United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
RICHARD J. ARCARA, District Judge.
Before the Court are defendants Thamud Eldridge, Kevin Allen and Galen Rose's (collectively referred to as "defendants") motions for severance of counts and defendants pursuant to Rule 8 and Rule 14 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. For the following reasons, defendants' motions for severance are denied in their entirety.
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
On June 20, 2012, the Grand Jury for the Western District of New York issued a Superseding Indictment charging defendants Thamud Eldridge and Kevin Allen with racketeering activity in violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") (18 U.S.C. §§1961(1) and 1961(5)) and conspiracy to commit racketeering (18 U.S.C. §1962(d)). It is alleged that defendants Eldridge and Allen were members of a criminal organization that engaged in the distribution of cocaine, heroin and marijuana, and committed acts of violence, including murder, robbery and extortion, in furtherance of their drug trafficking enterprise. It is alleged that the organization operated principally on the East Side of Buffalo, New York and that members of the organization and others robbed, murdered, and attempted to rob and murder other individuals involved in drug trafficking. Multiple counts in the Superseding Indictment relate to the murders of Thedrus Laster a/k/a Flap ("Laster") and Sam Jones a/k/a Smokey ("Jones"), rival drug dealers who were killed in separate incidents in April 2005.
In addition to the RICO and RICO conspiracy counts, defendants Eldridge and Allen are also charged with narcotics conspiracy (21 U.S.C. §846), possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking (18 U.S.C. §924(c)(1)), kidnaping (of Victim B) in aid of racketeering (18 U.S.C. 1959(a)(1)), Hobbs Act robbery (of Victim B) (18 U.S.C. §§1951 and 2), and possessing and brandishing of firearms in furtherance of violent crime (18 U.S.C. §§924(c)(1)(A)(ii) and 2). Defendant Galen Rose is charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana (21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1)) and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
Defendants Eldridge and Rose are charged in connection with the murder of Laster. Specifically, defendants Eldridge and Rose are charged with Hobbs Act robbery and discharge of a firearm causing death (18 U.S.C. §§§924(c)(1)(A)(iii), 924(j)(1) and 2). With respect to Laster's death, defendant Eldridge is also charged with murder in aid of racketeering (18 U.S.C. §§1959(a)(1) and 2). Defendants Eldridge and Allen are charged in connection with the murder of Jones. Those allegations, as to both Eldridge and Allen, include murder in aid of racketeering, Hobbs Act robbery, and discharge of a firearm causing death.
In addition, defendant Eldridge is charged with possession and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking (18 U.S.C. §§924(c)(1)(A)(iii) and 2) and felon in possession of a firearm (18 U.S.C. §§§922(g)(1), 924(a)(2) and 2). These counts relate to an incident occurring on or about September 21, 2005, during which defendant Eldridge allegedly fired shots at Officer Joy Jermain, a member of the City of Buffalo Police Department.
This case was referred to Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott for supervision of all pre-trial proceedings. Defendants made various omnibus motions and the Magistrate Judge conducted evidentiary hearings. On June 12, 2013, Magistrate Judge Scott issued a Report and Recommendation and Decision and Order addressing defendants' pre-trial motions. Defendants objected to portions of the Report and Recommendation and Decision and Order. Following briefing and oral argument, this Court adopted the findings and conclusions set forth in the Report and Recommendation and Decision and Order.
While the objections to the Magistrate Judge's decisions were pending before this Court, defendants Eldridge and Allen moved for an order returning the case to Magistrate Judge Scott to conduct additional evidentiary hearings and adjudicate additional pre-trial motions. This Court referred defendants' requests for further evidentiary hearings to the Magistrate Judge, and issued a Decision and Order as to defendants' other motions. On August 25, 2014, following a hearing, Magistrate Judge Scott filed a Report and Recommendation recommending denial of defendant Allen's motion to dismiss counts of the Superseding Indictment related to the Jones murder, as well as denial of defendants' other remaining requests. No objections were filed and this Court issued a Decision and Order adopting Magistrate Judge Scott's final Report and Recommendation on September 29, 2014.
Currently, the only pre-trial issues which remain pending are defendants' motions for severance of defendants and counts pursuant to Rule 8 and Rule 14 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. In sum, defendants argue that certain counts of the Superseding Indictment are not related, that a joint trial involving particular counts or defendants would result in spillover prejudice, and that a joint trial would compromise their right to confront the witnesses against them or pursue antagonistic defenses. As explained in detail herein, the Count finds that all defendants and counts in the Superseding Indictment have been properly joined, and that a joint trial will not unduly prejudice the trial rights of any defendants, nor will it prevent the jury from making a reliable determination as to guilt or innocence.
Rules Governing Joinder and Severance
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8 governs questions of joinder. United States v. Cervone, 907 F.2d 332, 341 (2d. Cir. 1990). Rule 8(a) provides ...