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United States v. Mehta

United States District Court, Second Circuit

May 3, 2013

PRAVIN V. MEHTA, Defendant.


KENNETH SCHROEDER, Jr., 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. #17.


The defendant, Pravin V. Mehta ("Mehta"), is charged in a twenty-eight count Indictment (Dkt. #16) with the distribution and dispensing of various controlled substances and the conspiracy to do so. Defendant Mehta also faces a forfeiture count. What follows is this Court's Decision and Order with respect to Mehta's non-dispositive motions directed to the Indictment. Dkt. #41. This Court's Report, Recommendation and Order with respect to defendant Mehta's dispositive motions will be filed separately.


On January 27, 2011, defendant Mehta was arrested and charged in a Criminal Complaint with the knowing, intentional and unlawful distribution of schedule II, III and IV controlled substances by the issuance of prescriptions in a manner inconsistent with the usual course of medical practice and for other than a legitimate medical purpose for the period March 2010 through September 2010. Dkt. #1. As detailed in the Affidavit of United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Buffalo Resident Office ("DEA-BRO") Diversion Investigator Joseph Cowell submitted in support of the Criminal Complaint, the DEA-BRO initiated and coordinated a multi-agency joint investigation into Mehta and his medical practice. Dkt. #1, § 7. The DEA-BRO had received complaints of excessive and unlawful prescribing of controlled substances by Mehta from area law enforcement agencies, including the New York State Police, Niagara County Sheriff Department-Drug Task Force, Niagara Falls Police Department, and the New York State Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement. Id. at § 8. In his Affidavit, Diversion Investigator Cowell further stated:

Historically, the BRO has received similar source and intelligence information concerning MEHTA's over-prescribing of controlled substance "painkillers" from medical professionals, pharmacists, and private individuals within Niagara and Erie Counties. Confidential sources and cooperating defendants have named MEHTA as a source of controlled substances where by [sic] a person can get any drug they want prescribed with little or no medical examinations, and that MEHTA is referred [sic] as "Dr. Feel Good."

Id. Thereafter, Investigator Cowell's Affidavit detailed the over year long investigation which included the review of data, consensually recorded office visits and the analysis of a medical expert retained to provide an opinion concerning whether the prescription of controlled substances by Mehta during the consensually recorded office visits was consistent with the usual course of medical practice and whether the prescribing was for a legitimate medical purpose.

On or about August 31, 2011, a Federal Grand Jury returned the instant twenty-eight count Indictment (Dkt. #16). On September 6, 2012, defendant Mehta filed the instant motion seeking the following: the exclusion of statements by non-testifying co-conspirators, a bill of particulars, the revelation of the identity of informants, discovery pursuant to Rules 12 and 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, release of Brady materials, the disclosure of evidence pursuant to Rules 404(b), 608 and 609 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, the disclosure of witness statements, the preservation of rough notes, the disclosure of Grand Jury transcripts, motion to voir dire government experts outside of the presence of the jury, and an audibility hearing. Dkt. #41. The government filed a response to defendant Mehta's motion (Dkt. #45) on October 3, 2012, and thereafter, filed an Amended Response (Dkt. #53) (all referenced herein will be to the Amended Response) on November 15, 2012. This Court heard oral argument on January 8, 2013. Dkt. #62.


Exclusion of Statements of Non-Testifying Co-Conspirators

Pursuant to Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (1968) and the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the defendant requests that the Court preclude the admission into evidence of all post-arrest statements by non-testifying co-conspirators/co-defendants which may implicate the defendant in any way. Dkt. #41, pp.7-8. In support of this request, the defendant claims that, "because he has not received discovery of any post-arrest statements by co-conspirators or co-defendants, Dr. Mehta cannot know whether the government will seek to use such evidence against him, or even if such statements exist." Id. at p.8.

In its response, the government states,

While the government has obtained statements from a number of co-conspirators pursuant to cooperation agreements, the government would not seek admission of those statements without having the witness testify at trial.

Dkt. #53, p.10.

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.

Bill of Particulars

In ninety-four separately lettered requests, the defendant seeks information concerning the charges in the Indictment. Dkt. #41, pp.9-23. In support of his requests, defendant Mehta states, "[w]ithout such specification as to the nature of his allegedly improper conduct, Dr. Mehta is without ability to prepare for trial and the danger of surprise at trial is greatly increased." Id. at p.9. In its response, the government states,

[e]ssentially, the defendant requests the exact time, date and manner in which the defendant committed the crimes alleged in each Count of the Indictment, the name of all co-conspirators, and specification as to how the government will prove each allegation in the Indictment. In addition, the defendant seeks the names of any and all witnesses to those acts as well as the statements those witnesses may have given.
The Indictment in this case is very detailed and the defendant has been provided with significant discovery materials. Thus, the government refuses the requests for further particularization...

Dkt. #53, pp.10-11.

In addition, the government states,
In the instant case, counsel fails to articulate any facts upon which the Court could conclude that the defendant had met his burden of establishing need, especially in light of the detailed indictment, information contained in the search warrant application and Criminal Complaint, and the voluntary discovery provided to date. Here, the documents provided by the government not only illustrates [sic] the words and actions of the defendant and others acting at his direction, but also provides [sic] the dates relevant to each of these acts. Moreover, each substantive count of the Indictment specifies [sic] narrow time period or specific date on which the criminal acts occurred and the controlled substance in issue.
As set forth above, the discovery production eliminates the need for a bill of particulars. Torres , 901 F.2d at 234; Payden, 613 F.Supp. at 817. Many of the defendant's requests ask for details as to "how" the defendant committed a certain act (e.g. "State how it is claimed that the controlled substances were dispensed and distributed to any individual - request zzz["]). Such detailed disclosure of the government's evidence is not the function of a bill of particulars. Accordingly, for all of the foregoing reasons, defendant's requests for a bill of particulars should be denied.

Dkt. #53, pp.16-17.

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 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, and his request is therefore denied.

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).

Disclosure of Informant Information

The defendant requests the disclosure of the identity of all informants possessing information which may be material to defendant's alleged guilt or innocence, the identity of all informants who were present at any of the events described in the Indictment and all government reports containing any information received from an informant. Dkt. #41, pp.24-31. In its response, the government states that such disclosure is unwarranted at this time. Dkt. #53, pp.17-19. In its response the government acknowledges the existence of confidential, cooperating individuals in this case insofar as the Criminal Complaint referenced the use of confidential sources. Moreover, the government states that it has made available the recordings of the office visits and medical files involving the confidential sources and undercover officers. According to the government, disclosure of the identity of these sources/witnesses at this time is not warranted.

In order to be entitled to the requested information, the defendant must 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. Moreover, the Court notes that the holding of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in United States ...

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