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United States v. Green

United States District Court, W.D. New York

February 17, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
ERNEST GREEN, a/k/a “Ern, ” RODSHAUN BLACK, a/k/a “Rashaun Black” a/k/a “Shaun, ” DANIEL RODRIGUEZ, a/k/a “Danny, ” Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM M. SKRETNY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On February 8, 2018, this Court dismissed the remaining counts in the superseding indictment with prejudice on constitutional speedy-trial grounds. See United States v. Green, 12-CR-83S (1)(2)(3), 2018 WL 786185 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 8, 2018). The government moved for reconsideration on February 12, 2018. (Docket No. 784.) By order filed on February 13, 2018, this Court denied reconsideration and indicated that this decision would follow. (Docket No. 787.) Familiarity with this Court's prior decision and the government's arguments for reconsideration is presumed.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On October 31, 2017, Defendants Ernest Green, Rodshaun Black, and Daniel Rodriguez, together with Amilcar Ramos, proceeded to trial on a 9-count superseding indictment. (Docket Nos. 155, 625.) Counts 1 through 5 related to the robbery, extortion, kidnapping, and murder of Jabril Harper (“the Harper counts”). In Counts 1 and 2, Defendants and Ramos were charged with Hobbs Act conspiracy and Hobbs Act robbery and extortion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1951 (a) and 2. In Count 3, Defendants and Ramos were charged with kidnapping, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1201 (a)(1) and 2. In Count 4, Defendants were charged with discharge of a firearm causing death, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924 (j)(1) and 2. And in Count 5, Defendants and Ramos were charged with the use, brandish, and discharge of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924 (c)(1)(A)(i), (ii), (iii) and 2.

         Counts 6 through 9 of the superseding indictment related to the robbery, extortion, and kidnapping of Morris Singer, and charged only Green and Black (“the Singer counts”). In Counts 6 and 7, Green and Black were charged with Hobbs Act conspiracy and Hobbs Act robbery and extortion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1951 (a) and 2. In Count 8, Green and Black were charged with kidnapping, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1201 (a)(1) and 2. In Count 9, Green and Black were charged with the possession and brandish of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924 (c)(1)(A)(i), (ii) and 2.

         On January 17, 2018, after more than 11 weeks of trial, the jury returned a partial verdict under Rule 31(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, after deliberating for seven days. (Docket Nos. 740, 743.) It acquitted Green and Black on the Singer counts and acquitted Ramos on all counts against him. (Id.) After further deliberations the following day, the jury remained hung on the Harper counts against Green, Black, and Rodriguez. (Docket No. 741.) This Court therefore declared a mistrial without objection. (Id.)

         Thereafter, on February 8, 2018, this Court granted Green's motion to dismiss the superseding indictment on constitutional speedy-trial grounds (joined by Black and Rodriguez), which Green had previously filed on the eve of trial. (Docket Nos. 605, 607, 615, 780.) In short, this Court found that Defendants' 68-month pretrial detention was principally chargeable to the government and severely prejudiced Defendants, particularly because they spent their pretrial detention under oppressive conditions and under threat of the death penalty, such that their Sixth Amendment rights to a speedy trial were violated. Green, 2018 WL 786185, at *7-*11. This Court therefore dismissed the indictment with prejudice as required. Id. Four days later, the government moved for reconsideration. (Docket No. 784.)

         III. DISCUSSION

         Generally, a district judge may modify pre-trial rulings and interlocutory orders at any time before final judgment. See In re United States, 733 F.2d 10, 13 (2d Cir. 1984). Reconsideration of a prior decision is generally justified in any one of the following three circumstances: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) new evidence; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice. See Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir.1992); see also Shrader v. CSZ Trans., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995) (“reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked-matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court”); Amerisure Ins. Co. v. Laserage Tech. Corp., No. 96-CV-6313, 1998 WL 310750, *1 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 12, 1998) (citing United States v. Adegbite, 877 F.2d 174, 178 (2d Cir. 1989)).

         The decision whether to grant or deny a motion to reconsider lies in the court's discretion. See McCarthy v. Manson, 714 F.2d 234, 237 (2d Cir. 1983). Parties bringing motions to reconsider “should evaluate whether what may seem to be a clear error of law is in fact simply a point of disagreement between the Court and the litigant.” Duane v. Spaulding and Rogers Mfg. Inc., No. 92-CV-305, 1994 WL 494651, *1 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 10, 1994) (quoting McDowell Oil Serv. v. Interstate Fire and Cas., 817 F.Supp. 538, 541 (M.D.Pa. 1993)). Motions for reconsideration are not to be used as a means to reargue matters already disposed of by prior rulings or to put forward additional arguments that could have been raised before the decision. See Duane, 1994 WL 494651 at *1. After all, a “motion for reconsideration is not a device intended to give an unhappy litigant one additional chance to sway the judge.” Nossek v. Bd. of Ed. of Duanesburg Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 94-CV-219, 1994 WL 688298, *1 (N.D.N.Y. Nov. 10, 1994).

         Judged against these well-settled standards, the government wholly fails to state a valid ground for reconsideration: it does not assert an intervening change in controlling law; it does not cite new evidence; it does not allege a need to correct a clear error of law; and it does not meaningfully assert the need to prevent manifest injustice, though that is the stated basis for its motion. See Motion for Reconsideration, Docket No. 784, p. 5.

         Instead, the government's motion is a transparent attempt to obtain a “do over.” That is, it seeks to re-litigate Defendants' speedy-trial motion, a classic try for a second bite at the apple. In doing so, the government complains that it was denied the opportunity to be fully heard on the motion, claiming that “[t]he Court never granted the government permission for a sur-reply” and “[t]he reason Black's counsel's declaration was unrebutted was because it was raised in a reply brief, to which, the Court afforded the government no opportunity to respond.” See Motion for Reconsideration, pp. 3, 10, 17. The government also faults this Court for resolving the speedy-trial motion “without the benefit of a pre-trial hearing.” See Motion for Reconsideration, p. 3. What the government conveniently ignores, however, is that it neither moved to file a sur-reply nor ever requested a hearing.

         The thrust of the government's complaint is that it was denied the opportunity to fully respond to the Defendants' allegations concerning the death-penalty aspect of this case. That is not accurate. The government's handling of the death-penalty proceedings and the possible need for a hearing were both raised in Green's speedy-trial motion and Black's joinder motion. (Docket Nos. 605, 607.) Defendants detailed the government's mishandling of the death-penalty issue and requested a hearing if the government sought to challenge their account. (Id.) But the government elected not to do so. Instead, it took the position that its handling of the death-penalty proceedings was “immaterial” to resolution of the motion and that there was no evidence that the Attorney General's decision on the death penalty affected ...


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