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United States v. Nestor

July 6, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
MATTHEW NESTOR, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are various motions by Defendant Matthew Nestor. These motions include a Motion to Dismiss Count 1 and Count 2 of the Indictment (Doc. 75), a Motion for a Bill of Particulars (Doc. 79), and a Motion for Disclosure (Doc. 108). For the reasons discussed below, the motions will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

On December 10, 2009, the Grand Jury charged Defendant Nestor with one count of conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. §371 and one count of falsification of records under 18 U.S.C. §1519. The Indictment ("Indict.") alleges the following:

On July 12, 2008 a group of six males, including, Derrick Donchack ("Donchack"), Brandon Piekarsky ("Piekarsky"), Participant # 1, and Participant # 2, assaulted L.R., a Latino Male, while members of the group yelled racial slurs. Specifically, the group yelled: "Spic," "Fucking Spic," "Go back to Mexico," and "Tell your Mexican friends to get the fuck out of Shenandoah." On July 14, 2008, as a result of the assault, L.R. died from blunt-force trauma to the head. (Indict. at 1, Doc. No. 1.)

At the time of the assault, Defendant Jason Hayes was a patrolman for the Shenandoah Police Department, was dating the mother of Piekarsky, and knew the individuals involved in the assault. Defendant William Moyer, a lieutenant in the Shenandoah Police Department, has a son who, at the time of the assault, was a high school freshman on the same football team as the individuals who assaulted L.R. Defendant Nestor, Shenandoah Chief of Police at the time of the assault, was a friend of Piekarsky's mother and had vacationed with her. (Indict. at 2.)

Defendants Nestor, Moyer, and Hayes conspired in relation to and contemplation of a matter within United States jurisdiction to falsify police reports with the intention of impeding or influencing the investigation and administration of that United States matter. (Indict. at 3.) As part of the means, manner, and object of the conspiracy, Donchak, Piekarsky, Participant # 1, Participant # 2, and two others, Person # 1 and Person # 2, provided false statements to officials regarding the assault. Furthermore, Defendants Moyer, Hayes, and Nestor intentionally failed to record inculpatory statements by Piekarsky and intentionally wrote false and misleading reports and false statements by those involved in the racially motivated assault. (Indict. at 3 - 4.)

In furtherance of the conspiracy, Defendants Moyer and Hayes detained Piekarsky, Donchak, Participant # 1, and others as they were fleeing the scene of the crime, and then released them despite the fact that Person # 3, a 911 caller, identified them as L.R.'s attackers. (Indict. at 4.) Following the assault, Piekarsky took Defendants Hayes and Moyer to the crime scene and told them about the assault. Afterwards, Piekarsky's mother, T.P., spoke to Defendant Hayes, and, while at Donchack's home told Piekarsky, Donchak, Participant # 1, Participant # 2, and others that Hayes said to "get their stories straight" because there could be a murder investigation. (Indict. at 5.) Prior to leaving Donchak's home, Donchak, Piekarsky, Participant # 1, Participant # 2, and others, created a false story which omitted the racial motivation for the assault. (Indict. at 6.) On July 13, 2008, Defendant Moyer went to Participant # 1's home to tell him to decide on a version of events to tell authorities. Between July 13 and July 16, 2008, Donchak, Participant # 1, Participant # 2, Person # 1, and Person # 2 gave false statements to police about the assault. Id.

Weeks following the assault, Defendant Moyer contacted the parents of Participant # 2, telling them to dispose of the sneakers worn on the night of the assault, and following this, Piekarsky and Donchak disposed of the sneakers they wore that night. (Indict. at 7.) On July 29, 2008, Defendant Hayes knowingly created a false report about the investigation of the assault. On or about August 1, 2008, Defendants Moyer and Hayes deliberately mischaracterized witness accounts in official reports to exculpate Piekarsky and falsely implicate Participant # 2, and Defendant Nestor reviewed and approved Hayes' report, which Nestor knew to be false. On or about July 20 and August 1, 2008, Defendant Nestor knowingly created a false report about the assault. (Indict. at 7.) Defendant Moyer created two false reports, one soon after the assault, titled "Lt. William Moyer's Incident Report regarding Case # 125-424," and one on or about August 1, 2008, titled "Investigation of Kids Running from Homicide Scene." (Indict. at 8.)

Shortly before July 24, 2008, Defendant Moyer, knowing that Piekarsky was guilty in the assault, advised the parents of Participant # 2 that the Shenandoah Police Department did not intend to file serious charges, but the District Attorney had taken over the case and Participant # 2 should take full responsibility for the assault. On March 30, 2009, T.P. called the father of Participant # 1, referencing Participant # 1's cooperation with federal authorities. She told the father that Piekarsky would not get indicted if Participant # 1 did not testify against him. (Indict. at 8.) Defendant Moyer corruptly persuaded Participant # 1 to coordinate a story with the other assailants with the intention of hindering the investigation of a federal offense. (Indict. at 11.) Defendant Moyer, in relation to a matter under FBI jurisdiction, lied about Person # 3, a 911 caller, stating that Person # 3 said they saw a man with a gun when Person # 3 actually stated he saw the group of six boys assault L.R. (Indict. at 12.)

LEGAL STANDARD

I. MOTION TO DISMISS

Rule 7(c)(1) requires an indictment to contain "a plain, concise, and written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged" and a statement of which statutes the defendant is alleged to have violated. Fed. R. Crim. P. 7(c)(1). Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(3)(B), motions claiming a defect in the indictment must be raised prior to trial. In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(3)(B) motion to dismiss, the court's role is not to determine the sufficiency of the evidence, but to determine whether the allegations in the indictment are sufficient to charge the named offense. See United States v. DeLaurentis, 230 F.3d 659, 661 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing United States v. Sampson, 371 U.S. 75, 78-79 (1962)). The trial court should consider only those objections "that are capable of determination without the trial of the general issue." United States v. Carlos Alberto Diaz-Gomez, No. CRIM. 88-484-1, 2000 WL 1868394, at *3 (E.D. Pa. 2000) (quoting United States v. Donsky, 825 F.2d 746, 751 (3d Cir. 1987)). Because a motion to dismiss should not be decided based on weigh of the evidenc, the allegations in the indictment are assumed to be true. See Diaz-Gomez, 2000 WL 1868394, at * 3.

To determine the sufficiency of an indictment, courts utilize a two part test: (1) "whether the indictment contains the elements of the offense intended to be charged and sufficiently apprises the defendant of what he must be prepared to meet, and (2) enables the defendant to plead an acquittal or conviction in bar of future prosecutions for the same offense." United States v. Oliver, No. 01-3223, 2002 WL 31474532, at *1 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting United States v. Hodge, 211 F.3d 74, 76 (3d Cir. 2000)). "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. Bryant, 556 F.Supp.2d 378, 383 - 84 (D. N.J. 2008) (quoting United States v. Kemp, 500 F.3d 257, 280 (3d Cir. 2007)). In reviewing an indictment, a court should use "common sense" to determine "whether [a defendant's] conduct, as charged 'reflect[s] a proper interpretation of criminal activity under the relevant criminal statute.'" Id. at 384 (quoting Hodge, 211 F.3d at 76; United States v. Delle Donna, 552 F.Supp.2d 475, 483 (D. N.J. 2008)).

II. MOTION FOR 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 Court of Appeals 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 Court of Appeals 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).

III. MOTION FOR DISCLOSURE

There is no constitutional right to discovery in a criminal case. United States v. Mariani, 7 F.Supp.2d 556, 561 (M.D. Pa. 1998)(Vanaskie, J.) (citing Weatherford v. Bursey, 429 U.S. 545, 559 (1977)). However, some evidence, courts have reasoned, must be disclosed to protect defendants' due process rights. For instance evidence which is both exculpatory and material must be disclosed by the government. Id. (citing Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963); United States v. Higgs, 713 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1983)). Exculpatory evidence is evidence which "goes to the heart of the defendant's guilt or innocence as well as that which might alter the jury's judgment of the credibility of a crucial prosecution witness." Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 154 (1972). Exculpatory evidence should be found to be material if it raises reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt. United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97, 112 (1976). It is within the discretion of the trial court to order pretrial disclosure of Brady and Giglio material. Higgs, 713 F.2d at 44 n.6.

DISCUSSION

I. MOTION TO ...


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