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United States v. Delacruz

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 12, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MIGUEL DELACRUZ, Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

KATHERINE B. FORREST, District Judge.

On December 11, 2014, a three-count Indictment was returned against Miguel Delacruz and six other individuals. Delacruz, along with his co-defendants, is charged with participation in a conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats or violence (Count One), participation in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute narcotics (Count Two), and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and a drug-trafficking offense (Count Three). (ECF No. 25.)

The Government alleges that during the summer and fall of 2014, defendant along with a number of co-conspirators planned to rob a drug supplier in New York City, with lethal force if necessary. The Government alleges that Delacruz stated that they were going to harm the main target drug supplier. The robbery-which was in fact a sting operation arranged by the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") -was set to occur on November 13, 2014. On that day, defendant is alleged to have driven several of his co-conspirators from Philadelphia to New York City to carry out the robbery. Defendant was allegedly driving a Buick in which the leader of the group was also riding. After various meetings and communications among the co-conspirators in Manhattan, the leader of the crew and others exited the Buick. Shortly thereafter, law enforcement stopped the Buick and arrested defendant; his co-defendants were also arrested at approximately the same time. At the time of his arrest, defendant was alone in the Buick.

Defendant and his co-defendants were arraigned before this Court on December 16, 2014. At that time the Court also set a schedule for the production of discovery and the filing of appropriate motions. (ECF No. 26.) Per that schedule, the Government was to complete its Rule 16 production, except for transcripts of audio recordings, by December 19, 2014. The instant motion, seeking discovery and disclosures of various sorts, was timely filed on April 1, 2015. (ECF No. 38.)

I. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Discovery Obligations in Criminal Cases

Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure governs pre-trial discovery in criminal cases. See In re Terrorist Bombings of U.S. Embassies in E. Africa, 552 F.3d 93, 124 (2d Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). The rule provides, in pertinent part, that a defendant is entitled to obtain from the Government documents and objects that are "within the government's possession, custody, or control" if they are "material to preparing the defense" or will be used by the Government in its case-in-chief at trial. Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(E).

Evidence that the Government does not intend to use in its case-in-chief at trial is material "if it could be used to counter the government's case or to bolster a defense; information not meeting either of those criteria is not to be deemed material within the meaning of the Rule." United States v. Stevens, 985 F.2d 1175, 1180 (2d Cir. 1993). Rule 16(a) is not-and never was- "intended to provide the defendant with access to the entirety of the government's case against him." United States v. Percevault, 490 F.2d 126, 130 (2d Cir. 1974) (citation omitted). "Discovery of evidence in criminal prosecutions is, inevitably, more restricted than discovery in civil cases." United States v. Tolliver, 569 F.2d 724, 728 (2d Cir. 1978). Rule 16 "does not entitle a criminal defendant to a broad and blind fishing expedition among [items] possessed by the Government on the chance that something impeaching might turn up.'" United States v. Larranga Lopez, No. 05 Cr. 655 (SLT), 2006 WL 1307963, at *8 (E.D.N.Y. May 11, 2006) (alteration in original) (citing Jencks v. United States, 353 U.S. 657, 667 (1957)).

B. 3500 Material

The Jencks Act provides that "[a]fter a witness called by the United States has testified on direct examination, the court shall, on motion of the defendant, order the United States to produce any statement... of the witness in the possession of the United States which relates to the subject matter as to which the witness has testified." 18 U.S.C. ยง 3500(b). The plain meaning of this provision does not require production of 3500 material before trial. In practice, however, courts in this district require the Government to produce 3500 material at least the Friday prior to the commencement of trial and sometimes earlier.

The Jencks Act is intended to provide the defense with prior statements of government witnesses for purposes of impeachment. United States v. Carneglia, 403 F.Appx. 581, 586 (2d Cir. 2010). The Jencks Act is not a general discovery device. See United States v. Exolon-Esk Co., No. 94-CR-17S, 1995 WL 46719, at *2 (W.D.N.Y. Jan. 19, 1995) (citing In re United States, 834 F.2d 283, 286 n.2 (2d Cir. 1987)); see also United States v. Jackson, 345 F.3d 59, 76 (2d Cir. 2003) (The Jencks Act "does not normally mandate disclosure of statements made by a person who does not testify." (citations omitted)).

C. Brady Obligations

"There is no general constitutional right to discovery in a criminal case, and Brady did not create one." Weatherford v. Bursey, 429 U.S. 545, 559 (1977); see also Pennsylvania v. Ritchie, 480 U.S. 39, 59 (1987) ("Defense counsel has no constitutional right to conduct his own search of the [Government's] files to argue relevance." (citation omitted)); United States v. Evanchik, 413 F.2d 950, 953 (2d Cir. 1969) ("Neither [Brady] nor any other case requires the government to afford a criminal defendant a general right of discovery."); United State v. Meregildo, 920 F.Supp.2d 434, 440 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) ("Brady is not a rule of discovery-it is a remedial rule." (citing United States v. Coppa, 267 F.3d 132, 140 (2d Cir. 2001))). Rather, Brady established that the Government has a constitutional obligation to disclose favorable and material information to the defendant. See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963).

"Brady material that is not disclosed in sufficient time to afford the defense an opportunity for use' may be deemed suppressed within the meaning of the Brady doctrine." United States v. Douglas, 525 F.3d 225, 245 (2d Cir. 2008) (alteration omitted) (quoting Leka v. Portuondo, 257 F.3d 89, 103 (2d Cir. 2001)); see also Coppa, 267 F.3d at 135 ("Brady material must be disclosed in time for its effective use at trial." (citation omitted)). Brady material buried within significant amounts of 3500 material and provided too close to trial to permit effective use may-under certain circumstances-also be deemed suppressed. See Douglas, 525 F.3d at 245; see also United States v. Rittweger, 524 F.3d 171, ...


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