United States District Court, S.D. New York
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Vincent L. Briccetti United States District Judge.
separate filings dated March 25 and April 16, 2018 (Docs.
##93, 95), pro se defendant Christopher Von Stein
moves for a new trial pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P.
For the reasons set forth below, the motion is DENIED.
motion for a new trial should be granted only if the Court
has a “real concern that an innocent person may have
been convicted.” United States v. McCourty,
562 F.3d 458, 475 (2d Cir. 2009). The Court has no such
concern here. In fact, the proof of Von Stein's guilt -
which included numerous text messages sent by him to his
ex-girlfriend Jaimee Blazejewski threatening to injure and
kill her (Tr. 151-52), Ms. Blazejewski's credible
testimony that the text messages made her feel “very
scared” and “concerned for my life and my
kids” (Tr. 153), and the testimony of a Verizon witness
(corroborated by various Verizon records) that because Ms.
Blazejewski was a Verizon customer all of the pertinent text
messages traveled through a Verizon text message
“switch” located in New Jersey to Ms.
Blazejewski's cell phone (Tr. 106-14) - was overwhelming.
Moreover, Von Stein had a fair trial - among other things, he
called eight witnesses of his own, including himself, his
14-year old daughter Kassandra Von Stein, several character
witnesses, and two law enforcement officers who investigated
this case - and the jury was properly instructed. To grant
defendant's motion would require the Court to find
“it would be a manifest injustice to let the guilty
verdict stand.” United States v. Sanchez, 969
F.2d 1409, 1414 (2d Cir. 1992). Under the circumstances here,
it would be a manifest injustice not to let the
guilty verdict stand.
instant motion, Von Stein makes what boils down to two
arguments: (i) that he did not receive notes of interviews of
Ms. Blazejewski and Kassandra Von Stein until March 21, 2018,
after the second day of trial - which was before Kassandra
testified as a defense witness but after Ms. Blazejewski
testified as a government witness - and that when he made
that assertion at trial, he was “called a liar”
by the prosecutor; and (ii) that he did not receive subpoena
returns from Verizon, AT&T, and the Cattaraugus County
Family Court. Neither argument has any merit.
as to the Blazejewski and Kassandra notes, the government has
produced documentary evidence that these notes were sent by
Federal Express to Von Stein at the Metropolitan Detention
Center (“MDC”) on March 9, 2018 (the day after
the interviews occurred and ten days before the trial
commenced on March 19, 2018), and received at MDC on March
12, 2018. (Gov't Br. Ex. C). Von Stein has produced no
evidence to the contrary. The notes were also emailed on
March 9 to standby counsel Bruce D. Koffsky, Esq. (Gov't
Br. Exs. D-1, D-2). The government plainly fulfilled its
obligation under 18 U.S.C. § 3500 with respect to the
Blazejewski notes, which constituted 3500 material because
Ms. Blazejewski was a government witness.
even if Von Stein did not receive the Blazejewski notes until
after she testified, there is nothing in the notes that would
warrant a new trial. Von Stein points to a portion of the
Blazejewski notes relating to an altercation in January 2011
(six years before the threatening text messages were sent) in
which Ms. Blazejewski said she pushed Von Stein after he had
yelled at her to get Kassandra to school, in response to
which Von Stein pushed Ms. Blazejewski back onto a bed. There
is nothing new about this information - Von Stein was
involved in the 2011 altercation and thus already knew Ms.
Blazejewski had pushed him. More importantly, whether Ms.
Blazejewski did or did not push Von Stein in 2011 is plainly
irrelevant to whether Von Stein knowingly and intentionally
sent the threatening text messages to Ms. Blazejewski in
2017. Indeed, neither the government nor Von Stein questioned
Ms. Blazejewski about the 2011 incident at trial, and, in any
event, in light of the overwhelming evidence of Von
Stein's guilt - including the threatening text messages
themselves - this information could not possibly have changed
the outcome of the trial.
the timing of Von Stein's receipt of the Kassandra notes
is of no consequence. Kassandra was not a government witness;
therefore, the notes do not constitute 3500 material and the
government was not even required to provide them to Von
Stein. And even if Von Stein did not receive the notes until
March 21, that was before Kassandra testified as a defense
witness, and certainly Von Stein had every opportunity to use
the notes to question his own witness. Indeed, Von Stein does
not identify any information in the notes that he did not
already know or was unable to make use of at trial. Most
importantly, as with the Blazejewski notes, nothing in the
Kassandra notes could possibly have changed the outcome of
Stein's claim that he was “called a liar” by
the prosecutor when he complained he had not received the
Blazejewski and Kassandra notes until March 21 (after the
second day of trial), is not accurate. In fact, the
prosecutor did not call Von Stein a “liar”;
rather, she said it was “not true” Von Stein had
gotten the notes the day before. (Tr. 443). Given that the
prosecutor knew she had sent the notes to Von Stein by
Federal Express on March 9 (the day after the interviews were
conducted), her comment was either entirely correct or, if
Von Stein did not receive the notes until March 21, entirely
understandable and certainly not a deliberate falsehood. In
any event, the Court instructed the jury to disregard the
colloquy between and among Von Stein, the prosecutor, and the
Court. And more importantly, as set forth above, the
Blazejewski and Kassandra notes could not possibly have
changed the outcome of the trial.
Von Stein's complaints about the subpoena returns are
almost certainly false. Based on the Court's own
observations, as well as Mr. Koffsky's letter to the
Court (Doc. #101), submitted in response to the Court's
suggestion that Mr. Koffsky might wish to respond to Von
Stein's assertions about subpoenas (Doc. #96), Mr.
Koffsky did all he could possibly do as standby counsel to
assist Von Stein - who, according to the Court's personal
observations as well as much of the testimony Von Stein
himself introduced at trial, is a difficult, demanding, and
disagreeable person. In light of the foregoing, the Court
credits Mr. Koffsky's representations that he timely
served subpoenas addressed to Verizon, AT&T, and the
Cattaraugus County Family Court, as requested by Von Stein;
that the subpoenaed materials were produced to the
Court's Clerk's Office before trial; and that Von
Stein was so notified before trial.
nothing in Von Stein's Rule 33 motion (or in any other of
his post-trial filings) explains how the information in the
subpoena returns is material and would have altered the
outcome at trial. As to Verizon, the government proved beyond
any doubt that the threatening text messages traveled through
the Verizon text message switch in New Jersey, and Von Stein
has not explained how the Verizon records he sought would
have undermined the government's proof. As to AT&T,
because the text messages traveled interstate through the
Verizon network, it is legally irrelevant how they may have
traveled through the AT&T network. And as to the
Cattaraugus County Family Court records, Von Stein does not
explain how these records would be relevant or admissible;
and certainly nothing in these records could possibly
undermine the proven fact that Von Stein knowingly and
willfully sent the threatening text messages to Ms.
Blazejewski. In other words, these records could not possibly
have changed the outcome of the trial.
motion for a new trial is DENIED.
will proceed as scheduled on June 29, 2018, at 11:30 a.m.
Clerk is instructed to mail a copy of this Memorandum Opinion
and Order to defendant Christopher Von ...