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United States v. Torres

United States District Court, W.D. New York

July 17, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JUAN TORRES, Defendant.

DECISION AND ORDER

H. KENNETH SCHROEDER, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

This case was referred to the undersigned by the Hon. Richard J. Arcara, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), for all pretrial matters and to hear and report upon dispositive motions.

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

The defendant, Juan Torres ("the defendant"), is charged in a Superseding Indictment, along with a number of co-defendants, with having violated Title 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) (Count 1) (RICO conspiracy); Title 18, U.S.C. § 924(a)(1)(A)(iii) (Count 5) (possession and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence); Title 18, U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1) (Count 4) (murder in aid of racketeering); Title 21, U.S.C. § 846 (Count 24) (narcotics conspiracy); and Title 18, U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (Count 25) (possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime). Dkt. #87. Presently pending is the defendant's omnibus discovery motion. Dkt. #212. The government filed opposition to the instant motion. Dkt. #249. This Court previously issued its Report, Recommendation and Order with respect to the defendant's motions to suppress identification and statements. Dkt. #413.

DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

Disclosure of Informant Information

The defendant requests the disclosure of the names, addresses and criminal records of all informants utilized by the government in its investigation of this case. Dkt. #212, pp.4-6. In its response, the government states that such disclosure is unwarranted. Dkt. #249, p.2. Relying principally on Roviaro v. United States, 353 U.S. 53 (1957), the government states in its response that the disclosure of the names, addresses and other information pertaining to government informants is unwarranted. In order for disclosure to be warranted, the informant's testimony must be material to the defense presented and the defendant must make some evidentiary showing demonstrating why the informant's testimony is significant to determining the defendant's guilt or innocence. Id. at pp.2-8.

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 v. Saa, 859 F.2d 1067 (2d Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1089 (1989), is instructive:

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 identity 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 showthat 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). Absent the defendant stating 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, the defendant's request is denied without prejudice. Without more, the Court finds that 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. Accordingly, defendant's request is denied without prejudice.

Discovery

As a threshold matter, the defendant acknowledges that the government has provided some voluntary discovery. Dkt. #212, pp.6-13. By this request, however, the defendant "moves to compel discovery of all items or information to which the Defendant is entitled." Id. Moreover, the defendant specifies the following ten separately lettered requests: (a) records, including reports and/or logs relating to the alleged conspiracy and the arrest of all co-conspirators; (b) reports relating to radio transmissions from the officers at any search warrant or arrest scene regarding the investigation (c) all reports relating to the booking process; (d) reports and/or test results relating to determination of drug quantity or type of drug; (e) photographs taken relating to investigation; (f) documents and photographs seized on the day of any searches; (g) inspection of all items seized from the defendant on the day of his arrest; (h) names and identities of expert witnesses, their qualifications, subject of testimony, reports, results of tests, examinations or experiments; (i) any search warrant, arrest warrant, wiretap order and/or surveillance order applied for and/or issued or denied during investigation; and (j) written notification pursuant to Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure of any evidence on which the government intends to rely that may be the subject of a motion to suppress and to which the defendant is entitled to discovery pursuant to Rule 16. Id.

In its response, the government states

Since the date of the predecessor 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 surveillance reports, search warrant photos, search warrants, laboratory reports, FBI 302s relating to surveillance and arrest of the defendant and his co-defendants, redacted statements of some government witnesses, redacted photo array identifications, numerous crime scene photos, crime scene reports, firearm reports, and other documents. Additionally, all physical evidence recovered in connection with this investigation is, and has been, available for inspection by the defendant's attorney.

Dkt. #246, pp.2-3. The government has already provided voluminous (10, 383 pages) discovery in this case and indicates in its response that it will continue to comply with its continuing duties to disclose as set forth in Rule 16(c). Based on the representations made by counsel for the government, the defendant's request is denied as moot.

Brady Material

The government has stated that it believes it is complying with its obligations to provide potentially exculpatory information under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972) and subsequent cases. The government has further stated that it is unaware of any Brady material related to this defendant. The government has also represented that it will comply with the requirements of 18 U.S.C. § 3500 with respect to production of statements of witnesses called to testify at trial. As a result of these representations, the defendant's request for such materials, i.e., Brady, Giglio and Jencks 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 F.3d 221 (2d Cir. 2007) by making timely disclosure of those materials to the defendant.

"[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." Coppa, at 146. The prosecution is obligated to disclose and turn over Brady material to the defense "in time for its effective use." Coppa, 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; Rule 26.2 Fed.R.Crim.P.; 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 issued by the trial judge.

Bill of Particulars

In response to the defendant's request for a detailed bill of particulars, the government states that defendant's request for particularization should be denied because it is nothing more than an attempt by the defendant to preview the ...


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