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United States of America v. Jonathan Battles


January 10, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rufe, J.


After a three-day trial, a jury convicted Defendant Jonathan Battles of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and one count of bank fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344. Battles filed post-trial motions challenging the verdict, and requested several continuances to allow for investigation, additional briefing, and to present evidence to the Court. *fn1 At this time, Battles asserts one basis for relief: that DVD recordings of police interviews of Angelique Torres, a co-conspirator who served as the Government's principal witness, were withheld in violation of Brady v. Maryland. *fn2 The Court has reviewed the trial transcripts, the parties' written submissions, the DVD recordings, and has held hearings at which the parties had the opportunity to present evidence. For the following reasons, the motions will be denied.


A. The Conspiracy

On February 5, 2009, Battles and co-defendants Angelique Torres and Tamika Booker were indicted for bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. *fn3 Battles was charged with conspiracy to defraud Commerce Bank and JP Morgan Chase Bank by stealing checks written on the JP Morgan account of the City of Arlington, Texas, and depositing these stolen checks into accounts at Commerce Bank in Philadelphia.

The evidence at trial, viewed in the light most favorable to the Government, showed that Battles led the conspiracy from Philadelphia. Battles had a romantic relationship with Torres, and he was aware that Torres, an Arlington employee, had access to checks written by Arlington on accounts maintained at JP Morgan and payable to individuals and vendors providing services to Arlington. Between February 2, 2007, and July 2, 2007, Battles instructed Torres to steal checks and send them to him in Philadelphia. Battles then gave the stolen checks to Booker, who deposited them in bank accounts she had opened in Philadelphia. When the scheme was discovered, Arlington police detectives questioned Torres about the missing checks, and she eventually implicated Battles. Pursuant to a cooperation plea agreement, she testified for the Government at trial.

B. The Police Interviews of Torres

Battles contends that the Government failed to turn over DVD recordings of three interviews of Torres conducted by Arlington police, and that its failure to do so constitutes a Brady violation. Before trial, the Assistant United States Attorney ("AUSA") provided defense counsel with what he characterized as, and believed at the time was, his entire investigative file. Because the AUSA had no specific recollection of seeing or turning over any DVDs, he conceded to the Court for purposes of the motions that the DVDs had not been produced to the defense. *fn4 Written summaries of two of the three interviews were produced, however, as part of the investigative file.

1. The December 19, 2007 Interview

The first DVD at issue in this case contains the initial interview of Torres, which was conducted by Arlington police detectives on December 19, 2007. The AUSA received a copy of the DVD before trial, but defense counsel did not receive a copy until November 5, 2010, long after the trial concluded. *fn5 Before trial the Government did produce to defense counsel a police report containing a summary of the interview. *fn6 The summary noted that the interview was recorded: "The [December 19] interview of Torres was video taped and will be maintained by the Arlington Police Department for evidentiary purposes. A copy of the interview will be made available to the [Tarrant County, Texas District Attorney's] office upon their request." *fn7 Despite having this notice of the DVD's existence, defense counsel did not request a copy before trial. *fn8

The police summary of the December 19 interview is detailed, describing how over the course of the interview, Torres contradicted herself, was evasive, and lied to detectives about knowing Battles, her relationship with him, and the nature and extent of her interactions with him. *fn9 It reports that Torres initially gave a false name for an acquaintance in Philadelphia before eventually admitting that she knew Battles and that they had a relationship. *fn10

The summary also describes how Torres lied about whether she knew about or was involved in the theft of checks, before eventually admitting that she had taken five checks. The summary notes that during the interview, Torres denied having any additional checks, but that a later search of Torres's home uncovered a total of eight municipal checks and two additional vendor checks. *fn11

2. The January 18, 2008 Interview

A second recorded interview of Torres occurred on January 18, 2008. It appears that neither the DVD nor a summary of this interview was in the AUSA's possession before trial. *fn12

The AUSA and the case agent first learned of this DVD when it was attached to one of Battles's post-trial filings with this Court. *fn13 Defense counsel obtained this DVD directly from the police on her own initiative after Battles's trial. *fn14 During this interview, Torres was much more cooperative, and recanted much of what she had said in the December 19 interview.

3. The January 22, 2008 Interview

Torres's third and final interview with the Arlington police, on January 22, 2008, was also recorded on DVD. For purposes of the motions before it, the Court assumes that the AUSA received a copy of the DVD from the Arlington police before trial, but failed to produce it to Battles or his counsel. *fn15 As with the first interview, the AUSA produced to defense counsel a police report summarizing the interview before trial; unlike the summary of the first interview, this summary did not state that the interview had been recorded. *fn16 According to the summary, Torres acknowledged her relationship with Battles and involvement in the conspiracy during the interview. *fn17 She described her visits and communications with Battles during the conspiracy, and provided the email addresses by which they corresponded. *fn18 Torres stated that Battles told her that he did not want to correspond about the stolen checks by phone. *fn19 Torres also stated that she had telephoned Battles before the December 19 interview, and Battles told her what she should tell detectives. *fn20 She stated that Battles instructed her not to implicate him in the scheme *fn21 and stated that Battles instructed her to lie and say that she and Booker were friends and had met online. *fn22

Despite having the summary of the January 22 interview, and knowledge that one of Torres's prior interviews had been recorded, defense counsel did not inquire before trial whether the interview had been recorded. *fn23 Defense counsel received a copy of the interview DVD on November 5, 2010, after the trial. *fn24

C. The Evidence at Trial

1. Torres's Testimony

At trial, Torres testified that she was working for Arlington as a payroll processor when she met Battles through a dating website. *fn25 She described their frequent telephone conversations and online correspondence. *fn26 Torres identified Battles's phone number, address, business name, and the instant messaging name with which she communicated with him. *fn27

Torres testified that Battles expressed interest in starting a business, called AXXS, but lacked the necessary start-up capital. *fn28 She described how Battles began asking about her role as a payroll processor, whether she had access to checks, and whether she would be willing to steal

Arlington checks for him. *fn29 During direct examination, Torres described how she succumbed to Battles's repeated requests for checks, and admitted to stealing five payroll checks presented at trial for identification. *fn30

Torres also testified that on December 19, 2007, Arlington police approached her at work and asked her to accompany them to the station for questioning. *fn31 As she drove to the station, she called Battles, who instructed her to lie to police about his name and his involvement in the crime. *fn32 Torres readily admitted on direct examination that she had lied to Arlington police about whether she had any information about the missing checks and about Battles's real name. *fn33

She testified that, after repeated questioning over the course of the investigation, and after being confronted with documents by Arlington detectives, she finally admitted Battles's real name, her relationship with him, and her role in stealing the checks. *fn34 Lastly, Torres testified that she had pled guilty to bank fraud and was testifying pursuant to a cooperation plea agreement in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence. *fn35

On cross-examination, defense counsel chose to challenge Torres's credibility by emphasizing discrepancies in her recollection of events and her dishonesty with police. Counsel did not try to elicit testimony that Battles was not part of the conspiracy. *fn36

2. Corroborating Evidence

At trial, virtually every aspect of Torres's testimony was corroborated by documentary evidence and the testimony of other witnesses. *fn37 Special Agent Koerber of the United States Secret Service testified extensively about phone records that linked communications between Battles and Booker with dates on which stolen checks were deposited. *fn38 Agent Koerber also testified regarding airline records and Battles's cell phone roaming records, which match the dates that Torres testified Battles visited her in Texas during the course of the conspiracy. *fn39

Torres's testimony that she and Battles corresponded online about invoices was confirmed by Exhibit 15, which contained the text of one of those conversations, and by the testimony of Sharon Warnke, a witness who had a long-term relationship with Battles. *fn40 In addition, Warnke and another witness, Diane Misciagna, both confirmed Battles's cell phone number, allowing for corroboration of Torres's testimony about telephone contacts. *fn41

Misciagna testified that she met Battles through the same online dating website on which Torres met Battles, and that he mentioned he wanted to start an adult entertainment business called AXXS. *fn42 Misciagna also confirmed Battles's Holland, Bucks County, Pennsylvania address, to which Torres testified she sent at least one check. *fn43 Torres's testimony about this address was also confirmed by an envelope made out to that address, which police found in her home. *fn44 Misciagna also testified that during her relationship with Battles, he told her of his friendship with Booker and Torres. *fn45

The testimony of an investigative analyst for TD Bank (the successor entity to Commerce Bank) testified that Booker had opened two accounts at a Philadelphia bank branch, where Booker deposited the stolen checks. *fn46 Bank records confirmed that each check Torres testified she had stolen and given to Defendant was ultimately deposited by Booker into one of these bank accounts. *fn47 The bank analyst testified that bank records showed that Battles had attempted to access the account by phone and attempted to transfer funds two days after Booker had deposited a stolen check. *fn48


Battles seeks to have the Court vacate the criminal judgment and to dismiss the indictment with prejudice, barring a retrial, based on claimed violations of the Government's obligations under Brady. The Third Circuit has held that "[w]hile retrial is normally the most severe sanction available for a Brady violation, where a defendant can show both willful misconduct by the government, and prejudice, dismissal may be proper." *fn49 The Court notes at the outset that there has been no evidence of deliberate misconduct or a reckless disregard of its duties under Brady by the Government in this case. Therefore, the only relief available to Battles would be a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33, which provides that "[u]pon the defendant's motion, the court may vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires." *fn50 The burden lies with the defendant to prove that a new trial should be granted, *fn51 and the decision to grant a motion for a new trial is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. *fn52


In Brady, the Supreme Court held that "suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution." *fn53 To constitute a Brady violation, "[t]he evidence at issue must be favorable to the accused, either because it is exculpatory, or because it is impeaching; that evidence must have been suppressed by the State, either willfully or inadvertently; and prejudice must have ensued." *fn54 Where, as here, the undisclosed evidence goes to the credibility of a witness, the Third Circuit has held that although "undisclosed Brady material that would have provided a different avenue of impeachment is material, even where the witness is otherwise impeached," *fn55 "it is only those new avenues of impeachment that sufficiently undermine confidence in the verdict that will make out a successful Brady claim." *fn56 In this case, written summaries of two of the interviews were produced to Battles before trial. The summaries provided ample material with which the defense could challenge Torres's credibility, and Torres's lies and omissions were explored both in Torres's direct testimony and on cross-examination. Further, none of the DVDs was material in this case, and Battles was not prejudiced by not receiving the DVDs before trial. *fn57

A. The December 19, 2007 interview DVD was not material

Battles has not identified any avenues of impeachment revealed by the DVD of the December 19, 2007 interview that were not already apparent from the police summary. Battles has not established that the DVD itself was material, and has not explained why he failed to request the DVD when the summary made clear that the interview had been recorded and the recording maintained. *fn58 The Court has viewed the DVD and finds that the summary produced before trial fairly and accurately represents the contents of the interview with regard to possible material for impeachment.

B. The January 18, 2008 interview was not material

Although neither a summary nor a copy of the DVD of the January 18, 2008 interview was produced before trial, Battles has not established a Brady violation. Battles argued that the interview revealed several issues that could have been explored during cross-examination, including that Torres admitted that she knew how to electronically access Booker's bank accounts by telephone, and that therefore Torres could have coordinated bank transfers with Booker, thus playing a greater role in the conspiracy than she acknowledged. *fn59 Battles also argued that Torres's credibility could have been challenged based on her interview statement that a Wal-Mart gift card was found in an envelope in her house, when in fact police found additional stolen checks in that envelope. *fn60 After viewing the DVD, the Court cannot agree with counsel's characterization of its contents, *fn61 and is persuaded that any additional evidence revealed in the January 18 interview was cumulative and not material. *fn62

Defense counsel also argued that the recording reveals that Torres was "coached" by Arlington detectives, who told her "it would go better for her if she implicated Mr. Battles" in the conspiracy. *fn63 Counsel also suggested that recording stopped when Torres failed to implicate Battles sufficiently, and that Torres may have been offered further incentives off the record. This is conjecture. The Court has reviewed the DVD and although it ended abruptly, its content does not indicate that the police either coached Torres or offered her incentives to implicate Battles. Moreover, Torres's incentives to testify were explored at trial: Torres testified on direct examination at trial that she was a witness for the prosecution pursuant to a plea agreement, and that she hoped to receive a more lenient sentence in exchange for her testimony. Therefore, even if the Court accepted counsel's interpretation of the interview, it adds no new information to significantly challenge Torres's credibility in light of the summaries of the other interviews that were provided to defense counsel before trial.

C. The January 22, 2008 interview DVD was not material

The Court finds that the summary produced before trial fairly and accurately represented the contents of the third interview with regard to evidence that could be used to challenge Torres's credibility. Defense counsel argued that the DVD raised questions as to whether Torres had conspired with her sister, and whether Torres's sister influenced her testimony. *fn64 During the January 22 interview, Torres consulted a notebook that her sister helped her prepare for purposes of the police interview. *fn65 Defense counsel argued that the notebook, and the fact that another envelope found in Torres's home was addressed to her sister, give rise an inference that the checks were not stolen for Battles or that Torres's sister may have been the ultimate recipient of the checks. *fn66 However, the possible existence of an envelope addressed to Torres's sister was known at trial. *fn67 This theory also fails to account for how the earlier checks came to be deposited in Philadelphia, rather than in Wisconsin, where Torres's sister apparently lives. *fn68

Battles also argued that Torres had used the name Nancy Green as the sender's name on the receipt for an express mail envelope sent to Pennsylvania, and gave conflicting statements regarding the contents of the envelope. The fact that the name Nancy Green was on the receipt had been included in the summary of the January 19 interview, and the summary noted that Torres told police that the name was fictional. *fn69 Battles therefore had sufficient information before trial to impeach Torres on this issue. Torres's misstatements concerning the contents of the envelope did not open a new avenue of impeachment; they were similar to other misstatements by Torres.

The evidence at trial, including phone and airline records, bank statements, and the testimony of witnesses who had close personal relationships with Battles, all established that the conspiracy comprised Battles, Torres, and Booker. Battles offers only conjecture of the involvement of anyone else. "Such an attenuated and unsupported assertion does not cast doubt on the outcome of the trial and thereby constitute a Brady violation." *fn70


Perhaps because of the different jurisdictions involved, not all of the witness interviews were provided to defense counsel before trial. Although this is regrettable, the Court is persuaded that the failure was not material, that Battles was not prejudiced as a result, and that he received a constitutionally fair trial. *fn71 It is undisputed that Torres lied to the police, and her inconsistent statements were the subject of both direct testimony and cross-examination. More important, the other evidence at trial, including telephone, bank, and travel records, and the testimony of other witnesses and documentary evidence corroborated the substance of Torres's testimony with regard to Battles's guilty. Battles has not established that the outcome of the trial probably would have been different if the recorded interviews had been produced before trial. Therefore, no Brady violation occurred in this case. *fn72

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