194 F.Supp.2d 287 (D.Del. 2002), Crim.A.01-63, United States v. Wright

Docket Nº:CRIM.A.01-63-RRM.
Citation:194 F.Supp.2d 287
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Lawrence W. WRIGHT, Defendant.
Case Date:March 22, 2002
Court:United States District Courts, 3th Circuit, District of Delaware
 
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Page 287

194 F.Supp.2d 287 (D.Del. 2002)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,

v.

Lawrence W. WRIGHT, Defendant.

No. CRIM.A.01-63-RRM.

United States District Court, D. Delaware.

March 22, 2002

Page 288

Colm F. Connolly, Esquire, United States Attorney and Richard G. Andrews, Esquire, First Assistant United States Attorney, United States Department of Justice: United States Attorney's Office, Wilmington, Delaware; counsel for United States.

Stephen B. Potter, Esquire and Jennifer Kate Aaronson, Esquire, Potter, Carmine & Leonard, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware; counsel for defendant, Lawrence Wright.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

McKELVIE, District Judge.

This is a criminal case. On September 25, 2001, the Grand Jury returned a nineteen-count indictment against the defendant, Lawrence W. Wright. Count I of the indictment alleges that Wright conspired to commit interstate transportation of stolen property in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. Counts II through IV charge Wright with the interstate transportation of stolen property in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314 and § 2. Counts V through VIII alleged that Wright laundered monetary instruments in violation of 18 U.S.C.§ 1956(a) (1) (B) (i) and § 2. Counts IX through XVII charge Wright with bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a) (2) and § 2 (Counts IX-XVII). Last, Counts XVIII and XIX charge Wright with knowingly and willfully making a false statement in connection with a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

On October 25, 2001, Wright moved to dismiss Counts I through XVII of the Indictment. Wright argued that Counts I through XVII must be dismissed because each count fails to allege that Wright acted "willfully" as required by 18 U.S.C. § 2(b). On October 30, 2001, the Government filed its response, contending that willfulness is not a necessary element of the conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property counts, the money laundering counts, or the bribery counts.

On November 2, 2001, the court heard oral argument on Wright's motion to dismiss. At the request of defense counsel, the court agreed to accept further written argument on Wright's motion to dismiss. Thereafter, Wright filed an opening brief on December 26, 2001.

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In his briefing and at oral argument, Wright makes two arguments in support of his motion to dismiss. First, Wright argues that Counts I through VIII of the Indictment (the conspiracy count, the interstate transportation of stolen property counts, and the money laundering counts) must be dismissed for failure to state the necessary element of "willfulness" required by 18 U.S.C. § 2(b). Wright contends that because the indictment does not allege, nor will the Government seek to prove, that Wright knew that he caused the stolen property to travel in interstate commerce, those counts must be dismissed. Second, Wright argues that Counts IX--XVII (the bribery counts) also must be dismissed as the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because there is no connection between the offense conduct and federal funds or a federal program.

The Government filed an answering brief on January 15, 2002. Therein, as to Wright's "wilfulness" argument, the Government contends that under applicable case law the crossing of state lines is merely a jurisdictional element that must be alleged and proved, and that therefore no state of mind requirement attaches to that element. Second, as to Wright's argument on the federal funds issue, the Government responds that it would prove that the federal Government gave the Delaware Department of Transportation ("DelDOT") roughly $170 million in each year during the relevant periods. It asserts that there are specific federal funds that are matched to specific transportation related programs, and that this is sufficient to meet the requirement of § 666. Wright filed his reply soon thereafter on January 23, 2002.

Wright's motion to dismiss the indictment is now fully briefed. This is the court's decision on the motion. 1

I. BACKGROUND

The indictment charges that on three separate occasions (July 20, 1999, October 29, 1999, and July 25, 2000), Wright deposited checks drawn by the City of Wilmington and payable to New Mount Olive Baptist Church into a church account ("the Fire Account") at Sun National Bank located at 13th and Market Streets in Wilmington Delaware. The checks, in total amount of $149,449.00, were authorized by the now deceased State Legislator, Al O. Plant, Sr.

The indictment charges that Wright wrote a number of checks on the Fire Account to himself and deposited those checks into another church account ("the Pastor's Account") at Sun National Bank, which is located at 13th and Market Streets in Wilmington, Delaware. Wright wrote checks on the Pastor's Account, some of which were payable to Representative Plant, the official who had arranged to give the money to New Mount Olive Baptist Church. The checks were deposited into Plant's account the same branch of Sun National Bank in Wilmington, Delaware.

As a basis for subject matter jurisdiction over the interstate transportation of stolen property counts, the Government alleges that each of the checks identified above was sent by Sun National Bank to Pennsylvania for "clearing." It contends that Wright caused transportation in interstate commerce by "causing the checks to be deposited into Sun National Bank" because

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Sun National Bank sent the checks to Pennsylvania for clearing. See Government's Response to Wright's Motion for Bill of Particulars, ¶ 7(d). The Government, however, stipulates that it will present no evidence at trial that Wright knew Sun National Bank sent its checks to Pennsylvania for "clearing" or that Wright knew the checks would travel outside of the State of Delaware or in interstate commerce.

The City of Wilmington checks payable to New Mount Olive Baptist Church were a distribution of State of Delaware Suburban Street Funds. To satisfy the elements of--and as a basis for subject matter jurisdiction over--the bribery counts, which require the agency at issue to be in receipt of federal funds in excess of $10,000.00 in one year, see 18 U.S.C. § 666, the Government stipulates 2 that federal funds from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) were matched with Suburban Street Funds for transportation related projects. Four particular projects were:

(1) Project No. 99-200-02 (construction of a bike/pedestrian walkway in Delaware City) on which the FHWA contributed about $460,000 and Suburban Street Funds about $50,000; (2) Project No. 99-200-21 (Centerville bike/pedestrian improvements) on which the FHWA contributed about $18,000 and Suburban Street Funds about $2,500; (3) Project No. 99-200-25 (sidewalk construction in North Wilmington) on which the FHWA contributed about $2,500 and Suburban Street Funds about $600; Project No. 99-200-26 (sidewalk construction on Old Lancaster Pike) on which the FHWA contributed about $16,000 and Suburban Street Funds about $3000.

The Government further stipulates to the following as the source of the Suburban Street Funds. For Fiscal Year 1999, DelDOT spent approximately $148,000,000 of state funds and $106,000,000 of federal funds on "capital projects." For Fiscal Year 2000, DelDOT spent approximately $146,000,000 of state funds and $115,000,000 of federal funds on "capital projects." The sources of the federal funds were various federal programs involving grants, subsidies, and other forms of federal assistance funded through the FHWA, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration. In those years, DelDOT categorized its "capital" projects into approximately seventeen separate categories, one of which was "Suburban Streets." In Fiscal Year 1999, DelDOT spent approximately $17,000,000 on Suburban Streets. The sources of that money were approximately $16,600,000 which was authorized through the State of Delaware "Suburban Streets" legislation, and about $400,000 of federal funds. In Fiscal Year 2000, DelDOT spent approximately $20,400,00 on Suburban Streets. The sources of that money were approximately $20,000,000 which was authorized through the State of Delaware "Suburban Streets" legislation, and about $400,000 of federal funds.

The defense, however, stipulates to the following as the source of the Suburban Street Funds based on the report of R. Thomas Wagner of the State of Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts and the letter of Gary Fullman, of DelDOT. According to those sources, funding for the Suburban Street program is raised by the State of Delaware by annually issuing bonds pursuant to the Bond and Capital Improvements Act. Subsequently, each state legislator is authorized $300,000 in Suburban Street Funds. Funds are disbursed to various city organization upon the request of the legislator under the oversight of DelDOT. According to DelDOT,

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no federal funds were part of the money allocated by the Bond and Capital Improvements Act for Suburban Streets in the relevant time periods; rather, all funding authorized for the Delaware Suburban Street Funds since its inception in the late 1970's has been "entirely 100% state funds."

II. DISCUSSION

A. Is the Indictment Insufficient for Failure to Charge That The Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property Counts were Willful?

Wright argues that Counts I through VIII are insufficient for failure to charge that he acted willfully in transporting stolen property in interstate commerce. 3 Count I of the Indictment alleges a conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C. § 2314 and 18 U.S.C. § 2. Counts II through IV of the Indictment allege that...

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