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United States v. Westley

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 17, 2018



          MICHAEL P. SHEA, U.S.D. JUDGE.

         I. Background

         On August 3, 2017, following an investigation into several shootings in New Haven in 2016, a grand jury returned a multi-count indictment charging six individuals with various offenses, including RICO conspiracy, violent crimes in aid of racketeering (“VCAR”), various offenses related to possession, transfer, and use of firearms, and possession with intent to distribute narcotics. (ECF No. 1.)

         Pending before the Court are pretrial motions filed by Defendants Milton Westley and Dejuan Ward. The Court held a hearing on certain of these and other pretrial motions on April 10, 2018.[1] The Court assumes familiarity with the Indictment and with the recitations of facts and arguments set forth in the various pretrial motions.

         II. Discussion

         a. Westley's Motion for Notice of Intention to Use Evidence

         Westley's motion for notice of intention to use evidence concerning other acts or uncharged crimes under Fed.R.Evid. 404(b) and 608(b) (ECF No. 57) is DENIED as moot, as the Government has stated in its response (ECF No. 110 at 13-18) that it has disclosed to Defendant its intention to use evidence of the December 30, 2012 shooting of James Harris. As to specific admissibility questions regarding any evidence that may implicate Rules 404(b) or 608(b), the Court reserves ruling until trial. The Court will rule on the motion in limine (ECF No. 56) as to the admissibility of this evidence and other evidence of other acts either at or near the pretrial conference or during trial.

         b. Ward's Motions

         1. Motion for bill of particulars (ECF No. 62)

         Defendant Ward's motion for a bill of particulars is DENIED. The motion seeks a level of detail to which Ward is not entitled at the pleadings stage. The information the Second Circuit found should have been particularized in the case on which Ward relies, United States v. Davidoff, 845 F.2d 1151 (2d Cir. 1988)-i.e., the names of the companies that were victims of the extortion scheme-was not nearly as detailed and specific as the information Ward seeks in his motion. Further, in this case, the indictment is reasonably specific as to Ward, describing, among other things, an alleged shooting by him as one of the overt acts of the alleged RICO conspiracy, including the date and the identity of the victim-none of which the Government was required to plead. Salinas v. United States, 522 U.S. 52, 63 (1997) (RICO conspiracy does not require overt act).

         The indictment also alleges other specific offenses against Ward. Further, the Government has set forth in its briefs in this case more particulars of the expected proof against Ward, and has also described his involvement in and promotion of the alleged enterprise through descriptions of Facebook posts which it intends to introduce at trial. (See ECF Nos. 63 at 2; 104, Ex. A ¶ 26; 110 at 3-4; 117 at 8.) This is sufficient detail to put Ward on notice of the charges he is facing. And, according to the Government, he has received much more particularized information about the evidence against him in meetings with the Government and through the disclosure of documents and other evidence in the discovery process, some of which is described in detail in the Government's briefs. (See id.)

         2. Motion to sever (ECF No. 97)

         Ward's motion to sever under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure is DENIED. All of the defendants are charged in a RICO conspiracy, which has itself been adequately alleged, and the RICO conspiracy supplies the common plan or scheme out of which the charges against the defendants arise. See United States v. Rittweger, 524 F.3d 171, 177 (2d Cir. 2008) (“[T]he ‘same series of acts or transactions' language of Rule 8(b) [means] that joinder is proper where two or more persons' criminal acts are unified by some substantial identity of facts or participants, or arise out of a common plan or scheme.”) (internal quotation marks omitted); United States v. Rastelli, 653 F.Supp. 1034, 1041 (E.D.N.Y. 1986) (“[A] RICO conspiracy charge may provide the unifying link among the substantive crimes that form the basis of the pattern of racketeering activity for purposes of their joinder under Rule 8(b).”).

         The motion for severance under Rule 14 is also denied, as the demanding standard for a Rule 14 severance has not been met, and the efficiency of trying the defendants together easily outweighs any prejudice. The court will consider giving limiting instructions (if requested) ...

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