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United States v. Mejia

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 26, 2013

UNITED STATES,
v.
MARIA MEJIA et al., Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

Defendant Maria Mejia moves to dismiss the charges against her in indictment S5 11 Cr. 1032, the most recent indictment in this multi-defendant case, on the ground that the Government secured this indictment in violation of her Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. Mejia argues that because the Government presented the fifth superseding indictment to the same grand jury that had returned the prior, technically flawed indictment, the grand jury was tainted. For the reasons that follow, Mejia's motion is denied.

I. Background

On February 6, 2013, a grand jury returned a seven-count superseding indictment, S5 11 Cr. 1032 (the "S5 Indictment"), against Mejia. The S5 Indictment superseded indictment S4 11 Cr. 1032 (the "S4 Indictment"), to correct an error. Specifically, the S4 Indictment had erroneously stated-as to a number of defendants-that they had been over age 18 at the time of their alleged participation in certain charged murders. Among those defendants is Mejia, whom the S4 Indictment had stated was over age 18 at the time she allegedly participated in a particular charged murder.[1] S4 Indictment ¶ 194.

A. The S5 Indictment

The S5 Indictment charges Mejia with eight crimes. Count One charges Mejia with racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 and 1962(c). S5 Indictment ¶¶ 1-8. It alleges that she participated in three predicate acts underlying that charge: Racketeering Act Two (conspiracy to murder and murder of Miguel Perez), id. ¶¶ 12-14; Racketeering Act Thirty-Seven (conspiracy to commit robbery and attempted robbery of Victim-22), id. ¶¶ 63-66; and Racketeering Act Thirty-Nine (narcotics conspiracy), id. ¶¶ 68-71. Count Two charges Mejia with racketeering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d). Id. ¶¶ 72-74. Count Four charges Mejia with murder in aid of racketeering activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1). Id. ¶¶ 87-88. Count Thirty charges Mejia with assault in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3). Id. ¶¶ 146-47. Count Thirty-Two charges Mejia with narcotics conspiracy, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Id. ¶¶ 150-153. Finally, Counts Thirty-Four, Forty-Nine, and Fifty-One charge Mejia with use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(j) or 924(c)(1)(A)(iii). Id. ¶¶ 155, 170, 172.

These charges against Mejia arose from her alleged role as the leader of the female faction of the Bronx Trinitarios Gang (the "Gang"), known as the "Bad Barbies." Id. ¶¶ 3-4. The Indictment alleges that Mejia, as leader of the Bad Barbies, engaged in numerous crimes in conjunction with the Gang, including murder, assault, narcotics trafficking, and a number of firearms offenses. Id. ¶¶ 1-6.

The S5 Indictment charges that on June 2, 2011, Mejia lured a victim from Connecticut to the Bronx, New York, where Mejia's brother, Jose Mejia, was waiting with a loaded.45 caliber handgun. S5 Indictment ¶¶ 63-66. It alleges that Mejia conspired and attempted to rob, and assaulted, the victim. Id.; see also id. ¶¶ 146-47 (charging Mejia for assault in aid of racketeering activity for her role in the attempted robbery).

The S5 Indictment also charges Mejia with conspiracy to murder and murder of Miguel Perez (the "Murder"), as well as murder in aid of racketeering activity for her alleged role in the Murder, on December 11, 2005. S5 Indictment ¶¶ 12-14, 87-88; Gov't Br. 2. According to the Government, Perez was a member of a rival gang, Dominicans Don't Play (the "DDPs"), and he was killed as an act of retaliation against the DDPs. Gov't Br. 2. The S5 Indictment also charges Mejia for her role in a narcotics conspiracy lasting between approximately 2003 and 2012. S5 Indictment ¶¶ 68-71. It alleges that Mejia, along with other Gang members, allegedly possessed and distributed controlled substances including marijuana, a substance with a cocaine base, cocaine, oxycodone, and suboxone. Id.

Finally, as for the three counts charging Mejia with using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime, id. ¶¶ 155, 170, 172, these relate, respectively, to Mejia's role in the assault and attempted robbery, the murder, and the narcotics conspiracy. Id.

B. The S4 Indictment

On December 12, 2012, the grand jury returned the immediately preceding S4 Indictment. It charged Mejia with: (1) racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 and 1962(c); (2) racketeering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); (3) murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1) (arising from the Murder); (4) assault in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3); (5) narcotics conspiracy, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; and (6) three counts of use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(j) or 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) (one count of which arose from the Murder). Gov't Br. 2-3; see generally S4 Indictment.

However, at the time the grand jury returned the S4 Indictment, the Government mistakenly believed that Mejia had been 18 years old at the time of the Murder and, therefore, was eligible for the death penalty in connection with that offense. Gov't Br. 3. As a result, the Government presented evidence to the grand jury to the effect that Mejia had been over age 18 at the time of that crime. Def. Br. 2. The S4 Indictment reflected such evidence: It contained, among others, special findings: (1) that Mejia was 18 years of age or older at the time of the murder; and (2) that she had intentionally participated in an act, contemplating that the life of a person would be taken or intending that lethal force be used in connection with a person, other than one of the participants in the offense, and that that person, Perez, had died as a direct result of that act.[2] S4 Indictment ¶ 194.

Following return of the S4 Indictment, the Government determined that Mejia and several codefendants had, in fact, been under age 18 at the time they allegedly committed the Murder. Gov't Br. 4. Thus, Mejia could not face mandatory life imprisonment or the death penalty. See Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012) (holding that mandatory life-withoutparole sentences for juveniles violate the Eighth Amendment); Roper v. Simmons, 543 ...


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