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United States v. Heitzenrater

March 9, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RICHARD HEITZENRATER AND ROBERT KUZMA



MEMORANDUM AND ORDER OF COURT

Presently before the Court for disposition is the MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF COURT ORDER OF FEBRUARY 1, 2010 AND FOR HEARING filed by Defendant Richard Heitzenrater (Document No. 44) and the RESPONSE IN OPPOSITION filed by the Government (Document No. 54).

By Order of Court filed February 1, 2010, the Court ruled upon Defendant's Omnibus Pretrial Motions. Among the eight (8) pretrial motions Defendant Heitzenrater originally filed was a Motion for Severance (Document No. 28-6) and a Motion for Discovery of Impeachment Evidence In The Form Of Favorable Treatment or Leniency to Government Witnesses (Document No. 28-7). The Court denied the Motion for Severance and granted in part and denied in part the Motion for Discovery.

In the motion sub judice, Defendant requests the Court to reconsider its decision on the two motions. For the reasons set forth more fully herein, the motion for reconsideration will be denied.

Standard of Review

The Rules of Criminal Procedure do not include a provision that governs motions for reconsideration. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that motions for reconsideration may be filed in criminal cases. See United States v. Fiorelli, 337 F.3d 282, 286 (3d Cir. 2003).

The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact, or to present newly discovered evidence. Max's Seafood Café v. Max Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). Generally, a motion for reconsideration will only be granted on one of the following three grounds: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the district court decided the motion under consideration; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest justice. Id.

A court may not grant a motion for reconsideration when the motion simply restyles or rehashes issues previously presented. Pahler v. City of Wilkes-Barre, 207 F.Supp.2d 341, 355 (M.D. Pa. 2001). A motion for reconsideration "addresses only factual and legal matters that the Court may have overlooked . . . . It is improper on a motion for reconsideration to ask the Court to rethink what [it] had already thought through - rightly or wrongly." Glendon Energy Co. v. Borough of Glendon, 836 F. Supp. 1109, 1122 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (internal citation and quotes omitted). Because federal courts have a strong interest in the finality of judgments, motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly. Rossi v. Schlarbaum, 600 F.Supp.2d 650, 670 (E.D. Pa. 2009).

Discussion

At the outset, the Court notes that Defendant's brief in support of his motion for reconsideration essentially reargues and rehashes his prior arguments. As noted supra, the Court may not grant a motion for reconsideration when the motion merely regurgitates prior argument.

Applying Max's Seafood to the instant matter, the law has not undergone an intervening change and no new evidence has surfaced with respect to either the Motion for Severance or the Motion for Discovery. Accordingly, the only way reconsideration could be granted would be if it were necessary to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.

A. Motion for Severance

Interestingly, Defendant concedes that, in his original motion, he did not provide a record to support any of his assertions, but he argues that he "was anticipating that the Court would set a hearing on this matter at which time a record could be made in this regard with counsel for co-defendant Kuzma present." Mot. at ¶ 5. However, now knowing that the Court found Defendant's original arguments to be unsupported, he continues to provide no further evidence, by way of proffer, affidavit or representation by co-defense counsel in support of his conclusory allegations regarding co-Defendant Kuzma and his anticipated exculpatory testimony.

Defendant Heitzenrater continues to offer bare assertions that his co-defendant would provide exculpatory testimony if he were tried separately. This possibility alone does not constitute the showing required for severance, or meet the threshold showing that a hearing is necessary. Counsel for co-defendant Kuzma has not affirmed either the willingness of his client to testify on behalf of defendant Heitzenrater or the exculpatory nature of any such testimony to the government.

As the Court explained in its original Order, there is a presumption against severing charges or defendants that are indicted together, especially in cases involving a conspiracy charge, unless the defendant can show that the trial would be manifestly unfair. Virgin Islands v. Sanes, 57 F.3d 338, 341-42 (3d Cir. 1995). Furthermore, there exists a preference in the federal system for joint trials of defendants who are indicted together. See Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S. 534 (1993). Joint trials of defendants charged under a single conspiracy aid the finder of fact ...


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