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United States v. Matakovich

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 19, 2017



          Cathy Bissoon United States District Judge

         For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Discovery in Aid of Sentencing and for the Appointment of a Special Master (Doc. 104) is GRANTED PN PART and DENIED PN PART.

         On May 26, 2017, after a five-day trial, a Jury found Mr. Matakovich guilty of violating 18 U.S.C. § 242, for use of excessive force against Gabriel Despres on November 28, 2015. The Jury found Mr. Matakovich not guilty of 18 U.S.C. § 1519, falsifying a record in contemplation of a federal investigation. On June 2, 2017, Defendant Stephen Matakovich filed a Motion For Discovery in Aid of Sentencing and for the Appointment of a Special Master. (Doc. 104). Sentencing in this matter is scheduled for October 24, 2017. (Doc. 112).

         Defendant argues that throughout the proceedings, "the government has repeatedly failed to comply with basic discovery requirements by withholding Brady and Rule 16 material, in part because of its repeated - and incorrect - assertion that it was only required to provide the defense with evidence it intended to use in its case in chief." (Doc. 104) at ¶ 4. As the Government nicely summarizes, Defendant's Motion makes a multitude of requests from the Court:

Specifically, the Defendant requests (1) an Order directing the Government to produce any and all materials not previously provided that were subject to disclosure under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1962) and Rule 16 (Motion, ¶ 22); (2) an Order directing the Government to provide all material the Government intends to rely upon at sentencing (Motion, ¶ 22); (3) an Order directing the Government to turn over all notes and/or reports of interviews with Gabriel Despres (Motion, ¶ 24); and (4) the appointment of a Special Master to review the discovery and provide the defense with any other materials "the government has withheld." (Motion, ¶ 26).

(Doc. 106) at 1-2.

         Defendant points to a variety of alleged evidentiary violations by the Government prior to and during trial to justify his position that the Government has failed to meet its discovery obligations and that the requested remedies are justified. See generally (Doc. 104). Defendant alleges that the Government withheld multiple pieces of evidence in violation of its pretrial discovery obligations. Specifically, (1) a photograph of the Defendant with the Aliquippa football players after his encounter with Mr. Despres; (2) an FBI Form 999 indicating that the FBI first obtained video of the incident from Heinz Field on December 7, 2015; (3) notes taken by Pittsburgh Police Lieutenant Victor Joseph that Defendant alleges were relevant to ADA Rebecca Spangler's testimony; and (4) criminal histories of Government witnesses Chelsey Jackson and the victim Gabriel Despres. (Doc. 104) at ¶¶ 7-8, 9-15, 16-18, 19.

         The Government responds first by arguing that Defendant is not entitled to any of the relief he seeks. (Doc. 106) at 3. The Government also contends that the allegation that there was a pattern of discovery violations is unfounded. (Id.) at 7-8. Additionally, the Government represents that it provided Defendant with all information and evidence to which he was legally entitled. (Doc. 106) at 3-4. Moreover, the Government states that:

Even if any of these allegations rose to the level of a discovery violation, none involved bad faith on the part of the Government, nor does the Defendant allege as much at any point in his Motion. Further, none of the alleged violations prejudiced the Defendant, and, consequently, none violated his right to a fair trial.

(Doc. 106)at8, FN3.

"After conviction, a defendant's due process right to liberty, while diminished, is still present. He retains an interest in a sentencing proceeding that is fundamentally fair." Betterman v. Montana, 136 S.Ct. 1609, 1617 (2016). A defendant's due process rights at sentencing hearings include the rights afforded under Brady, Giglio and their progeny, and require the prosecution to produce exculpatory evidence known to the prosecution to the defendant, in accordance with any deadlines established by the Court. See e.g., Brady v. Maryland, 393 U.S. 83, 87 (1963). Similarly, the Jencks Act, which is codified in Rule 32(i)(2), applies to sentencing proceedings and requires the prosecution to produce witness statements at the conclusion of direct testimony of the witness. See e.g., United States v. Rosa, 891 F.2d 1074, 1079 (3d Cir. 1989). In addition, a criminal defendant enjoys due process rights to not have his sentence enhanced based on "inaccurate information, " United States v. Reynoso, 254 F.3d 467, 473 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing United States v. Nappi, 243 F.3d 758, 763 (3d Cir. 2001)), "clearly erroneous facts, " United States v. Wise, 515 F.3d 207, 218 (3d Cir. 2008); Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 51, 128 S.Ct. 586, 169 L.Ed.2d 445 (2007), "materially false information, " United States v. McDowell, 888 F.2d 285, 290 (3d Cir. 1988), and/or "unsupported speculation, " United States v. Berry, 553 F.3d 273, 281 (3d Cir. 2009). Finally, a District Court's computation of a higher sentencing range resulting from a due process violation "too seriously affects the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings to be left uncorrected." United States v. Saferstein, 673 F.3d 237, 244 (3d Cir. 2012); United States v. Tai, 750 F.3d 309, 320 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing same).

United States v. Kubini, No. CR 11-14, 2017 WL 2573872, at *19 (W.D. Pa. June 14, 2017).


[t]he Jencks Act requires the prosecution to disclose witness statements in its possession that relate to the subject matter of the witness's testimony after the direct examination of the witness. See e.g., United States v. Merlino,349 F.3d 144, 155 (3d Cir. 2003); 18 U.S.C. ยง 3500(b); Fed. Crim. P. 32(i)(2) ("If a witness testifies at sentencing, Rule 26.2(a)-(d) and (f) applies."). The Court of Appeals has rightly recognized that: "the sentence imposed on a defendant is the most critical stage of criminal proceedings, and is, in effect, the 'bottom-line' for the defendant, particularly where the defendant has pled guilty. This being so, we can perceive no purpose in denying the defendant the ability to ...

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