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United States v. Lawson

July 1, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FELIX LAWSON, DEFENDANT.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

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. #59.

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

The defendant, Felix Lawson (hereinafter, "defendant" or "Lawson"), along with nineteen others was charged in a twenty-four count Indictment with having violated Title 21, United States Code, Section 846, Title 21, United States Code, Section 963 and Title 21, United States Code, Section 843(b). Dkt. #1. The defendant was charged in three separate counts, Counts 1, 2 and 10. Id.

Presently pending before this Court is the defendant's omnibus motion for discovery and a motion to suppress electronic eavesdropping evidence. Dkt. #140. The government has filed its response to defendant's omnibus motion for discovery and the motion to suppress, as well as a motion for reciprocal discovery. Dkt. #236. This Court's Decision and Order and/or Report, Recommendation and Order with respect to defendant's motion to suppress will be addressed and filed separately. What follows is this Court's Decision and Order with respect to the defendant's omnibus motion for discovery.

DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

Rule 16 - Discovery

As a threshold matter, the defendant states, "[t]he Government has commendably agreed to provide voluntary discovery materials pursuant to Court Order. However, in an abundance of caution, the following specific requests are made to the extent not previously provided." Dkt. #140, p.4.

Statements of Defendant, Co-Defendants and Co-Conspirators

The defendant seeks the production of "any oral, written and/or recorded statements of the defendant, co-defendants and unindicted coconspirators, whether made in response to interrogation by any known Government agent or individuals acting on their behalf irrespective of whether the Government intends to use such statements at trial." Dkt. #140, p.4. In its response, the government states in pertinent part, "[s]ince the Indictment, the United states has complied and intends to continue to comply with the requirements of Rule 16. To that end, the United States has provided comprehensive voluntary discovery, including but not limited to, defendant's statements . . . " Dkt. #236, p.13. Based on the representations made by counsel for the government the defendant's request is denied as moot.

With respect to that portion of the above-quoted request which seeks co-conspirator statements, the government opposes such requests on the grounds that the statements requested are "well beyond the scope of the definition of a defendant's statements in Rule 16(a)(1)(A) through (c) and are not subject to pretrial disclosure under well-settled law." Dkt. #236, pp.15-16. The government further asserts, testimony of out-of-court co-conspirator statements during the course of and in furtherance of a conspiracy is not hearsay testimony; co-conspirator statements are admissions of a party opponent that are specifically excluded from the definition of hearsay. The government as a general matter does not expect to use co-conspirators' statements that may be hearsay because those statements were not made during the course of and in furtherance of a conspiracy, in any event.

Certainly, the United States will proffer evidence in support of the admission of out-of-court co-conspirator statements at the time designated by the trial court. Because defendants offer no legal authority or practical justification for an early proffer or discovery of hearsay statements that may be used during a proffer for a Rule 104(a) ruling that a statement is admissible as a co-conspirator statement pursuant to Rule 801(d)(2)(E), their motions seemingly seeking an order requiring that disclosure should be denied. In any event, denial of the motions at this time will not prejudice defendants, as we expect there will be timely disclosure of documents and 3500 material that is more than sufficient to support a preliminary finding of a foundation for admission of any co-conspirator statements, according to the schedule to be set by the trial court.

Id. at pp.16-17.

Because Rule 801(d)(2)(E) of the Federal Rules of Evidence does not contain a required pretrial notice, there is no requirement on the part of the government to make any such disclosure of this type of evidence at this time. As a result, defendant's request in this regard is denied. Any request to exclude such statements at the trial, is a matter left to the discretion of the trial judge.

Defendant's Prior Record

By this request, the defendant is seeking a copy of his prior criminal record. Dkt. #140, p.4. The Court notes that the defendant makes a separate request pursuant to Rule 404(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence and that request will be addressed below. The government states in footnote three of its response, "[t]he government provided a copy of the criminal history for each defendant when counsel appeared in court on that defendant's behalf." Dkt. #236, p.14, n.3. Accordingly, based on the representations made by counsel for the government concerning the defendant's prior criminal record, defendant's request is denied as moot.

Tangible Objects and Documents

By this request the defendant seeks the disclosure of "any tangible object and document, including but not limited to arrest reports, investigator notes, memos from arresting officers, dispatch tapes, rough notes, records, reports, transcripts, videotapes and/or other documents." Dkt. #140, p.4. In its response, the government states that since the return of the Indictment, the government has complied and intends to continue to comply with the requirements of Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Dkt. #236, p.13. Specifically, the government states,

[t]o that end, the United States has provided comprehensive voluntary discovery, including, but not limited to, defendant[']s[ ] statements, reports, photographs, recordings of court-authorized intercepted communications, criminal records of each defendant to that defendant, transcripts of intercepted communications, laboratory reports, and eyewitness identifications. As the government identifies any other evidence which falls within the scope of Rule 16, it will provide that evidence to defense counsel, thereby continuing to comply with its disclosure duties in Rule 16(c). The government has notified defendants that it may introduce all of this evidence at trial.

Dkt. #236, pp.13-14 (internal footnote omitted). Accordingly, based on the representations made by counsel for the government that the requested items have been provided or made available to counsel for the defendant, defendant's request is denied as moot.

With respect to that portion of defendant's request that relates to the disclosure of rough notes, the government states,

[t]he United States has no objection to the request that government agents retain notes taken during the investigation of this case. As a matter of routine practice, all federal law enforcement agencies already do so; and the prosecutor will request the agents to retain their notes relevant to this investigation. However, we note that defendant's request covers material that may not be Jencks material and may exceed the United States' obligation under Title 18, United States Code, Section 3500 and Fed. R. Crim. P. 26.2. The retention of notes of agents is not required as long as the notes are subsequently incorporated into a final report. Moreover, even if retained, rough notes are not discoverable, even as Jencks Act material.

Dkt. #236, p.33.

Although perhaps unnecessary, based on the representations made by counsel for the government concerning its acknowledgment of its obligation and its agreement to instruct the agents to retain and preserve rough notes, the express admonition of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit bears repeating in addressing this particular request of the defendant wherein the Court stated:

[W]e will look with an exceedingly jaundiced eye upon future efforts to justify non-production of a Rule 16 or Jencks Act "statement" by reference to "departmental policy" or "established practice" or anything of the like. There simply is no longer any excuse for official ignorance regarding the mandate of the law. Where, as here, destruction is deliberate, sanctions will normally follow, irrespective of the perpetrator's motivation, unless the government can bear the heavy burden of demonstrating that no prejudice resulted to the defendant. . . . We emphatically second the district court's observation that any resulting costs in the form of added shelf space will be more than counterbalanced both by gains in the fairness of trials and also by the shielding of sound prosecutions from unnecessary obstacles to a conviction.

United States v. Buffalino, 576 F.2d 446, 449-50, (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 928 (1978); see also United States v. Grammatikos, 633 F.2d 1013, 1019-20 (2d Cir. 1980); United States v. Miranda, 526 F.2d 1319 (2d Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 821 (1976). Accordingly, the government is hereby directed to maintain and preserve all materials that ...


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