United States v. Schembari, 72-1975.

Citation484 F.2d 931
Decision Date27 September 1973
Docket NumberNo. 72-1975.,72-1975.
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Roland George SCHEMBARI, Appellant.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)

484 F.2d 931 (1973)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,
Roland George SCHEMBARI, Appellant.

No. 72-1975.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

Argued February 6, 1973.

Decided September 27, 1973.

484 F.2d 932
484 F.2d 933
Marvin D. Miller, Norfolk, Va., (court-appointed) for appellant

Paul A. Scott, Asst. U. S. Atty., (Brian P. Gettings, U. S. Atty., E. D. Virginia, on brief) for appellee.

Before BUTZNER and FIELD, Circuit Judges, and MURRAY, District Judge.

HERBERT F. MURRAY, District Judge:

Appellant, Roland G. Schembari, was arrested on May 22, 1972 by federal officers at the Pentagon building in Arlington, Virginia, on land under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, and charged in a complaint with disorderly conduct, crossing a police line, and impeding and disturbing public employees in the performance of their duties. Schembari's arrest occurred during a protest demonstration by approximately one thousand persons at the Mall entrance to the Pentagon. The following day Appellant was brought before a United States Magistrate for arraignment on this charge and at that proceeding, with counsel present, Appellant elected to be tried in a United States District Court. Thereupon Appellant was released on a $50.00 cash bond.

On Friday, June 2, 1972, Mr. Schembari pleaded not guilty in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, to a criminal information charging him with disorderly conduct; impeding and disturbing public employees in the performance of their duties in violation of Title 41, C.F.R., Section 101-19.304. Over defense counsel's objection that more than a weekend was needed to adequately prepare a defense and submit pre-trial motions, a trial date was set by the Court for the following Monday, June 5, 1972. However, later in the afternoon of June 2, Appellant filed with the District Court motions for discovery, for a more definite statement, for a continuance, and a motion for an order directing the issuance of subpoenas duces tecum. That same day the Court heard Appellant's motions for a continuance and for subpoenas duces tecum and determined that both motions should be denied.

On June 5, 1972, at the commencement of the trial proceedings, Appellant's motions for a more definite statement and for discovery and a renewed motion for a continuance were argued to the Court. Appellant's motion for a more definite statement was granted in part, his remaining motions were denied. In the trial which immediately followed, Appellant was found guilty and sentenced by the Court.

As his first ground for appeal, Appellant argues that the refusal of the trial court to grant his pre-trial motions for a continuance, for discovery and inspection, for a more definite statement, and for an order directing the issuance of subpoenas duces tecum constitutes reversible error. Appellant asserts that his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights were violated as a result of the trial court's denial of these motions.

Although Appellant was charged with a crime denominated a "petty" offense, it is clear that he was entitled, at his election, to a trial conducted in the United States District Court according to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. 18 U.S.C. Rules 1, 54. See Argersinger v. Hamlin, 407 U.S. 25, 92 S. Ct. 2006, 32 L.Ed.2d 530 (1972). Appellant's pre-trial motions must therefore be considered on the same footing as though a more serious underlying offense were involved. In weighing this aspect of the present appeal, the Court will examine each of the trial court's rulings on Appellant's motions without regard to the character or seriousness of the crime charged.

Motion for a Continuance

Appellant contends that he sought a continuance from the trial court so that he might effectively seek out witnesses and evidence for his defense. More specifically, Appellant claims that he was relying heavily on the possibility that

484 F.2d 934
there might be TV news film, still pictures or other visual recording of the Pentagon demonstration which would exculpate him. However, Appellant contends that he could not obtain such evidence during the intervening weekend between his arraignment and trial, and therefore the trial court's denial of his motion for a continuance wrongfully denied him effective assistance of counsel

The grant or denial of a motion for a continuance is a matter which lies within the sound discretion of the trial judge. Ungar v. Sarafite, 376 U.S. 575, 589, 84 S.Ct. 841, 849, 11 L.Ed.2d 921, 931 (1964); Avery v. State of Alabama, 308 U.S. 444, 446, 60 S.Ct. 321, 322, 84 L.Ed. 377, 379 (1940); United States v. Pigford, 461 F.2d 648, 649 (4th Cir. 1972); United States v. Perchalla, 407 F.2d 821, 822 (4th Cir. 1969). The trial judge's ruling on such a motion will be set aside only if it appears he has abused his discretion. United States v. Pigford, supra. This necessarily depends upon the facts and circumstances of the particular case. See Ungar v. Sarafite, supra at 590 of 376 U.S., 84 S. Ct. 841.

In the instant case, the record does not demonstrate that the trial judge abused his discretion in denying Appellant's motion for a continuance. Nowhere does the record indicate that Appellant made any factual showing to the trial court that films or photographs of the demonstration existed. Even if the trial court were persuaded that such films existed, it had no reason to assume that Appellant would appear in any of the films, or any assurance that his appearance in any film would be relevant and material to the question of his innocence under the pending criminal information. The trial court could not feel confident on the facts before it that the grant of a continuance would be of any value in securing photographic evidence, for Appellant failed to demonstrate that the material he sought could, or would, be made available to him during the period of a...

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