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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 ...

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