United States District Court, W.D. New York
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. CHIEF JUDGE
September 25, 2019, a jury found Defendant Valentino Shine,
Sr., guilty of narcotics conspiracy (Count 1), using and
maintaining a drug-involved premises (Count 2), possession of
cocaine base with intent to distribute (Count 3), sex
trafficking (Counts 4-8), and conspiracy to commit sex
trafficking (Count 9). Defendant moves to strike the victim
impact statement of Brittany Wieand. ECF No. 417.
Defendant's motion is DENIED.
was Defendant's girlfriend during the period he committed
the above offenses. The government's theory of the sex
trafficking conspiracy was that Wieand assisted and conspired
with Defendant to commit that offense. Despite Wieand's
status as a co-conspirator, in advance of sentencing, the
government submitted a statement from Wieand that it labelled
a “victim impact statement.” Defendant moves to
strike Wieand's statement, arguing (1) Wieand is a
co-conspirator, not a victim; (2) her statement is
“self-serving” and “incredible”; and
(3) the prejudicial effect of her statement “far
outweighs [its] probative value.” ECF No. 417 at 3.
government objects. It frames the issue as one arising under
18 U.S.C. § 3771, which affords an array of procedural
rights to victims of crimes. The government asserts that
Wieand is a “crime victim” as defined under
§ 3771(e)(2) and, therefore, she has a right to submit a
victim impact statement.
Court declines to strike Wieand's victim impact
statement, though it does not agree with the government's
position. Under § 3771(e)(2), a “crime
victim” is defined as “a person directly and
proximately harmed as a result of the commission of a Federal
offense.” Arguably, one could read the statutory
definition of “victim” broadly enough to cover a
co-conspirator who is subjected to maltreatment or harm by a
fellow co-conspirator during a conspiracy. But in a separate
provision, the statute expressly forecloses the
government's interpretation: § 3771(d)(1) states
that “[a] person accused of the crime may not
obtain any form of relief under this chapter.” 18
U.S.C. § 3771(d)(1) (emphasis added). Thus, Wieand-a
person accused of committing the crime of sex trafficking
conspiracy-may not obtain any relief under § 3771 as a
victim of that crime. See In re Wellcare Health Plans,
Inc., 754 F.3d 1234, 1239-40 (11th Cir. 2014)
(concluding, in light of § 3771(d)(1), that unindicted
co-conspirator of healthcare fraud could not be a victim
under § 3771(e)).
does not end the Court's analysis, however.
“[S]entencing judges exercise a wide discretion in the
types of evidence they may consider when imposing sentence
and that highly relevant-if not essential-to the selection of
an appropriate sentence is the possession of the fullest
information possible concerning the defendant's life and
characteristics.” Pepper v. United States, 562
U.S. 476, 480 (2011) (internal quotation marks and brackets
omitted). This principle is codified in statute. 18 U.S.C.
§ 3661 states that “[n]o limitation shall be
placed on the information concerning the background,
character, and conduct of a person convicted of an offense
which a court of the United States may receive and consider
for the purpose of imposing an appropriate sentence.”
And 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1) requires the sentencing court
to consider the “the nature and circumstances of the
offense and the history and characteristics of the
defendant.” In short, the Court is vested with broad
discretion to consider information pertinent to Defendant,
even if it is collateral to his offense of conviction.
See, e.g., United States v. Robinson, 520
Fed.Appx. 20, 23 (2d Cir. 2013) (summary order) (district
court did not err in considering evidence of an
“unrelated homicide and an unrelated shooting at [the
defendant's] sentencing hearing”).
the Federal Rules of Evidence do not apply at sentencing,
United States v. Cofield, No. 17-CR-610, 2019 WL
4879331, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 3, 2019), a sentence must be
based on accurate information with “some minimal
indicium of reliability beyond mere allegation.”
United States v. Juwa, 508 F.3d 694, 701 (2d Cir.
2007). Furthermore, the government must prove facts relevant
to sentencing by a preponderance of the evidence.
the Court's broad discretion at sentencing,
Defendant's arguments in support of his motion to strike
fall flat. Whether Wieand is labelled a co-conspirator or a
victim is less relevant than the information she provides
about the circumstances of the conspiracy and the
characteristics of Defendant. Cf. United States v.
Chang, 59 Fed.Appx. 361, 364 (2d Cir. 2003) (summary
order) (district court did not err in relying on statements
of defendant's co-conspirators during sentencing).
Wieand's statement sheds additional light on those
matters. The alleged manner in which Defendant manipulated
and exploited his co-conspirator, and his overall
indifference to others except as means to achieve his ends,
are relevant to assessing his characteristics and culpability
with respect to these offenses. Consequently, Wieand's
statement may be relevant within the broad parameters of
§ 3553(a) and § 3661.
secondary argument that Wieand's claims are unreliable or
inaccurate is not, at this point, convincing. In
Defendant's view, there is reason to doubt Wieand's
claims because she was intimately involved in the trafficking
of other victims, she obtained a plea deal and thus has a
motive to lie, and she allegedly continues to engage in
stripping and prostitution. The Court finds the latter
allegation irrelevant, and the fact that Wieand is not a
disinterested party does not, “standing alone, deprive
the statement of probative value.” Id. More
to the point, while Defendant attempts to undermine
Wieand's credibility, he does not deny her assertions.
See Id. (noting that co-conspirators' statements
“are rendered more reliable by the fact that [the
defendant] never denied [them]”). At present, the Court
cannot find Wieand's claims facially unreliable or
although Defendant has not persuaded the Court that
Wieand's statement is so facially unreliable, irrelevant,
or prejudicial as to warrant striking it, he is not barred
from challenging it at sentencing. The Court will not
determine the weight to be assigned to Wieand's statement
until Defendant has had a full opportunity to challenge it
and present any relevant evidence favorable to him. He is
free to re-raise his present arguments in that context.
reasons discussed above, Defendant's motion to strike
(ECF No. 417) is DENIED.