544 F.2d 1139 (2nd Cir. 1976), 1197, United States v. Alessi

Docket Nº:1197, 1198, Dockets 76-1189, 76-3025.
Citation:544 F.2d 1139
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Virgil ALESSI, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:July 07, 1976
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Page 1139

544 F.2d 1139 (2nd Cir. 1976)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,


Virgil ALESSI, Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. 1197, 1198, Dockets 76-1189, 76-3025.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

July 7, 1976

Argued June 9, 1976.

Certiorari Denied Nov. 15, 1976.

See 97 S.Ct. 384.

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Nancy Rosner, New York City, for appellant.

James P. Lavin, Asst. U. S. Atty., New York City (Robert B. Fiske, Jr., U. S. Atty., S.D. N. Y., and Frederick T. Davis, Asst. U. S. Atty., New York City, of counsel), for appellee.


FRIENDLY, Circuit Judge.

On or about June 30, 1972, a witness disappeared. The ensuing events have come to plague the district courts for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York and this court as well. We now have the third case this year in which this court must consider the bearing of what then happened.

The witness was a central figure in the case developed by Eastern District Strike Force Attorney James Druker to prove the allegations embodied in Eastern District indictment 72 Cr. 473. That indictment charged, among other matters, a conspiracy to violate the federal narcotics laws encompassing appellant, Virgil Alessi, and Vincent Papa, Anthony Passero, Frank D'Amato, Anthony Loria, Sr., and others; and also charged the just-named defendants with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise as defined in 21 U.S.C. § 848. At the time of the disappearance, Druker was in the midst of plea bargaining the charges; the "package" he proposed to achieve had been written down and apparently cleared with his superiors in Washington. With his prime witness lost, Druker's case was greatly weakened, and he proceeded, over the next two months, to negotiate a bargain more favorable to the defendants. Agreement between Druker and the several attorneys who represented Vincent Papa, one of whom also represented appellant Alessi, was finally reached on August 18, 1972. No contemporaneous written evidence of the terms of the bargain exists; what they in fact were is a matter best deferred for the moment.

Sometime between August 18 and September 5, Druker learned of information that had been supplied to the Eastern District Strike Force by Joseph Ragusa, which potentially implicated Papa in yet further illegal narcotics activities. Papa was not informed of this, and ignorant of it he pleaded guilty, on September 5, 1972, to the conspiracy charge and also to a pending tax evasion information.

On October 2, 1972, Virgil Alessi waived indictment and he, too, pleaded guilty to a

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one count conspiracy charge contained in a superseding information; 72 Cr. 473 was dismissed as to him. Appellant's counsel contends that this format was used so that it would be clear that this plea acted to bar a pending prosecution in Nassau County. Appellant also waived his pre-sentence report, and was sentenced at the time of his plea. Before accepting the plea, the district court asked Alessi if anyone had promised him anything to induce it; Alessi answered that no one had. However, when the judge indicated that he would be willing to sentence Alessi to "15 years without batting an eye," it rapidly became evident that the truth was otherwise. The upshot was that, on Druker's recommendation, Alessi received a five-year suspended sentence with a mandatory three-year special parole. Appellant now claims that the consideration for his plea included certain representations by Druker, which, it is contended, prevent the prosecution in the present case from going forward.

On two previous occasions we have considered these promises of the summer of 1972. The first case, decided on April 2 of this year, was United States v. Papa, 533 F.2d 815, an appeal from Papa's convictions in the Southern District of New York for conspiracy to violate and a substantive violation of the narcotics laws. Papa's most important contentions were that the "Southern District conspiracy" was the same as the "Eastern District conspiracy" to which he had previously pleaded, and therefore that the Southern District prosecution on that charge was violative of his right not to be twice placed in jeopardy; and that the Southern District case, based in good part on the testimony of Joseph Ragusa, violated the bargain. This court affirmed the convictions, holding as to the first point that after all the facts were in, Papa had failed to show the claimed identity of the conspiracies; and as to the second point that even if the Eastern District U.S. Attorney's Office would have been bound not to prosecute crimes discovered by use of Ragusa's information, the bargain did not reach so far as to preclude the Southern District prosecution which had been developed entirely independently.

The second case, even more recently decided, was United States v. Alessi, 536 F.2d 978, (2 Cir. 1976) (Alessi I), which involved the same appellant as the present case. That appeal, like this one, was from a pre-trial order; the challenge was to a district court decision denying Alessi's claim that the 1972 promises were broad enough to prevent an Eastern District prosecution for tax evasion during the years in which the "Eastern District conspiracy" had been in operation. This court affirmed, holding that the pre-trial order was appealable but that whatever crimes were covered by the bargain, a crime as distant from the conspiracy as tax evasion was not.

We come now to this case. By indictment filed on August 4, 1975, Anthony Passero, Lawrence Iarossi, and others were indicted by a grand jury in the Southern District of New York for conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws; Vincent Papa, Virgil Alessi, and Frank D'Amato were among the named but unindicted co-conspirators. Alessi was indicted on five substantive counts which, as supplemented by the bill of particulars, all charge him as an aider and abettor for delivering, at locations in Long Island City and other parts of Queens, various quantities of heroin to one Anthony Manfredonia, which Manfredonia then took to the Southern District for distribution to others. The Government states that if this case does finally come to trial, it will introduce evidence showing that Alessi "was well aware" that the heroin "was being transported to and concealed, possessed and distributed to others in the Southern District of New York." The Government also contends, and appellant offers nothing in refutation, that insofar as the indictment names Alessi it is based on information supplied by Manfredonia, a witness developed entirely by the Southern District, and, as Druker stated in an affidavit, unknown to him in 1972. Its brief states that "(n)o witness or evidence used in the obtaining of this indictment was obtained from prosecutors in the Eastern District." Finally, the

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Government contends, although this point is indeed disputed, that Druker's representations were by their own terms not binding on the Southern District.

The essence of appellant's claim, which is based on Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 92 S.Ct. 495, 30 L.Ed.2d 427 (1971), was succinctly stated by the trial court as follows:

According to Alessi, the plea-bargain agreement provided that Alessi would not be prosecuted with respect to any overt acts committed during the course of the Eastern District conspiracy which might constitute a substantive violation of the narcotics laws. Alessi contends that the present indictment violates the plea-bargain agreement and that his prosecution would therefore amount to a denial of due process.

Trial was scheduled to begin on January 20, 1976. In November 1975, appellant moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground just indicated. Judge Bonsal, on December 29, reserved decision until the conclusion of the trial, when he would have the benefit of the evidence that had been introduced as to the true nature of the crimes charged and would conduct an evidentiary hearing. Alessi appealed, and the Government moved to dismiss the appeal. Without deciding the question of appealability, a panel of this court, on January 19, issued a writ of mandamus (Alessi II) directing the trial court either to sever Alessi from the trial and await its evidence, or to hold an evidentiary hearing and determine the motion prior to trial; a short unprinted opinion was filed the next day. Following issuance of the writ, also on January 19, a brief hearing was held before Judge Bonsal. Appellant's counsel urged a severance, in part on the ground that the district court should await the results of the appeal in Papa, which had been argued but not yet decided. Appellant also agreed to waive any claim of denial of a speedy trial that might arise out of the attendant delay. Judge Bonsal, apparently impressed by these points and also by the fact that Alessi was not a defendant to the conspiracy count, granted the severance.

Trial as to seven of the other defendants, under the title United States v. Iarossi, began on January 20 and ended on February 4, with a verdict against all defendants on all counts. A notice of appeal was filed, and the case is now docketed in our court, # 76-1132, with argument presently scheduled to be heard in the middle of September.

Meanwhile the pretrial proceedings regarding defendant Alessi went on. On February 11, 1976, Judge Bonsal held another short hearing. Appellant's counsel and the prosecutor agreed that there was no further factual material to be introduced; the issue was submitted on the basis of the record developed in Papa, in yet another case concerning Papa and Alessi that had come before the Eastern District in October 1975, and in Iarossi. Four days after our decision in Papa, on April 6, 1976, Judge Bonsal denied the motion to dismiss the indictment. He supported his decision on two grounds: first, the conspiracy charged in the current indictment was not the same as that...

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