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United States v. Slade

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 23, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MICHAEL A. SLADE, JR. COURTENEY L. KNIGHT

MEMORANDUM

R. BARCLAY SURRICK, J.

Presently before the Court is Defendant Courteney L. Knight’s Motion to Sever (ECF No. 64), and Defendant Michael A. Slade’s Motion to Sever (ECF No. 66.) For the following reasons, Defendants’ Motions will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

On January 22, 2013, a federal grand jury returned a sixty-seven count Superseding Indictment against Dorothy June Brown, Joan Woods Chalker, Michael A. Slade, Jr., Courteney L. Knight, and Anthony Smoot. (Superseding Indictment (“Indictment”), ECF No. 47.)[2] These charges arise out of an alleged scheme perpetrated by Brown to defraud three separate charter schools out of over $6.7 million.

The first fifty-two counts of the Indictment charge Defendants Brown and Chalker with wire fraud in connection with the scheme to defraud the charter schools. All Defendants are charged in Count 53 with conspiracy to obstruct justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. In addition, Brown is named as a co-Defendant in ten substantive counts of obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) (Counts 61-62) and 18 U.S.C. § 1519 (Counts 54-59, 63, 65), and one count of witness tampering, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 1512(b)(3) (Count 67). Chalker is named as a co-Defendant in seven substantive counts of obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 1512(c)(2) (Counts 61-62) and 18 U.S.C. § 1519 (Counts 55-57, 65-66).

In addition to the conspiracy charge, Slade is charged with two substantive counts of obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1519 (Counts 59, 64). Knight is also charged with two counts of obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1519 (Counts 60, 64.) The obstruction attributed to both Knight and Slade concerns the falsification of certain school records in order to impede the federal investigation of the charter schools.

On March 18, 2013, Knight and Slade each filed a Motion to Sever. (Knight’s Mot., ECF No. 64; Slade’s Mot. ECF No. 66.)[3] The Government submitted a response to these Motions on March 22, 2013. (Gov’t’s Resp., ECF No. 90.) Argument was held on these Motions on June 20, 2013. (Min. Entry, ECF No. 106.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8

“Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8 governs joinder of offenses and joinder of defendants.” Irizarry, 341 F.3d at 287. Rule 8 provides in relevant part:

(a) Joinder of Offenses. The indictment or information may charge a defendant in separate counts with 2 or more offenses if the offenses charged—whether felonies or misdemeanors or both—are of the same or similar character, or are based on the same act or transaction, or are connected with or constitute parts of a common scheme or plan.
(b) Joinder of Defendants. The indictment or information may charge 2 or more defendants if they are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction, or in the same series of acts or transactions, constituting an offense or offenses. The defendants may be charged in one or more counts together or separately. All defendants need not be charged in each count.

Fed. R. Crim. P. 8.

The Third Circuit has determined that Rule 8(a) “‘applies only to prosecutions involving a single defendant’ and that in a multi-defendant case . . . ‘the tests for joinder of counts and defendants is merged in Rule 8(b).’” Irizarry, 341 F.3d at 287 (quoting United States v. Somers, 496 F.2d 723, 729 n.8 (3d Cir.1974)). Rule 8(b) is “less permissive” than Rule (8)(a). United States v. Eufrasio, 935 F.2d 553, 570 (3d Cir. 1991); see also United States v. Jimenez, 513 F.3d 62, 82 (3d Cir. 2008) (noting that “joinder of defendants under Rule 8(b) is a stricter standard than joinder of counts against a single defendant under Rule 8(a)”). We analyze Defendants’ joinder challenges under the less permissive Rule 8(b) standard.

In construing Rule 8(b), the Third Circuit has followed the Supreme Court in recognizing the “fundamental principle that the federal system prefers ‘joint trials of defendants who are indicted together [ ]’ because joint trials ‘promote efficiency and serve the interests of justice by avoiding the scandal and inequity of inconsistent verdicts.’” United States v. Urban, 404 F.3d 754, 775 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S. 534, 537 (1993) (alteration in original)). This is ...


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