809 F.2d 1097 (5th Cir. 1987), 86-3379, United States v. Bruno

Docket Nº:86-3379.
Citation:809 F.2d 1097
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Vincent J. BRUNO, Russell Camardelle, a/k/a
Case Date:January 29, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 1097

809 F.2d 1097 (5th Cir. 1987)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Vincent J. BRUNO, Russell Camardelle, a/k/a "Moose," and

Rodney Camardelle, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 86-3379.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

January 29, 1987

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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        Edward J. Castaing, Jr. (court appointed), Dymond, Crull & Castaing, New Orleans, La., for Bruno.

        Dwight Doskey (court appointed), Craft & Doskey, New Orleans, La., for Camardelle.

        Joseph J. Tosh, Gretna, La., for Rodney Camardelle.

        Maury S. Epner, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., John P. Volz, U.S. Atty., New Orleans, La., for U.S.

        Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

        Before WILLIAMS, JOLLY, and DAVIS, Circuit Judges.

        E. GRADY JOLLY, Circuit Judge:

        Vincent Bruno, Russell Camardelle, and Rodney Camardelle appeal from their convictions for criminal activities arising out of their involvement in a scheme to fix a criminal case. All three appellants were convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 371. In addition, appellants Vincent Bruno and Russell Camardelle were convicted on two counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Secs. 1343 and 2.

        All three appellants argue that their conspiracy convictions were obtained in violation of their confrontation clause rights under Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476 (1968). Vincent Bruno and Russell Camardelle also argue that their conspiracy convictions should be set aside because of a variance between the indictment and the evidence developed at trial. In addition, Vincent Bruno contends that the district court erroneously admitted extrinsic offense evidence at trial and denied him the right to represent himself. He also argues that he should have been granted a severance. We conclude that none of the appellants' claims is sufficient to warrant relief, and affirm their convictions.


        The appellants were involved in a plan to fix the criminal case of Chip Langford. Chip Langford had been arrested and charged with assault and armed robbery and was imprisoned in a New Orleans jail. The scheme called for the appellant Bruno, an official in the New Orleans sheriff's office, to attempt to bribe Judge Israel Augustine, who was assigned to try Chip Langford's case.

        This is the way the scheme began: on June 3, 1981, Bobby Langford contacted the codefendant Junior Provenzano and requested Provenzano's help in securing the release of his son Chip. Provenzano

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agreed to help and promised to telephone Langford the next day. When Provenzano failed to call, Langford telephoned his number, but reached John Toal (an unindicted co-conspirator who testified for the government in this case), who falsely identified himself as Provenzano's son. Langford explained that Chip had been charged with assault and armed robbery and had been imprisoned, and that Provenzano had agreed to assist in securing Chip's release. Toal promised that the Langfords could visit Chip at the jail. Toal explained that fixing Chip's case would be expensive, but said that "the source we are going to is strong."

        Toal later contacted Provenzano and discussed his conversation with Langford. They agreed that they would attempt to extract between $30,000 and $40,000 from Langford, calculating that such a sum would enable them to bribe the necessary person or persons, as well as to keep some fraction for themselves. They also agreed that they would not tell Langford of their intention to keep some of the money. When Toal next spoke to Langford, on the morning of June 6, he again promised that, with the help of Bruno, Langford could visit Chip at the jail. In an effort to persuade Langford that fixing Chip's case would be difficult and expensive, Toal emphasized how serious Chip's predicament appeared.

        The Langfords met Toal the following day and discussed the financial situation before visiting Chip in the prison. During the visit, the Langfords met appellant Russell Camardelle (Russell) who was introduced to them as "Moose." Toal invited Russell, a guard in the prison, to join the scheme to persuade the Langfords that they could secure Chip's release, explaining that the Langfords "wanted their kid [out] of jail [and] ... would come with a good sum of money if we could get the kid out of jail." Russell agreed to join, promising that he "would contact the detectives and also the DA's office to find out just who was handling the case." He agreed to protect Chip and to deliver packages to him that his parents sent. As the Langfords left the jail, they gave Russell $100 for his efforts.

        Toal, the Langfords, and Bruno then returned to a New Orleans hotel where they met the attorney Starr, whom the Langfords agreed to wire $500 from Alabama for a retainer. The Langfords and Toal next met Rodney Camardelle (Rodney), Russell's brother, at a local restaurant. Because Russell was often difficult to contact, Rodney agreed to serve as a conduit between his brother and Toal.

        Three days later, Rodney telephoned Toal to report that Russell had discussed Chip's case with investigators from the district attorney's office and said that there was a "good inside shot that [Chip] might go and he won't do any time." Accordingly, Rodney advised Starr that he should not under any circumstances attempt to contact the district attorney and "rock the boat"; he should merely file an appearance and maintain a low profile.

        On June 13, Langford telephoned Toal, who described the group's progress in securing Chip's release. He reported that Russell had made contacts in the district attorney's office, was visiting Chip two or three times a day, and had taken Chip the packages his parents had sent, packages that prisoners were not ordinarily entitled to receive. Langford remarked that "that $100 did something to Moose." Toal also told Langford that Starr, the attorney they had retained, was preparing for a hearing the following week. Finally, Toal assured Langford that Chip was "gonna walk."

        While preparing for the hearing, Starr sought to arrange bail for Chip, but was advised by Toal and Bruno that "under no means [to] work out where [Chip] could get out on bond." Because Chip and his parents were "carnival people," Toal and Bruno thought Chip would jump bail, which would result in their receiving no payment from the Langfords.

        By June 17, Toal and Provenzano concluded that the Langfords would be unable to raise the $30,000 or more necessary to bribe either the judge or the local prosecutors.

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Thus, although they did not give up hope of the fix, they decided to tell the Langfords that Chip's case could be fixed if they were paid $10,000 within the next nine days. Toal advised Langford that the people fixing Chip's case wanted "half up front and when the boy's out ... they want the other half." Toal "guarantee[d]" that the $10,000 payment would secure Chip's release, and he assured Langford that Provenzano would "do anything in the world for you. In fact, he's not making a nickel on this thing. He's doing it because ... he don't like to see nobody in a humbug."

        Thereafter Toal informed Bruno that Langford would pay them $10,000 and that they would split the money. He also told Rodney that they would soon collect, and he contacted both Starr and Russell and asked whether they would be able to secure Chip's release if paid a sufficient sum.

        The next day, June 19, Toal telephoned the Langfords to tell them, falsely, that Provenzano was in the final stages of fixing Chip's case, and that he needed to "get them to go ahead and make a commitment on the money." The Langfords then confirmed that Provenzano would be paid $5,000 before the release and an additional $5,000 following it.

        Four days later, when Langford telephoned Toal to tell him that he had collected $5,000, Toal instructed him to put the money in large bills in an envelope and meet him in a Mobile, Alabama, hotel. That evening, June 23, Toal, Provenzano, and an assistant named John Rietzke, met with the Langfords in the bar of a Mobile, Alabama hotel. After the Langfords' arrival, Provenzano dismissed Toal and Rietzke. Provenzano promised the Langfords to obtain Chip's release within five days or to refund the $5,000 if Chip were not released. Provenzano and the Langfords then went to Langford's truck in the parking lot where Langford gave Provenzano an envelope containing $5,000 in $100 bills. Provenzano, Toal and Rietzke left for New Orleans; en route Provenzano gave Toal $2,000, explaining that he would give $1,000 from the remainder to Starr.

        Two days later, Langford telephoned Rodney and Toal to warn them that he had been questioned extensively by the FBI the preceding day. Langford asked Toal how he should explain to the authorities his meeting with Provenzano in the hotel in Mobile and his having recently borrowed a large sum of money. Privately, Toal welcomed the FBI involvement, because if the group could not secure Chip's release, they could blame their failure on the FBI. At trial he testified: "So we got the $5,000 and a good excuse for not doing anything for Chip Langford."

        In the weeks that followed, Toal maintained contact with Bruno, Rodney, Russell, and Starr in an effort to secure Chip's release, or, at least...

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