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United States of America v. Ibrahim Kurti

April 17, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
IBRAHIM KURTI, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, United States District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Before the Court is defendant Ibrahim Kurti's ("Defendant") pro se motion to dismiss the indictment based on an alleged violation of his right to a speedy trial, submitted to the Court at a status conference held on December 8, 2011.*fn1 (See Def. Kurti's Pro Se Mot. dated Dec. 8, 2011 ("Kurti 12/8/11 Mot."), Doc. Entry No. 423.) The government opposes the motion. (See Gov't Opp. Ltr. to Mot. to Dismiss dated Apr. 2, 2013 ("Gov't Opp. Ltr."), Doc. Entry No. 784.) On behalf of Defendant, defense counsel submitted a reply to the government's opposition letter. (Def. Reply Ltr. to Opp. Ltr. dated Apr. 8, 2013 ("Def. Reply Ltr."), Doc. Entry No. 794.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Defendant is one of over 56 co-defendants indicted in a narcotics trafficking and money laundering case.*fn2 See United States v. Thaqi et al.,11-cr-00486 (DLI) (JMA). A sealed Superseding Indictment was filed against Defendant and co-defendants on July 7, 2011. (See Doc. Entry No. 4)*fn3 Defendant was arraigned on the Superseding Indictment on September 7, 2011. (See Doc. Entry No. 319) Defendant has been charged with conspiracy to import marijuana and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 3551 et. seq. and 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(A)(vii), 846, 960(b)(1)(G), 963. At the time of his arrest in this case, Defendant was incarcerated, serving a 276-month sentence of imprisonment upon his conviction in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ("SDNY") for narcotics distribution. See United States v. Ibrahim Kurti,02-cr-01014 (LAP) (S.D.N.Y. 2002).

On August 17, 2011, Defendant filed a pro se motion in the instant action requesting, inter alia, to: (1) "[e]xercise his right to a quick and speeding [sic] trial by his peers absent undue delay;" and (2) "[i]nterpose this open-ended and continuous objection to any motion for continuance by the Government Attorney(s), and/or [a]ny other party or source seeking same, that would ultimately operate to toll the trial time clock." (Def. Kurti's Pro Se Mot. dated Aug. 17, 2011 ("Kurti 8/17/11 Mot.") at 1.) He further emphasized that the Court should "immediately schedule a trial date, date certain, without further delay." (Id. at 5.)

At a status conference on September 7, 2011, at which Defendant was not present, the Court designated the case as complex based on the number of defendants, the nature of the charges, and the volume and complicated nature of discovery involved. (See Gov't Opp. Ltr., Ex. A, Sept. 7, 2011 Status Conference Transcript ("9/7/11 Tr.") 12:20-13:2, Doc. Entry No. 784.) At the conference, the government represented that discovery consisted of extensive wiretap evidence from this and other federal districts, video and audio recordings, dozens of documentary, drug and money seizures, and forensic analysis of defendants' electronic devices, among which were computers, laptops, and personal wireless devices many of which contain encrypted data, and that it was in the process of preparing global plea offers. (9/7/11 Tr. 9:16-10:23, 12:3-6.) Accordingly, the Court stated that time was excluded for all defendants until the next status conference set for December 8, 2011. (Id. at 38:23-39:1.)

On September 8, 2011 the Court held a status conference to discuss with Defendant the issues covered at the September 7, 2011 status conference. Defendant stated his open-ended objection to the granting of any continuances, moved for an order directing the government to comply with discovery within fourteen days, and moved for severance from his co-defendants to enforce his speedy trial rights. (See Gov't Opp. Ltr., Ex. B, Sept. 8, 2011 Status Conference Transcript ("9/8/11 Tr.") 21:16-22:4, Doc. Entry No. 784.) The Court addressed Defendant's August 17, 2011 motion and his other requests raised at the conference, and denied his motion to the extent he opposed continuances of the case and requested discovery within fourteen days.

The Court explained that it had to "overrule [the] objection to the continuance in the interests of justice here because of the complexity of the case." (Id. at 22:9-12.) The Court further elaborated that the nature of the case, the large number of defendants (at that time, 56 defendants, including defendants in custody and released on bond), and the nature of discovery (including both electronic data seized from computers and wiretap evidence from other federal districts) supported the Court's decision to deem the case "complex" and to deny his motion. (Id. at 22:13-23:4.) Additionally, the Court denied Defendant's pro se motion for severance as premature, without prejudice to file at a later date. (Id. at 23:3-23.) The Court reiterated that time was excluded until the December 8, 2011 status conference based on the complex nature of the case and in the interests of justice. (Id. at 24:12-14.)

At the December 8, 2011 status conference, defense counsel articulated Defendant's continued objection to any adjournments and to the designation of this case as complex. (See Gov't Opp. Ltr., Ex. C, Dec. 8, 2011 Status Conference Transcript ("12/8/11 Tr.") 3:14-19, Doc. Entry No. 784.) While noting Defendant's continued objection to adjournments and to the complex case designation, the Court explained that it is within the Court's discretion to determine whether a case is deemed complex, and, once such a decision is made, the Court does not need the consent of the parties for adjournments or to exclude time. (Id. at 5:17-8:4.) The Court again explained at length the justifications for designating the case complex and overruled Defendant's objection to the adjournments. (Id.)

At the December 8, 2011 conference, Defendant also submitted to the Court a pro se motion to dismiss the indictment for violations of his speedy trial and double jeopardy rights. (Id. at 8:8-13, 9:1-2, 9:15-16.) The Court orally denied Defendant's motion on double jeopardy grounds at the status conference*fn4 and reserved judgment with respect to the speedy trial issues to determine whether Defendant was raising new issues or relitigating the same issues the Court already had ruled on at the September 8, 2011 and December 8, 2011 status conferences.

Upon review of the record of this case and the papers submitted with respect to defendant's December 8, 2011 speedy trial motion, the Court concludes that Defendant is relitigating the same issues he raised in his August 17, 2011 motion to dismiss, which the Court denied. Accordingly, the Court construes Defendant's motion as one for reconsideration.

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

The court is mindful that pro se submissions, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Thus, the Court interprets Defendant's motion "to raise the strongest arguments that [it] suggest[s]." ...


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