United States v. Rinaldi, 3:18-CR-279

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtJUDGE MARIANI
Decision Date18 December 2019
Docket Number3:18-CR-280,3:18-CR-279




December 18, 2019




Presently before the Court are fifteen pre-trial motions filed by Defendant Michael Rinaldi.

On August 21, 2018, a federal Grand Jury charged Defendants Michael Rinaldi, Dwayne Romail Brown, and Andrew Henry with one count of Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, cocaine and cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 and 846. (See 3:18-cr-279, Doc. 37). That same day, the federal grand jury also returned an indictment charging Defendants Michael Rinaldi, Steven Powell, Jessica Caldwell, and George Kokenyei with Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess

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with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 and 846. (See 3:18-cr-280, Doc. 1).

The Court thus currently has two criminal actions before it wherein Michael Rinaldi is a named defendant: 3:18-cr-279 and 3:18-cr-280.

On January 16, 2019, at the request of Defendant Rinaldi, the Court held a hearing in accordance with Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975) and United States v. Peppers, 302 F.3d 120 (3d Cir. 2002), wherein it conducted a colloquy with Defendant Rinaldi, in the presence of his CJA appointed counsel Joseph Blazosek, to determine whether Defendant Rinaldi understood the responsibilities and consequences of self-representation, was knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waiving his right to counsel, and would be permitted to represent herself. Following this colloquy, the Court determined that Mr. Rinaldi had knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived the right to counsel and understood the ramifications and consequences of proceeding pro se and therefore granted Mr. Rinaldi's request to represent himself. The Court thereafter appointed Attorney Blazosek as stand-by counsel at the request of Defendant.

Since December of 2018, Defendant Rinaldi has filed a number of pro se pretrial motions which are currently pending before this Court, including the following motions which the Court will address herein:1

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• Motion to Dismiss the Indictment (Doc. 76)
• Motion to Dismiss "Pursuant to F.R. Crim. P. 12(B)" (Doc. 77)
• "Request for a Bill of Particulars" (Doc. 80)
• "Motion to Challenge the Authenticity and Chain of Custody of the Government's Exhibits" (Doc. 82)
• Motion to Compel Discovery (Doc. 85)
• "Request to Compel" (Doc. 89)
• "Motion for Early Disclosure of Statements Pursuant to the Jencks Act and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure" (Doc. 103)
• Motion for "Pretrial Hearing to Determine Existence of Conspiracy" (Doc. 105)
• Motion for Hearing on Admissibility of Statements of Alleged Co-Conspirators (Doc. 107)
• Motion "Pursuant to Rules 404(b) and 609 of Federal Rules of Evidence" (Doc. 109)
• Motion to "Preserve and Disclose Notes, Reports, and Evidence" (Doc. 111)
• Motion for Disclosure Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 807 (Doc. 113)
• Motion to Produce Memorializing of Government Interviews (Doc. 115)
• "Motion to Join in the Motion of Co-Defendants" (Doc. 124)
• Motion for Severance (Doc. 155)

For the following reasons, the Court will deny each of Defendant's motions.2


A. Motion to Dismiss the Indictment

Rinaldi's first motion moves to dismiss the indictment on the basis that he "is not the Michael Rinaldi named in the indictment and that the United States District Court does not

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have 'in personam' jurisdiction over him." (Doc. 76, at 1; id. at 2). Rinaldi further contends that there is no case or controversy before this Court and that the United States lacks standing to bring this action against him. (Id. at 3-4). In Rinaldi's Reply brief, he clarifies his assertion that he "is not the Michael Rinaldi named in the indictment" by explaining that his "name is not MICHAEL RINALDI" and that "[a]ll capital letters denotes a corporate entity" and he "is not a corporate entity and has not entered into any agreements with the corporate United States." (Doc. 152, at 2).

Each of Rinaldi's assertions are without merit. Similar arguments premised on a defendant's claim that he or she is a "sovereign citizen" have been repeatedly rejected by Courts. In United States v. Young, the Third Circuit rejected Defendant's argument "that the District Court 'lacked jurisdiction to hear, convict, or bring any case in this fraudulently contrived Constructive Trust Case Matter'" where Defendant "generally refer[red] to her status as a foreign sovereign immune from suit." 735 F.App'x 793, 795 (3d Cir. 2018). The Circuit explained that there was "no merit to her challenge [and t]he District Court had jurisdiction to adjudicate this criminal action under 18 U.S.C. § 3231." Id. at 795-796 (citing United States v. Benabe, 654 F.3d 753, 767 (7th Cir. 2011) ("Regardless of an individual's claimed status of descent, be it as a 'sovereign citizen,' a 'secured-party creditor,' or a 'flesh-and-blood human being,' that person is not beyond the jurisdiction of the courts.")). See also, United States v. Matthews, 2011 WL 183979, *2 (M.D. Pa. 2011) (in analyzing a motion brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, finding that defense counsel was not

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ineffective for failing to challenge the Court's jurisdiction where Petitioner asserted that he was "a citizen and inhabitant of the 'Sovereign Republic of Pennsylvania' and that [the] Court lacked jurisdiction over his criminal case."); United States v. Rendon, 354 F.3d 1320, 1326 (11th Cir. 2003) ("A federal district court has personal jurisdiction to try any defendant brought before it on a federal indictment charging a violation of federal law."). In addition, 18 U.S.C. § 547 permits each United States attorney, within his district, to "prosecute for all offenses against the United States", 18 U.S.C. § 547(1), therefore granting the United States Attorney the lawful power to bring a criminal indictment against an individual.

In addressing arguments largely identical to those raised by Rinaldi, the Court in United States v. Ellis, undertook an extensive analysis in explaining why each of these arguments were without legal merit.

to the extent pro se defendant has requested and intends to request such services [of a paralegal and private investigator] to aid him in presenting a motion to dismiss based on this court's Article III jurisdiction to hear the case and the United States Attorney for the Western District's "standing" to conduct the prosecution, the motion must be denied because it is based on indisputably meritless legal theory. Although pro se defendant has latched on to the notion that to have standing in an Article III civil controversy, the party bring[ing] the action must have a concrete stake in the litigation and have suffered an injury-in-fact, he fails to appreciate the distinctions to be drawn between a criminal case and a civil controversy. And while the broad language appearing in some of the more recent Supreme Court opinions expounding on the limitations of Article III standing would appear at first brush to be irreconcilable with the traditional mechanics employed in conducting criminal prosecutions, dogmatically drawing a corollary conclusion that federal criminal prosecution is outside the jurisdictional reach of Article III is tantamount to the "absurd." See Edward Hartnett, The Standing of the United States: How Criminal Prosecutions Show that Standing Doctrine is Looking for Answers in all the Wrong Places, 97 Mich.L.Rev. 2239 (1999) (to reason and conclude from the

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current status of the Court's Article III standing doctrine that "the vast majority of federal criminal prosecutions are not 'cases' or 'controversies' and the United States lacks standing to initiate them [would,] ... [o]f course, [amount to] an absurd result.").

2007 WL 2028908, *1 (W.D.Pa. 2007). The Ellis Court further explained that

. . . lest there be any question about this court's authority to exercise jurisdiction over defendant's prosecution, one need only survey the vast array of authority conceding that "the term 'cases' in Article III includes criminal prosecutions, while the term 'controversies' does not." Hartnett, The Standing of the United States: How Criminal Prosecutions Show that Standing Doctrine is Looking for Answers in all the Wrong Places, 97 Mich.L.Rev. at 2249 & n. 56 (collecting scholarly works in support). And while one can question the ramifications of this truism on the soundness of current Article III standing doctrine, that does not change the accepted principle the "[i]n criminal cases (and perhaps more generally in Article III 'cases'), the judiciary is enforcing the sovereign's law rather than umpiring a preexisting dispute [and] [t]hus, criminal prosecutions demonstrate that, at least when exercising jurisdiction over the 'cases' enumerated in Article III, nothing in Article III limits the use of the federal judicial power to enforcement of the rights of individuals or prohibits the use of the federal judicial power to enforce the majoritarian sovereign will." Id. at 2251.

Nor can the authority of the United States attorney to prosecute offenses against the laws of the United States be seriously questioned. Through the passage of the Judiciary Act of 1789 Congress long ago gave officials acting under the authority of the Attorney General exclusive authority to control the resolution of all grand jury indictments charging federal crimes and permitted this authority to be exercised within each local district. See Harold J. Krent, Executive Control over Criminal Law Enforcement: Some Lessons from History, 38 AMULR 275, 293-96 (Winter, 1989). And the congressional directive to exercise this discretionary authority continues to this day and has a direct application to defendant's prosecution. See 28 U.S.C. § 547(1) ("... each United

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