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United States v. Jones

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 27, 2018

DEAN JONES, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER


         On April 25, 2017, following a five-day jury trial, Defendant Dean Jones (“Defendant” or “Jones”) was convicted of conspiracy to distribute, or possess with intent to distribute, narcotics, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846. Before me is Jones's motion for a new trial under Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. For the reasons that follow, Jones's motion is denied.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         A. The Indictment

         On March 11, 2015, the Government filed a two-count indictment charging Jones in Count One with participating in a robbery on December 21, 2012, and in Count Two with using and carrying a firearm that was discharged in connection with that robbery. (Doc. 1.) The Government filed a five-count superseding indictment on April 14, 2016. (Doc. 50.) On August 8, 2016, after several adjournments, I set trial to begin on April 17, 2017 and directed the Government to file any superseding indictment on or before September 1, 2016. (Doc. 88.) On August 31, 2016, the Government filed a five-count superseding indictment charging: (1) Jones and Maxwell Suero with robbery conspiracy (Count One) and robbery (Count Two); (2) Jones with a firearms offense in connection with the robbery counts (Count Four); (3) Jones, Suero, Troy Williams, Ralph Hooper, Dequan Parker, Malik Saunders, Richard Graham, Yonell Allums, and Kaheim Allums with participating in an unlawful narcotics conspiracy (Count Three); and (4) all defendants except Graham with a firearms offense in connection with the narcotics conspiracy (Count Five). (Doc. 94.)

         Defendants Jones, Hooper, Parker, Saunders, Yonell Allums, Kaheim Allums, Williams, and Graham moved to sever Counts One, Two, and Four (the “Robbery Counts”) from Counts Three and Five (the “Narcotics Counts”) for improper joinder pursuant to Rules 8 and 14 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.[1] (See Docs. 95, 97, 101, 102, 113-15.) On October 5, 2016, I orally granted severance of the Robbery Counts from the Narcotics Counts, (Tr. 10/19 21:18-22:15), [2] and I issued a written order detailing my ruling on January 11, 2017, (Doc. 151).

         On March 21, 2017-for reasons detailed during conferences held on March 3 and March 16, 2017-I ordered that the seven Defendants named in the Narcotics Counts be tried in two separate trials. (Doc. 183.) The first trial was set to include Jones, Saunders, and Williams and to commence on April 17, 2017. (Id.) Saunders and Williams entered guilty pleas prior to the start of trial, and Jones proceeded to trial on his own.

         B. Trial on the Narcotics Counts

         Jones's trial on the Narcotics Counts (the “Trial”) commenced on April 17, 2017. Jones was charged in Count One with conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 280 grams of crack and more than one kilogram of heroin, and in Count Two of possessing a firearm in furtherance of the narcotics conspiracy.

         1. Count One

         At Trial, the Government introduced evidence of Jones's guilt on Count One through, among other things: (1) testimony from two cooperating witnesses and one immunized witness who were involved in Jones's drug conspiracy; (2) testimony from a law enforcement officer who had caught Jones driving south from Vermont with $5, 800 in drug proceeds; (3) video and audio of that traffic stop, including of Jones lying to the officer about his name and other information; (4) seizures of crack and heroin from Jones's co-conspirators; (5) evidence of money transfers between co-conspirators, including to Jones both before and after he was incarcerated; (6) phone records showing the frequent communication between and among Jones and his co-conspirators both before and after he was incarcerated; and (7) recorded phone calls of Jones discussing the narcotics conspiracy with his co-conspirators after he was incarcerated.

         Steven Christopher, a cooperating witness, testified about the formation and inner workings of the conspiracy and his close relationship with Jones. (See, e.g., Tr. 380-407.) Christopher was, however, subject to extensive cross-examination about, among other things, his prolific criminal history-that included shooting four people when he was twelve and thirteen years old-and his testimony before a Vermont grand jury during which he lied. (See Tr. 532- 40, 545-84.)

         Kim Kuncz, an admitted drug addict and cooperating witness who worked closely with Jones's co-conspirator Williams, gave detailed testimony about her interactions with Jones. Specifically, she personally saw Jones with a bag of up to 100 grams of crack and watched him over the course of several days sell crack and count the money in Ronnie Rickert's house in Vermont. (Tr. 122-23.) Kuncz used some of that crack herself. (Tr. 123.) On another occasion, she watched Jones and Williams package thousands of dollars in drug money at her own house and smoked crack that Jones gave her. (Tr. 124.) Kuncz was also in the car when Jones was caught with $5, 800 in drug proceeds, and she successfully concealed crack, molly, and several thousand more dollars from the police during that incident. (Tr. 126-28.) On another occasion, Jones gave Kuncz 10 grams of crack to sell in Vermont. (Tr. 132.)

         Toni Stanley, a witness who testified after being granted immunity, testified about how she personally obtained drugs from Jones in Vermont. Like Kuncz, Stanley was a crack and heroin user, and she also saw Jones at Rickert's house and watched Jones package and sell crack. (Tr. 467-68, 605, 607-08.) Stanley also testified about instances during which she drove Jones from Vermont to New York. She testified that, on one of her trips to New York, she received a traffic ticket for using her phone while driving.[3] (Tr. 614-15.) She also explained that she was paid in drugs for driving and that in one instance she brought heroin and prescription pills back from New York to Vermont. (Tr. 611-14.) The last time Stanley brought Jones to New York, she stashed some of Jones's heroin and prescription pills at her friend's house because Jones did not want to bring them back to New York. (Tr. 616-18.) When Stanley told Jones that she had used some of those drugs, he threatened to kill her. (Tr. 619.)

         The testimony of these witnesses-Christopher, Kuncz, and Stanley-was corroborated by other evidence introduced during Trial. Officer Christopher Lora testified about the traffic stop that Kuncz described. Lora stopped a car for having a faulty light as it traveled south from Vermont towards New York late at night; inside were Jones, Williams, Kuncz, and a second woman. Lora found $5, 800 in cash on Jones's person bundled in rubber bands, which was consistent with drug proceeds. (Tr. 255-69.) Jones gave a false name during that stop, and he listed his address as 175 West 45th Street, i.e., the inverse of 45 West 175th Street-the location of the Bronx home base of the narcotics conspiracy. Despite being given instructions by Lora concerning how to reclaim the seized money, Jones never attempted to collect the cash, which he told Lora was the proceeds of a construction job he had been doing in Vermont. (Tr. 270-72.) This stop was captured on video recordings, some of which included audio, that were played at Trial. (GX-701, 702.)[4] The traffic stop corroborating Stanley's trip to New York with Jones was similarly confirmed by both a traffic ticket, (GX-740), and phone records showing Jones and Stanley in contact that day, (GX-613).

         Bank and wire transfer records further corroborated the cooperating witnesses. Western Union records showed that co-conspirator Suero sent Jones-in the same alias Jones used during the Vermont traffic stop-$1, 000 from Vermont during the conspiracy. (GX-401.) Bank and Western Union records showed the flow of money between co-conspirators in Vermont and co-conspirators in New York. (GX-401A-B; 402A-C.) Phone records further demonstrated the connection between Jones and his co-conspirators, showing a high volume of calls between Jones and co-conspirators Williams, Christopher, Kuncz, Graham, and Suero. (GX-671.)

         Jones was arrested on robbery charges in June 2013. The evidence presented at trial demonstrates that even though Jones was incarcerated on the robbery charges, he continued to participate in the narcotics conspiracy: Jones continued to direct Suero's narcotics sales in Vermont, as captured on recorded prison calls, (see, e.g., GX-1201-A); coordinate the narcotics pipeline with Saunders, as also captured on recorded prison calls, (see, e.g., GX-1201G); and reap the benefits of the drug ...

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