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United States v. Lyttle

July 31, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge



This matter is presently before the Court for a determination of the defendant's competency to proceed to trial. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that the defendant is competent to stand trial.


A. September 29, 2005 to August 28, 2005

On September 29, 2005, the defendant was arraigned on a multi-count indictment charging him, along with three co-defendants, with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and substantive acts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering in connection with a high yield investment scheme. He appeared at arraignment with his court appointed attorney, Fred S. Gallina, Esq. Based upon his Pre-trial Services Report, he was released from custody. Under the heading of Health, the report, dated September 29, 2005, read:

Melvin Lyttle suffers from the following medical conditions as documented by Dr. Michael Dragan: Anxiety Disorder, Coronary Artery Disease with Heart Catheterization twice and coronary angiography, Irritable Bowel Syndrome from Diverticulitis severe hypertension, lumbar disc disease and Type-2 Diabetes.

Current medications include: Lotrel, Diovan HCT, Lexapro, Lipitor, Nitroglycerin, as needed. It should be noted that Mr. Lyttle is prone to anginal chest pains especially with elevated blood pressure and stress.

In a letter application dated January 5, 2006, that was not docketed, Mr. Gallina sought to have home confinement with electronic monitoring removed as a condition of the defendant's release. In support of his request, Mr. Gallina included a five page letter from the defendant dated December 27, 2005, which the Court has annexed as Addendum #1 to this decision.

By notice of motion (Docket # 33), filed on October 19, 2006, Mr. Galina sought to withdraw as the defendant's counsel. In his sealed affidavit (Docket # 34) in support of his application (which the Court now unseals), Mr. Galina stated:

5. That your deponent has attempted to communicate the importance of considering a possible plea to resolve the matter before the Court; however the Defendant refuses to even consider the appropriateness of this course of action.

6. That your deponent has met with resistance to these discussions is an understatement. The Defendant continues to believe that there may be some intervention by foreign government officials on his behalf and that your deponent has lost his ability to appreciate the Defendant's position on various matters.

7. That your deponent verily believes that it is difficult, if not impossible, to represent the Defendant properly under the circumstances and that Defendant would be better served with another attorney who could establish some rapport and professional trust needed to go forward in this matter.

On October 24, 2006, the Court granted Mr. Gallina's motion to withdraw and appointed Christopher S. Ciaccio, Esq., the defendant's current counsel, to represent him.

On March 1, 2007, Mr. Ciaccio filed his omnibus motion on the defendant's behalf (Docket # 55 ), which was argued before the Court on April 23, 2007. On May 11, 2007, the Court filed a Pre-trial order (Docket # 75), setting October 15, 2007 as the date on which the jury trial was to commence. However, on October 1, 2007, the Court received a letter, dated September 27, 2007, from the defendant's primary care physician, Michael K. Dragan, M.D., indicating that the defendant had been referred to Barry Dick, M.D., a vascular surgeon, to correct a 100% blockage in his right external artery. As a result, it was necessary to adjourn the October 15, 2007, trial date. Dr. Dick in fact operated on the defendant on October 18, 2007.

Following his surgery, the defendant filed a pro se application captioned an "Emergency Motion," along with a supporting affidavit (Docket # 132), in which he sought to have Mr. Ciaccio replaced as his counsel. His supporting affidavit consisted of nine pages, along with an attached exhibit consisting of e-mail communications. Mr. Ciaccio submitted an affidavit in response (Docket # 134). The Court scheduled a court appearance on September 10, 2008, at which time the defendant's application was discussed. The next day, September 11, 2008, the Court held an in camera proceeding, concerning the motion, with the defendant and Mr. Ciaccio, which was taken down by a court reporter and sealed (Docket #141). Based upon the papers and proceedings, the Court denied the defendant's application.

For reasons unrelated to the pending application, the trial was further adjourned, and subsequently by Pre-trial order (Docket # 201) filed on June 9, 2008, was scheduled to begin on September 8, 2008.

On May 21, 2008, Mr. Ciaccio filed a notice of motion seeking to modify the conditions of the defendant's release (Docket # 194). Mr. Ciaccio's supporting affirmation (Docket # 195) attached, as Exhibit C, a three page letter from the defendant.

On August 5, 2008, the defendant filed his second pro se "Emergency Motion" requesting the appointment of new counsel (Docket # 222). In his six page affidavit, supported by three exhibits, the defendant detailed the basis for his application. At a court appearance on August 6, 2008, that had been scheduled concerning unrelated matters, the Court heard from Mr. Lyttle and Mr. Ciaccio, and after doing so, denied the application.

B. August 29, 2008 to Present

By notice of motion filed on August 29, 2008 (Docket # 231), Mr. Ciaccio, on behalf of the Defendant, filed a motion for an order granting a hearing to determine the mental competency of the Defendant. In his affirmation in support of his application, Mr. Ciaccio stated:

4. As set forth in the attached medical reports, Mr. Lyttle has a condition in his brain that was identified in a May 21, 2008 MRI as a "ring-enhancing lesion with a hypodense center with surrounding edema in the deep posterior lobe." A second MRI showed the lesion to be a ...

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