section 2423(a)"). Specifically, Defendant is charged with transporting two separate victims -- identified for the sake of privacy as Victim One and Victim Two -- from Middletown, New York, to his martial arts studio in West Milford, New Jersey, and engaging in sexual activity with both.

II. Discussion

A. The Standard for Granting a Motion for a Bill of Particulars "Rule 7(f) . . . permits the defendant to seek a bill of particulars in order to identify with sufficient particularity the nature of the charge pending against him, thereby enabling defendant [sic] to prepare for trial, to prevent surprise, and to interpose a plea of double jeopardy should he be prosecuted a second time for the same offense.'" United States v. Jailall, No. 00-CR-69, 2000 WL 1368055, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 20, 2000) (quoting United States v. Bortnovsky, 820 F.2d 572, 574 (2d Cir. 1987)) (alterations in original). "A bill of particulars is required 'only where the charges of the indictment are so general that they do not advise the defendant of the specific acts of which he is accused.'" United States v. Chen, 378 F.3d 151, 163 (2d Cir. 2004) (quoting United States v. Walsh, 194 F.3d 37, 47 (2d Cir. 1999)).

"The standard applied to the information sought is not whether it is helpful to the defense, but whether it is necessary." Jailall, 2000 WL 1368055, at *7 (citing United States v. Love, 859 F. Supp. 725, 738 (S.D.N.Y. 1994)); see also United States v. Barnes, 158 F.3d 662, 665 (2d Cir. 1998) ("While a bill of particulars is not intended . . . as a means of learning the government's evidence and theories, if [it is] necessary to give the defendant enough information about the charge to prepare his defense, it will be required even if the effect is disclosure of evidence or of theories." (internal quotation marks omitted)). "To determine if a bill of particulars is necessary for the adequate preparation of a defense, the court may consider 'the complexity of the offense, the clarity of the indictment, and the degree of discovery otherwise available to the defendants.'" United States v. Chalmers, 410 F. Supp. 2d 278, 283 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (quoting United States v. Shoher, 555 F. Supp. 346, 349 (S.D.N.Y. 1983)).

B. Application of the Standard for Granting a Motion for a Bill of Particulars to Defendant's Request

Defendant's Motion for a Bill of Particulars seeks the following information: a list of all the relevant "dates, times and places" relating to the charges against Defendant; the ages of the known victims; and the names and addresses of any known witnesses to the conduct in question. (Affirmation in Supp. of Mot. for Bill of Particulars 9-10.) Subsequent to the filing of Defendant's Motion, however, the Government supplemented the Complaint and Indictment with some of the information requested by Defendant.*fn1 Specifically, the Government provided the names and ages of the two victims; narrowed the date ranges for the alleged offenses; and clarified that each of the three counts in the Indictment involved an instance in which Defendant drove the victim from Middletown, New York, to the Iron Tiger Martial Arts Studio in West Milford, New Jersey. (Gov't's Mem. of Law in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Bill of Particulars 3-4.) The Government argues that this additional information should obviate the need for a bill of particulars. See Jailall, 2000 WL 1368055, at *7 ("A bill of particulars is not required where the information sought has been made available in alternate forms." (citing United States v. Kelly, 91 F. Supp. 2d 580, 583-84 (S.D.N.Y. 2000))).

Despite the additional information provided by the Government, Defendant argues that the Government has not provided him with sufficient notice of the charges to prepare a defense. Defendant marshals two arguments to justify his request. First, Defendant contends that the advanced age of the "child" victims in this case warrants greater specificity. Second, Defendant claims that because he might offer an alibi defense, the dates and times provided by the Government must be tendered with greater specificity. These arguments will be addressed in turn.

1. Specificity Requirements for Allegations of Sexual Abuse

The counts of the Indictment -- clarified by the Government's supplemental disclosure -- allege the following date ranges: Count One alleges that Defendant sexually abused Victim One, aged fourteen at the time, during the daytime on a Saturday in or about the Fall of 2006; Count Two alleges that Defendant sexually abused Victim One, aged fifteen at the time, during the daytime on a Saturday in or about September 2007; and Count Three alleges that Defendant sexually abused Victim Two, aged sixteen at the time, on an evening in or about the Summer of 2006. Stated differently, the three counts each specify a particular time of day (daytime or evening), and feature variances in date ranges stretching from roughly four days in Count Two to thirteen days in Count One to four months in Count Three.

"'[T]he Second Circuit has consistently sustained indictments which track the language of a statute and, in addition, do little more than state time and place in approximate terms.'" United States v. Dames, 380 F. Supp. 2d 270, 274 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (quoting United States v. Berganza, No. 03-CR-987, 2005 WL 372045, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 16, 2005)); see also United States v. Frias, 521 F.3d 229, 235 (2d Cir. 2008)(same).*fn2 This is especially true in cases of sexual abuse of children: allegations of sexual abuse of underage victims often proceed without specific dates of the offenses. In cases of continuing sexual abuse, it is sufficient for the indictment to specify "a period of time -- rather than a specific date -- in which defendant committed the acts at issue . . . especially where . . . the complaining victim [is] a child." Edwards v. Mazzuca, No. 00-CV-2290, 2007 WL 2994449, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 15, 2007). Because minors often are not capable of remembering the exact dates when the alleged acts occurred, "fairly large time windows in the context of child abuse prosecutions are not in conflict with constitutional notice requirements." Valentine v. Konteh, 395 F.3d 626, 632 (6th Cir. 2005); see also Rodriguez v. Hynes, No. 94-CV-2010, 1995 WL 116290, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 1995) ("Considering the fact that young victims often do not remember the exact date of when an alleged offense occurred, the time spans in the indictment [charging sexual abuse of a minor] are not unreasonable.").

Defendant argues, however, that the relatively advanced ages of the alleged victims -- ranging from fourteen to sixteen years old at the times of the alleged crimes -- requires the Government to tender more specific dates than in cases involving younger children. Some states -- New York, in particular -- do use the age of the victim as an important factor in determining the sufficiency of date ranges contained in indictments alleging sexual abuse. In People v. Morris, 461 N.E.2d 1256 (N.Y. 1984), for example, the New York Court of Appeals ...


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