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United States v. Rivera

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 13, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
PAUL RIVERA, MICHAEL GARRETT, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

KIYO A. MATSUMOTO, District Judge.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on April 20, 2015 in this case. The government has moved to empanel an anonymous and partially sequestered jury for the upcoming trial. The government has requested that "(1) the names, addresses and workplaces of members of both the venire and petit juries not be revealed; and (2) the jurors eat lunch together and be accompanied in and out of the courthouse by members of the United States Marshals Service." (Gov't Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. for Anon. and Partially Sequestered Jury ("Gov't Mot."), ECF No. 149, at 16.) For the reasons set forth below, the court grants the government's motion for an anonymous and partially sequestered jury.

I. BACKGROUND

The defendants Michael Garrett ("Mr. Garrett") and Paul Rivera ("Mr. Rivera") (collectively, "defendants") came to the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") after Mr. Rivera was stopped for a traffic violation while driving a vehicle on January 18, 2012 by the Pennsylvania State Police ("PSP"), and a subsequent search of the vehicle yielded quantities of cocaine and heroin. (Compl. filed 2/5/13, ECF No. 1.) On February 5, 2013, the Honorable Ramon E. Reyes, Jr., United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of New York, issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Rivera based on a complaint charging him with conspiracy to distribute one or more controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. (Compl.) Mr. Rivera was subsequently removed from Pennsylvania to federal custody. On March 11, 2013, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York returned an indictment charging Mr. Rivera with conspiring to distribute one or more controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. (Indictment as to Paul Rivera filed 3/11/2013, ECF No. 11.)

On June 24, 2013, defendants Messrs. Rivera and Garrett were charged together in a superseding indictment alleging a conspiracy to distribute one or more controlled substances and possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to distribute. (Superseding Indictment filed 6/24/13, ECF No. 31.) On October 7, 2013, the grand jury returned a second superseding indictment. (Superseding Indictment (S-2) filed 10/7/13, ECF No. 62.)

On April 28, 2014, the grand jury returned the current third superseding indictment. (Superseding Indictment (S-3), ECF No. 94.) Defendants are charged in the third superseding indictment with racketeering (Count I), racketeering conspiracy (Count II), interstate prostitution (Count III), conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking and sex trafficking of children (Count IV), sex trafficking and sex trafficking of children (Count V), conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine base, cocaine and marijuana (Count VI), possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine (Count VII), conspiracy to commit murder in-aid-of racketeering (Count IX), murder in-aid-of racketeering (Count X), murder while engaged in a narcotics trafficking offense (Count XI), using, carrying and possessing a firearm (Count XIV), and causing death through use of a firearm (Count XV). (Id. ) Mr. Garrett also is charged with money laundering (Count VIII), and Mr. Rivera is charged with witness tampering (Count XII) and attempted obstruction of justice (Count XIII). (Id. )

These charges arise from the defendants' alleged involvement in a group known as "Together Forever" or "TF Mafia" that was founded by defendants and operated in the neighborhood of Brownsville in Brooklyn, New York as well as in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Indictment at 2.) Members of TF Mafia allegedly engaged in narcotics trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and acts of violence, including murder and assault. (Id. ) The indictment alleges that defendants are both leaders of TF Mafia. (Id. )

II. Legal Standard

"In resolving motions for anonymous and partially sequestered juries, courts must balance the defendant's interest in conducting meaningful voir dire and in maintaining the presumption of innocence, against the jury's interest in remaining free from real or threatened violence and the public interest in having the jury render a fair and impartial verdict.'" United States v. Khan, 591 F.Supp.2d 166, 168 (E.D.N.Y. 2008) (quoting United States v. Quinones, 511 F.3d 289, 295 (2d Cir. 2007)). The Second Circuit consistently has made clear that "[w]hen genuinely called for and when properly used, anonymous juries do not infringe a defendant's constitutional rights." United States v. Kadir, 718 F.3d 115, 120 (2d Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 160 (2013) (quoting United States v. Pica, 692 F.3d 79, 88 (2d Cir. 2012)).

A court may order the empaneling of an anonymous and partially sequestered jury upon "(a) concluding that there is strong reason to believe the jury needs protection, and (b) taking reasonable precautions to minimize any prejudicial effects on the defendant and to ensure that his fundamental rights are protected." United States v. Paccione, 949 F.2d 1183, 1192 (2d Cir. 1991). Within those parameters, however, "the decision whether or not to empanel an anonymous jury is left to the district court's discretion." Id.

Courts in this Circuit typically consider the following factors when determining whether the jury needs the protection of anonymity: (1) the dangerousness of the defendants; (2) whether the defendants or their associates have engaged in past attempts to interfere with the judicial process;

(3) whether the defendants have the ability to interfere with or intimidate the jury; and (4) whether the trial is likely to attract media attention and publicity. See United States v. Ashburn, No. 13-CR-0303 (NGG), 2014 WL 5800280, at *3 (Nov. 7 2014); see also Paccione, 949 F.2d at 1192. Although "it is unclear whether any of these factors individually justif[ies] [e]mpaneling an anonymous jury, " "there are numerous cases indicating that anonymity is appropriate when some combination of these factors is present." Khan, 591 F.Supp.2d at 169 (citing Quinones, 511 F.3d at 296).

"If a district court determines that an anonymous jury is appropriate, the court must take reasonable precautions to minimize any prejudicial effects on the defendant and to ensure protection of his fundamental rights.'" Kadir, 718 F.3d at 120 (quoting United States v. Thai, 29 F.3d 785, 801) (2d Cir. 1994)).

III. Application

A. Need for ...


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