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United States v. Baker

March 15, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


Presently before the Court is Defendant David Baker's pre-trial motion to compel discovery pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(E) and for a bill of particulars pursuant to Fed R. Crim. P. 7(f). (Doc. 35.)

Defendant is alleged to have engaged in various federal violations while acting as the executive director of the Scranton Housing Authority ("SHA"). Defendant is charged with obstruction of a federal audit in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1516 (Count 1), four (4) counts of influencing or injuring an officer or juror in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1503 (Counts 2-5), seven (7) counts of knowingly and willfully making or using false documents knowing that the documents contained false or fraudulent material and possession of false papers to defraud the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001-02 (Counts 6-12), theft or bribery concerning programs receiving Federal funds in violation of 18 U.S.C. §666(a) (Count 13), and wire, radio or television fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (Count 14). (Doc. 10.)

Defendant's motion to compel discovery will be denied as moot and the motion for a bill of particulars will be denied because the remaining requests made by Defendant are outside the appropriate scope for a bill of particulars.


I. Motion to Compel Discovery

There is no broad right to discovery in criminal cases. United States v. Ramos, 27 F.3d 65, 67-68 (3d Cir. 1994). In contrast to the wide-ranging discovery permitted under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, discovery in criminal cases is narrowly delineated by Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, with some additional material being discoverable under the Jencks Act, Brady, and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. See id. at 68.

Under Rule 16(a)(1)(E), the government must permit the defendant to inspect and copy books, papers, documents, data, photographs, tangible objects, buildings or places if the item is within the government's possession, custody or control and 1) the item is material to preparing the defense, 2) the government intends to use the item in its case-in-chief, or 3) the item was obtained from or belongs to the defendant. In Defendant's Memorandum of Law, he states that the government has offered for the defendant, "'his investigators and his attorneys to examine the United States' records and identify them, at which time copies will made (sic) and turned over to Baker.'" (Doc. 38.) Defendant has suggested that he "is willing to accept the Government's offer, and attempt to resolve this dispute in this fashion." As such, the motion to compel discovery is moot as the Defendant has agreed to resolve the discovery issues raised in his pre-trial motion in the manner described above.

II. Bill of Particulars

Rule 7(f) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that the trial court may direct the filing of a bill of particulars. The decision to grant a bill of particulars lies within the discretion of the trial court. See United States v. Armocida, 515 F.2d 49, 54 (3d Cir. 1975), cert. denied 423 U.S. 858, 96 S.Ct. 111 (1975). The Third Circuit has explained that "[t]he purpose of a bill of particulars is 'to inform the defendant of the nature of the charges brought against him, to adequately prepare his defense, to avoid surprise during the trial and to protect him against a second prosecution for an inadequately described offense.'" United States v. Urban, 404 F.3d 754, 771 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting United States v. Addonizio, 451 F.2d 49, 63-64 (3d Cir. 1972)).

Although the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure have been amended in order to "encourage a more liberal attitude by the courts toward bills of particulars," United States v. Rosa, 891 F.2d 1063, 1066 (3d Cir. 1989) (quoting Fed. R. Crim. P. advisory cmte. notes to 1966 amendments), as a practical matter, when deciding whether to direct the government to file a bill of particulars the Court must assess whether the indictment fails "to provide factual or legal information," and whether that failure "significantly impairs the defendant's ability to prepare his defense or is likely to lead to prejudicial surprise at trial." Rosa, 891 F.2d at 1066.

A bill of particulars is also designed to limit and define the government's case. See United States v. Smith, 776 F.2d 1104, 1111 (3d Cir. 1985). "As with an indictment, there can be no variance between the notice given in a bill of particulars and the evidence at trial." Id. Thus, the court must balance the defendant's need to know evidentiary-type facts in order to adequately prepare a defense with the government's need to avoid prematurely disclosing evidentiary matters to the extent that it will be unduly confined in presenting its evidence at trial. See United States v. Deerfield Specialty Papers, Inc., 501 F. Supp. 796, 809 (E.D. Pa. 1980). The defendant is not entitled to wholesale discovery of the government's evidence, nor to a list of the government's prospective witnesses. Addonizio, 451 F.2d at 64. Nor is a bill of particulars a vehicle to compel disclosure of the details of the government's theory of the case. United States v. Tedesco, 441 F. Supp. 1336, 1343 (M.D. Pa. 1977).

The Third Circuit has emphasized that the need for a bill of particulars is obviated in cases where the Government supplements a detailed charging document with substantial discovery, Urban, 404 F.3d at 772, and that bills of particulars are "not intended to provide the defendant with the fruits of the government investigation." Smith, 776 F.2d at 1111 (citations omitted). Instead, unlike discovery, a bill of particulars is intended to give the defendant only "that minimum amount of information necessary to permit the defendant to conduct his own investigation," and not to provide the defendant with the fruit of the government's investigation. Id. (emphasis in original).

In the instant case, the Defendant's motion for a bill of particulars includes sixteen (16) specific requests. The government filed a response to this motion in which it answered all of the requests by either providing the information sought by Defendant or contending that the information sought is beyond the scope of a bill of particulars. Thus, the government has obviated the need to for a bill of particulars by providing substantial discovery for the requests that it has answered in its response. As such, this Court will only discuss the remaining requests that the government argues are beyond the scope of a bill of particulars.

A. Request 1: Count One, Paragraph Three of the Indictment

The remaining sub-request here is Defendant's attempt to have the government produce the name of any SHA employees whose rights to petition for redress of grievances with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development were violated when the Defendant retaliated against them. The ...

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