United States v. Gatson, Criminal No. 13-705

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
Writing for the CourtWILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
Decision Date15 December 2014
Docket NumberCriminal No. 13-705


Criminal No. 13-705


December 15, 2014


This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Daniel Gatson's pretrial Omnibus Motion, including several supplementary requests filed by Gatson pro se. As discussed in more detail below, the Court partially grants and partially denies Gatson's motion.

I. Background

Because the Court writes this Opinion for the benefit of the parties only, it need not and will not describe the factual and procedural background of this case at much length. On July 17, 2014, the Grand Jury in and for the District of New Jersey charged Gatson in the Fourteen-Count Second Superseding Indictment (the "SSI") with conspiracy to transport and receive stolen property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and interstate transport of stolen property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 2314.

On August 19, 2014, Gatson filed a pretrial Omnibus Motion seeking various forms of relief. The Government filed its Opposition Brief to Gatson's pretrial motions on September 12, 2014. Shortly thereafter, Gatson requested to release his attorney and proceed pro se. On September 24, 2014, the Court granted his request. On October 20, 2014, Gatson submitted to the Court two additional memorandums of law: (1) a Reply Brief to the Government's Opposition Brief and (2) a Pro Se Brief, which each contained supplementary requests. On October 31, 2014, Gatson filed a letter brief seeking to amend his previous Pro Se Brief ("Amended Pro Se Brief"). Finally, at a hearing before this Court on November 24, 2014, Gatson submitted a second amendment to his Pro Se Brief ("Second

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Amended Pro Se Brief"). Gatson's Amended Pro Se Brief and Second Amended Pro Se Brief also contain supplementary requests.

The Court recognizes that Gatson's supplementary requests are out-of-time, but will nevertheless exercise its discretion to consider them on the merits. The Court will thus discuss both Gatson's original Omnibus Motion and his supplementary requests issue-by-issue below.

II. Legal Analysis

A. Dismissal of the SSI

Gatson moves to dismiss the entire SSI under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(3)(B). In analyzing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12, the Court must accept as true the facts as alleged and determine if those facts constitute a violation of the law under which the defendant is charged. United States v. Zauber, 857 F.2d 137, 144 (3d Cir. 1988). In assessing an indictment's sufficiency, the Court looks to whether it: (1) contains the elements of the offense charged, (2) sufficiently informs the defendant of the charge against which he must defend, and (3) enables him to plead an acquittal or conviction in bar of future prosecutions for the same offense. Hamling v. United States, 418 U.S. 87, 117 (1974); United States v. Vitillo, 490 F.3d 314, 321 (3d Cir. 2007). Generally, "no greater specificity than the statutory language is required so long as there is sufficient factual orientation to permit the defendant to prepare his defense and to invoke double jeopardy in the event of a subsequent prosecution." United States v. Rankin, 870 F.2d 109, 112 (3d Cir. 1989).

Here, the SSI comprises twenty-seven pages and fourteen counts. Twelve pages of text are devoted to describing the conspiracy alone. Fifty-three specific overt acts are described in detail. The substantive counts also spell out specific acts, identifying with particularity the dates the homes were burglarized, the municipality where each burglary occurred, and the dates that the stolen property was transported across state lines. Additionally, the conspiracy count sets forth the approximate monetary amounts of the cash, property, and jewelry stolen. The elements of the crimes alleged are fully stated in the charging language in each count.

Gatson seems to admit that the conspiracy charge in Count One of the SSI properly tracks the relevant statutory language, but he claims that it "is notably

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barren with specifics." Gatson Br. 4, ECF No. 68-1. He further suggests that the overt acts listed in furtherance of the conspiracy "lack essential facts." Gatson contends that while the conspiracy count describes that Gatson transported the stolen property over state lines, it fails to articulate the specific property that was transported or its estimated value. To the contrary, the SSI, which contains language tracking the relevant statute, as well as specific allegations of criminal activity, is "entirely sufficient." See, e.g., United States v. Olatunji, 872 F.2d 1161, 1168 (3d Cir. 1989). The Government has no obligation to set out in the SSI every detail regarding the stolen property, its value, or the method in which it was transported across state lines. Rather, "[i]n order to be valid, an indictment must allege that the defendant performed acts which, if proven, constituted a violation of the law that he or she is charged with violating." United States v. Hedaithy, 392 F.3d 580, 589 (3d Cir. 2004) (internal citation omitted); accord United States v. Agostino, 132 F.3d 1183, 1189 (7th Cir. 1997) ("Indictments need not exhaustively recount the facts surrounding the crime's commission.").

Similarly, Gatson argues that Counts Two through Fourteen, which charge Gatson with interstate transportation of stolen property, are defective because they fail to specify the property stolen or the general value of that property. But Gatson has received voluminous discovery detailing these specifics. See Decl. of Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Hafetz dated Sept. 12, 2014 ("First Hafetz Decl.") Ex. A, ECF No 70.1. Thus, by simply reading the discovery corresponding to each count of the SSI, Gatson has notice of the property stolen and its estimated value. Additionally, by cross-referencing the facts contained in the substantive counts with its corresponding conspiracy charge, Gatson can determine the approximate value of the property.

Further, defendants are not entitled to demand precise details about the evidence the Government anticipates will be presented at trial or the prosecution's theory of elements such as intent or knowledge. See United States v. Moyer, 674 F.3d 192, 203 (3d Cir. 2012) ("Rule 7(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure . . . does not require the indictment to include every fact to be alleged by the government.") "The defendant's constitutional right is to know the offense with which he is charged, not to know the details of how it will be proved." United States v. Kendall, 665 F.2d 126, 135 (7th Cir. 1981). Accordingly, courts have rejected similar allegations of impermissible "vagueness" or lack of notice on the ground that the Government is entitled to charge crimes such as conspiracy without listing every transaction as overt acts. See, e.g., United States v. Janati, 374 F.3d 263, 271 (4th Cir. 2004); see also United States v. Urban, 404 F.3d 754, 771 (3d

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Cir. 2004) (Hobbs Act indictment sufficiently tracked language of statute and listed sources and approximate amounts of extorted payments).

Lastly, the SSI does not present any future double-jeopardy concerns. An indictment must contain only "enough detail that [the defendant] may plead double jeopardy based on the same set of events." United States v. De La Pava, 268 F.3d 157, 162 (2d Cir. 2001). "Traditionally, courts have been understandably reluctant to interfere and require more particularity on potential double jeopardy grounds; it is a most difficult task to look ahead down the road and predict what future crimes may be charged by a subsequent indictment." United States v. Stricklin, 591 F.2d 1112, 1118-19 (5th Cir. 1979). Generally, the more detailed the indictment, the less concern with leaving the defendant open to future prosecution arising out of the same events. Id. Here, the Court finds that the SSI is sufficiently detailed to enable Gatson to plead an acquittal or conviction in bar of future prosecutions for the same offense.

In his supplementary motions, Gatson advances three additional grounds for dismissing the SSI. First, Gatson argues that the prosecutor "substantially influenced the grand jury's decision by repeatedly interjecting comments that were improper, not relevant and highly prejudicial." Pro Se Br. 63, ECF No. 77-1. This argument fails because Gatson has not provided examples of any improper comments made by the prosecutor in this case. See United States v. Hintzman, 806 F.2d 840, 843 (8th Cir. 1986) (holding that unsupported allegations of misconduct before the grand jury were insufficient, as "grand jury proceedings are afforded a strong presumption of regularity, and a defendant seeking to overcome that presumption faces a heavy burden"). Second, Gatson argues that "the discovery the United States disclosed is confusing" and "prevents [him] from understanding the specific evidence that points to each Defendant's personal involvement in the alleged conspiracy." Pro Se Br. 67-68. This argument is also unavailing. The Government is under no obligation to organize the discovery for Gatson. Further, the Court reminds Gatson that when he elected to proceed pro se, he was advised and acknowledged an understanding that he was undertaking responsibilities that might have been easier for a lawyer to perform.

Third, Gatson argues that evidence derived from the state wiretap authorization...

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