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United States v. Leeper

September 2, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. United States Magistrate Judge


This case was referred to the undersigned by the Hon. William M. Skretny, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), for all pretrial matters and to hear and report upon dispositive motions. Dkt. #60.


Before the Court is defendant Quentin Leeper's omnibus motion for discovery. Dkt. #114. In addition to the relief sought in their own separately filed motions, each of which will be the subject of a separate Decision and Order, defendants Ronquike Maisonet, Major Anthony Newton and Dion D. Knight join in the aforementioned motion filed by defendant Quentin Leeper. See Dkt. ## 125-127. Defendant Raymond Hodnett filed a Notice to Join Motion wherein he does not seek separate relief, rather he seeks to join in the instant motion filed by Quentin Leeper's attorney. Dkt. #123. Thereafter, the government filed a consolidated response to all of the pending motions, including the above-described motions for discovery. Dkt. #132. At the conclusion of its consolidated response, the government has made a request for reciprocal discovery pursuant to Rule 16(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Id. Each of the defendant's requests and the government's response will be separately addressed below using the headings set forth in defendant's motion. The following Decision and Order will principally address defendant Quentin Leeper's motion for discovery but will apply with equal force to those defendants who have "joined" in the relief sought by defendant Quentin Leeper. The Court notes that the motion filed by defendant Quentin Leeper's attorney also included a motion to suppress electronic evidence obtained pursuant to an electronic eavesdropping warrant; this Court's Report, Recommendation and Order concerning defendant Quentin Leeper's motion to suppress (as well as a motion to suppress filed by defendant Newton (Dkt. #126)) was filed on August 12, 2009. Dkt. #160. For the following reasons, defendant Leeper's motion for discovery is granted in part and denied in part.


Defendants Quentin J. Leeper, Ronquike E. Maisonet, Raymond A. Hodnett, Major Anthony Newton, and Dion D. Knight are charged along with six co-defendants in a multi-count Superceding Indictment with having violated Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1), 846 and 853(a) and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2. Dkt. ## 1 (Indictment) and 66 (Superceding Indictment). As a threshold matter, the defendant suggests that although the government has provided some voluntary discovery to defendant, some discovery is outstanding. Dkt. #114. In its response, the government states:

[t]he government contends that it had provided, pursuant to voluntary discovery and requests made by defendants, the wiretap application, affidavit, warrant, sealing order, search warrant and inventories and affidavits thereto, preliminary laboratory reports, two DVDs containing all pertinent conversations, and transcripts thereof, constituting all material presently within its possession that is within the purview of Rule 16 and in compliance with Rule 12(b)(4)(B) and believes that discovery is thereby complete.

Dkt. #132, ¶ 4 (internal footnote omitted).

"Evidence to Establish a Conspiracy"

Defendant requests each and every statement of a co-conspirator upon which the government intends to rely at trial to demonstrate the existence of a conspiracy. Dkt. #114, ¶ 6. The government has declined to produce such statements on the grounds that the production of such statements is "outside the purview of Rule 16." See Dkt. #132, ¶ 4 and n.3. While Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides for liberal discovery of the defendant's own statements, Rule 16 does not authorize the disclosure of statements made by co-conspirators, co-defendants or witnesses. See United States v. Percevault, 490 F.2d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 1974). Indeed, Rule 16(a)(2) states:

Information Not Subject to Disclosure. Except as Rule 16(a)(1) provides otherwise, this rule does not authorize the discovery or inspection of reports, memoranda, or other internal government documents made by an attorney for the government or other government agent in connection with investigating or prosecuting the case. Nor does this rule authorize the discovery or inspection of statements made by prospective government witnesses except as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 3500.

Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(2) (emphasis added).

Therefore, defendant's request for disclosure of co-conspirator statements as evidence to establish a conspiracy is DENIED, except insofar as those statements may otherwise be subject to disclosure pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 3500 ("Jencks Act").

"Bill of Particulars"

The defendant asserts that he requires the information (bill of particulars) sought in the seventy-nine (79) separately lettered paragraphs set forth in his motion, "in order to adequately prepare a defense and avoid surprise at trial." Dkt. #114, ¶¶ 8a-8aaaa. In response, the government maintains that the Indictment (and Superceding Indictment), together with the discovery provided is more than sufficient and that the demand for a bill of particulars is unwarranted. Moreover, the government states, "[t]he volume of discovery provided thus far in this action provides an overall picture of each defendant's culpability and actions relative to the conspiracy ... " Dkt. #132, ¶ 17.

The defendant's request for a bill of particulars is DENIED. It has become axiomatic that the function of a bill of particulars is to apprise a defendant of the essential facts of the crime for which he has been charged. United States v. Salazar, 485 F.2d 1272, 1277-78 (2d Cir. 1973); cert. denied, 415 U.S. 985 (1974); Wong Tai v. United States, 273 U.S. 77 (1927). The charges in the Superceding Indictment, along with the discovery materials provided by the government, clearly inform the defendant of the essential facts of the crimes charged. As a result, the defendant is not entitled to, nor is he in need of, the "particulars" being sought for that purpose.

A bill of particulars should be 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. Feola, 651 F. Supp. 1068, 1132 (S.D.N.Y. 1987), aff'd, 875 F.2d 857 (2d Cir.) (mem.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 834, 110 S.Ct. 110, 107 L.Ed.2d 72 (1989); see also United States v. Leonelli, 428 F. Supp. 880, 882 (S.D.N.Y. 1977). "Whether to grant a bill of particulars rests within the sound discretion of the district court." United States v. Panza, 750 F.2d 1141, 1148 (2d Cir. 1984) (citing United States v. Burgin, 621 F.2d 1352, 1358-59 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1015, 101 S.Ct. 574, 66 L.Ed.2d 474 (1980)); see also [United States v.] Bortnovsky, 820 F.2d [572] at 574 [(2d Cir. 1987)]. "Acquisition of evidentiary detail is not the function of the bill of particulars." Hemphill v. United States, 392 F.2d 45, 49 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 877, 89 S.Ct. 176, 21 L.Ed.2d 149 (1968).

United States v. Torres, 901 F.2d 205, 234 (2d Cir. 1990); see also United States v. Chen, 378 F.3d 151, 163 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 994 (2004); United States v. Porter, No. 06-1957, 2007 WL 4103679 (2d Cir. Nov. 19, 2007), cert. denied, 128 S.Ct. 1690 (2008).

"Identity of Informants"

In support of his request for the disclosure of the identity of the informants, the defendant claims that a review of the material disclosed by the government reveals that many of the informants referenced were "participants in the criminality alleged in the Indictment." Dkt. #114, ¶ 9. Moreover, the defendant contends that "in order to prepare an adequate defense it is necessary that informant identities be revealed so that counsel may attempt to interview them and otherwise investigate their allegations, biases, and benefits derived from cooperating with the government." Id. at ¶ 10. In its response, the government declines to provide the identity of its informants stating that the defendant has failed to assert a basis to warrant compliance with the request. Dkt. #132, ¶ 9.

The defendant has failed to sufficiently state a basis for requiring the disclosure of this information or that the testimony of the informant would be of even marginal value to the defendant's case. As a result, the holding of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in United States v. Saa, 859 F.2d 1067 (2d Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1089 (1989), is dispositive of this request by the defendant wherein the Court stated:

The leading Supreme Court case on this question, Roviaro v. United States, 353 U.S. 53, 77 S.Ct. 623, 1 L.Ed.2d 639 (1957), holds that [w]here the disclosure of an informant's identity, or of the contents of his communication, is relevant and helpful to the defense of an accused, or is essential to the fair determination of a cause, the [informant's] privilege must give way. 353 U.S. at 60-61, 77 S.Ct. at 628. The Court explained that "no fixed rule with respect to disclosure is justifiable." Id. at 62, 77 S.Ct. at 628. What is required is "balancing the public interest in protecting the flow of information against the individual's right to prepare his defense." Id. Whether non-disclosure is erroneous "must depend on the particular circumstances of each case, taking into consideration the crime charged, the possible defenses, the possible significance of the informer's testimony, and other relevant factors." Id. See Rugendorf v. United States, 376 U.S. 528, 534-35, 84 S.Ct. 825, 829, 11 L.Ed.2d 887 (1964); United States v. Lilla, 699 F.2d 99, 105 (2d Cir. 1983); United States v. Ortega, 471 F.2d 1350, 1359 (2d Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 411 U.S. 948, 93 S.Ct. 1924, 36 L.Ed.2d 409 (1973).

The defendant is generally able to establish a right to disclosure "where the informant is a key witness or participant in the crime charged, someone whose testimony would be significant in determining guilt or innocence." United States v. Russotti, 746 F.2d 945, 950 (2d Cir. 1984); United States v. Roberts, 388 F.2d 646, 648-49 (2d Cir. 1968); see United States v. Price, 783 F.2d 1132 (4th Cir. 1986); United States v. Barnes, 486 F.2d 776 (8th Cir. 1973). In Roberts, the informant introduced an undercover agent to the defendant and was present when the defendant and the agent negotiated and transacted two sales of heroin. The Court, noting that the informant was "present during all the significant events," 388 F.2d at 649, found that he was "obviously a crucial witness to the alleged narcotics transactions," id., and therefore, his whereabouts should have been revealed to the defense if properly requested. But disclosure of the identify or address of a confidential informant is not required unless the informant's testimony is shown to be material to the defense. See United States v. Valenzuela-Bernal, 458 U.S. 858, 870-81, 102 S.Ct. 3440, 3448, 73 L.Ed.2d 1193 (1982) (dictum); United States v. Lilla, 699 F.2d at 105. As this Court's recent opinion in United States v. Jiminez, 789 F.2d 167 (2d Cir. 1986) makes clear, it is not sufficient to show that the informant was a participant in and witness to the crime charged. In Jiminez, the informant was both participant and witness, but the district court's refusal to order disclosure of his identity was upheld on the ground that the defendant had failed to show that the testimony of the informant "would have been of even marginal value to the defendant's case. 789 F.2d at 170."

Id. at 1073; see also United States v. Fields, 113 F.3d 313, 324 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 976 (1997).

Because the defendant has not made a sufficient showing that any informant's potential testimony is material to his defense, this request is DENIED.

"Giglio Material"

Within his broad request labeled "Giglio Material," defendant seeks disclosure of eight categories (with sub-categories) of documents and information including, inter alia, "all immunity transaction [sic] with witness [sic], prospective witnesses, or co-defendants in this case ..." and "evidence obtained from or relating to any government informant which is arguably exculpatory in nature ..." Dkt. #114, ¶¶ 11(a) - 11(h). Thus, the Court will treat this request as one for Giglio and Brady material. Counsel for the government has acknowledged his affirmative duty to provide defendant with exculpatory evidence, as well as evidence that the defendant might use to impeach the government's witnesses. Moreover, counsel for the government further acknowledges its continuing duty to produce such material pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Counsel for the government does not, however, agree that defendant's itemized requests properly fall within the cited authority. Dkt. #132, ¶¶ 14-15. Defendant has made a separate request for the early disclosure of Jencks Act material, that request will be addressed below.

"[A]s a general rule, Brady and its progeny do not require immediate disclosure of all exculpatory and impeachment material upon request by a defendant." United States v. Coppa, 267 F.3d 132, 146 (2d Cir. 2001). The prosecution is obligated to disclose and turn over Brady material to the defense "in time for its effective use." Id. at 144. With respect to impeachment material that does not rise to the level of being Brady material, such as Jencks statements, the prosecution is not required to disclose and turn over such statements until after the witness has completed his direct testimony. See 18 U.S.C. § 3500; Fed. R. Crim. P. 26.2; In re United States, 834 F.2d 283 (2d Cir. 1987). However, if the government has adopted a policy of turning such materials over to the defendant prior to trial, the government shall comply with that policy; or in the alternative, produce such materials in accordance with the scheduling order to be issued by the trial judge.

Based on the representations made by counsel for the government as to its obligations under Brady and Giglio, defendant's request is DENIED, but the government is hereby directed to comply with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals' holding in United States v. Coppa, 267 F.3d 132 (2d Cir. 2001) and United States v. Rodriguez, 496 ...

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