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United States of America v. Akilah Shabazz

October 26, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
AKILAH SHABAZZ, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)

MEMORANDUM

Currently before the Court is Defendant Akilah Shabazz's pro se pre-trial Motion to Compel a Bill of Particulars Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 7(f) (Doc. 103). Because the indictment and discovery sufficiently inform Shabazz of the charges against him and allow him to adequately prepare his defense and avoid surprise at trial, his motion for a bill of particulars will be denied.

BACKGROUND

On June 25, 2011, Defendant Akilah Shabazz was a passenger in a rental vehicle stopped for speeding by Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Michael T. Carroll. Kenneth F. Thompson was driving the vehicle and Shabazz was in the back seat. Following the traffic stop, a search warrant based largely on a canine sniff indicating the presence of controlled substances was executed on the vehicle. Although no drugs were ultimately discovered, twelve (12) fictitious driver's licenses were found with Shabazz's apparent photograph as well as counterfeit business and personal checks.

The matter was referred to the United States Secret Service. Secret Service Special Agent David Baker presented an affidavit of probable cause in support of the criminal complaint, and Magistrate Judge Blewitt issued a warrant for Shabazz's arrest on November 1, 2011. On March 6, 2012, Shabazz was indicted with Aggravated Identity Theft under 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1); Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Identification Documents under 18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(3); Fictitious Obligations under 18 U.S.C. § 514(a)(1); and Conspiracy to commit the aforementioned crimes under 18 U.S.C. § 371. (Doc. 22.) Shabazz pleaded not guilty to all counts on March 15, 2012.

A Superseding Indictment was filed on June 12, 2012. It charged Shabazz with the same four crimes, but expanded the time period to on or about June 1, 2011 through June 30, 2011 and added additional counts. Specifically, the Superseding Indictment charged Shabazz as a co-conspirator in possessing twenty-three (23) false identification documents, using the social security numbers of ten (10) individuals to unlawfully use such false identification documents, and possessing twelve (12) counterfeit business and personal checks. (Superseding Indictment at ¶¶ 5-7, Doc. 56.) The Grand Jury also charged Shabazz with nine (9) counts of aggravated identity theft for using the identification of nine

(9) other individuals, fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, and seven (7) counts of fictitious obligations for possession with intent to negotiate seven

(7) counterfeit checks. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-13.) Shabazz pleaded not guilty to all counts. (Doc. 60.) On October 2, 2012, Shabazz filed his Motion to Compel a Bill of Particulars Pursuant

to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 7(f) (Doc. 103). This motion is now ripe for the Court's review and will be considered below.

ANALYSIS

I. Shabazz's Motion for Bill of Particulars

Shabazz moves under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 7(f) for a bill of particulars.

A bill of particulars is a "formal, detailed statement of the claims or charges brought" by a prosecutor. Black's Law Dictionary 184 (9th ed.2009). A court is authorized under Rule 7(f) to direct the government to file a bill of particulars in order "to inform the defendant of the nature of the charges brought against him, to adequately prepare his defense, to avoid surprise during 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. 2004) (quoting United States v. Addonizio, 451 F.2d 49, 63-64 (3d Cir. 1971)). A bill of particulars "is not to be used by the defendant as a discovery tool," United States v. Fischbach & Moore, Inc., 576 F.Supp. 1384, 1389 (W.D.Pa.1983), but rather is appropriate only when "an indictment's failure to provide factual or legal information significantly impairs the defendant's ability to prepare his defense or is likely to lead to prejudicial surprise at trial," United States v. Rosa, 891 F.2d 1063, 1066 (3d Cir.1989). The Third Circuit has found that an indictment charging a statutory crime is sufficient if it substantially follows the language of the criminal statute, provided that its generality neither prejudices a defendant in preparing his defense nor endangers his constitutional guarantee against double jeopardy. See Addonizio, 451 F.2d at 58 n.7; see also United States v. Eufrasio, 935 F.2d 553, 575 (3d Cir. 1991).

Whether to grant a motion for a bill of particulars is within the discretion of the trial court. Addonizio, 451 F.2d at 64. In determining whether to grant a motion for a bill of particulars, courts must take into account "numerous countervailing considerations ranging from the personal security of witnesses to the unfairness that can result from forcing the government to commit itself to a specific version of facts before it is in a position to do so." Rosa, 891 F.2d at 1066.Additionally, "the court may consider not only the indictment, but also all the information that has been made available to the defendant." ...


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