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United States v. Taylor

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 26, 2018




         Before the court in this case with charges of sex trafficking and distribution of illicit drugs are eight pre-trial motions filed by defendant Arthur Taylor, a/k/a “Arty”, and twelve pre-trial motions filed by defendant Jamiell Sims, a/k/a “Millz.” The motions of both defendants have been briefed. For the reasons set forth below, the court will GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART the pre-trial motions of both defendants as discussed below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         By way of relevant background, on January 30, 2018, Taylor and Sims, along with others, were indicted and charged in a Second Superseding Indictment. Sims was charged with eleven counts, namely, Counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. Taylor was charged with eight counts, namely, Counts 1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13. Both defendants were basically charged with: conspiracy to distribute in excess of 100 grams of heroin, crack cocaine, molly, Percocet, and marijuana, 21 U.S.C. §846; possession with intent to distribute molly, 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1); conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, 18 U.S.C. §1594(c); four substantive counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, 18 U.S.C. §1591(a) and (b)(1) and 2; and one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, 18 U.S.C. §1951(a). With respect to the charge of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion in Count 7, this Count also contains a section that specifies 15 overt acts which were allegedly committed in furtherance of the conspiracy as well as the relevant dates that the overt acts were committed. In Counts 8-11, defendants are charged with substantive offenses of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion against the individual victims. (Doc. 504).

         On January 31, 2018, defendants were arraigned and pled not guilty to all counts of the Second Superseding Indictment against them. The defendants were then detained.

         On February 19, 2018, defendants filed their pre-trial motions. (Taylor, Docs. 542-549), (Sims, Docs. 551-562). The motions of both defendants have been briefed.

         The court will now address the motions seriatim and since the majority of the motions of each defendant are essentially the same, they will be addressed jointly. The court also directs that any of its rulings regarding the pending pre-trial motions of Taylor and Sims also apply to Jordan Capone, the third remaining defendant in this case, even though she did not file any such motions.

         The final pre-trial conference was conducted on the record on April 19, 2018, and the trial was continued at the request of Taylor to July 23, 2018.


         1. Motions for Disclosure of Confidential Informants

         Both Taylor and Sims filed motions for disclosure of confidential informants, Docs. 542, 551, and basically contend, in broad terms, that disclosure of the confidential informants is necessary to prepare a defense, to test the informants' credibility, ascertain informants' relationship to the defendants and the others charged, discover the entire scope of that relationship, and to discover exculpatory information.

         “What is usually referred to as the informer's privilege is in reality the Government's privilege to withhold from disclosure the identity of persons who furnish information of violations of law to officers charged with enforcement of that law.” U.S. v. Rivera, 524 Fed.Appx. 821, 826 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Roviaro v. United States, 353 U.S. 53, 59, 77 S.Ct. 623 (1957)). “‘The scope of the privilege is limited by its underlying purpose, ” ... which is ‘the furtherance and protection of the public interest in effective law enforcement.'” Id. at 826-27 (internal citations omitted). “The Government may be required to disclose an informant's identity when ‘(1) the [informant's] possible testimony was highly relevant; (2) it might have disclosed an entrapment; (3) it might have thrown doubt upon the defendant's identity; and (4) the informer was the sole participant other than the accused, in the transaction charged.'” Id. at 827 (citations omitted).

         It is within the district court's discretion in deciding a motion to compel the disclosure of the confidential informant's identity. U.S. v. Goode, 486 Fed.Appx. 261, 264 (3d Cir. 2012). The Third Circuit in Goode, 486 Fed.Appx. at 264-65, then explained:

The Supreme Court has held that the government's interest in its informant's confidentiality “must give way, ” Roviaro v. United States, 353 U.S. 53, 61, 77 S.Ct. 623, 1 L.Ed.2d 639 (1957), only if the informant's identity is “relevant and helpful to the defense of the accused, or is essential to a fair determination of a cause, ” Id. at 60-61. We have held that the defendant bears the burden of showing why he has a “specific need” for the disclosure of the informant's identity. United States v. Jiles, 658 F.2d 194, 197 (3d Cir.1981) (citations omitted). “[M]ere speculation” that the informant's testimony would be “helpful to [a] defendant's case is not sufficient.” Id. (citations omitted).

         Here, as the government recognizes, neither defendant meets his burden of showing a specific need for the informants' identities, and they only generally speculate that the testimony of the informants would help their cases and possibly reveal exculpatory evidence. The court finds that defendants have not satisfied any of the above stated factors specified in Rivera. Rather, the court finds that defendants seek the informants' identities to conduct a fishing expedition to try and discover information and that this is not a sufficient basis to grant their motions. See United States v. Bangaroo, 2017 WL 3495702 (M.D.Pa. Aug. 15, 2017).

         Moreover, based on the court's knowledge about the facts of this case from the co-defendants who have pled guilty, the court finds that the government also has good reason to protect the identities of its informants for their safety and, the safety of the informants is another reason why defendants' motions will be denied. See Bangaroo, 2017 WL 3495702, *6.

         Thus, if any informant will be called by the government to testify, the court will only require the government to disclose his/her identity immediately before the informant testifies. The court however will direct the government to supply defendants with any information related to confidential informants, including any and all statements that they have made recorded in any format, at the time that the government is required to disclose Jencks material.

         As such, since defendants have failed to offer sufficient evidence to show that the disclosure of the identities of the informants at this time is necessary to prepare their defense and since their need for disclosure does not outweigh the government's interests in keeping the informants confidential, Taylor's and Sims' motions for disclosure of confidential informants, Docs. 542, 551, are DENIED, except to the extent stated above.

         Sims also filed a separate motion for disclosure of exculpatory evidence and evidence bearing on the credibility of government witnesses. (Doc. 560). Sims requests that the court to direct the government to provide him exculpatory evidence and impeachment evidence under Brady and Giglio.

         The government represents that it is aware of its responsibilities under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194 (1963), and United States v. Giglio, 405 U.S. 150, 92 S.Ct. 763 (1972), regarding its trial witnesses and that it will comply with the mandates of those cases and their progeny. No doubt that under Brady the government has an obligation to disclose all evidence favorable to defendants, including both exculpatory evidence and impeachment evidence. See United States v. Moreno, 727 F.3d 255, 262 (3d. Cir. 2013). Also, it is clear that under Giglio, “the government must disclose materials that go to the question of guilt or innocence as well as materials that might affect the jury's judgment of the credibility of a crucial prosecution witness.” United States v. Friedman, 658 F.3d 342, 357 (3d Cir. 2011). The government also has a continuing obligation to disclose any such evidence to defendants. “While the failure to timely disclose exculpatory evidence is not ipso facto reversible error so long as the defendant is not ‘prevented by lack of time to make needed investigation, ' exculpatory evidence nevertheless should be disclosed without undue delay.” U.S. v. Yawson, 2014 WL 3401663, *2 (W.D.Pa. July 10, 2014) (internal citations omitted). The district court can direct when Brady material has to be disclosed to defendants. Id. (citation omitted). Thus, if the government is aware of any Brady exculpatory evidence that was not already turned over to the remaining three defendants, the court directs the government to provide such evidence to defendants immediately or as soon as it is aware of it. See id.

         Additionally, “[w]hile Brady impeachment material ordinarily need be disclosed only ‘in time for its effective use at trial, ' the Third Circuit Court of Appeals also encourages adherence to a long-standing policy of promoting early production of all types of Brady material ‘to ensure the effective administration of the criminal justice system.'” Id. (internal citations omitted). Based on the facts of this case of which the court is well-aware, the court will direct that the government provide remaining defendants with Brady impeachment material at the appropriate time under the Jencks Act.

         As such, Sims' motion for disclosure of exculpatory evidence and evidence bearing on the credibility of government witnesses, (Doc. 560), will be GRANTED IN PART as specified above.

         2. Motions for Full Discovery Under Rule 16

         Taylor and Sims filed motions for full discovery and inspection, Docs. 543, 554, pursuant to Rule 16. Defendants also seek, in part, statements of co-conspirator, including all statements given to law enforcement agencies regarding the case.

         In response, the government contends that Rule 16 does not require to disclose the names of its witnesses prior to trial. The government also indicates that it “has provided Rule 16 discovery in this case, including the recorded statement the defendant gave to the FBI after his arrest; police reports related to an incident involving the defendant[s] and a prostitute at a hotel; the defendant[s'] prior record[s]; police reports from the state of Maine related to the case; cell phone data, including videos, photos, messages related to the case; and hotel records.” Further, the government represents that it will continue to provide Rule 16 discovery to defendants as it acquires it.

         In his reply, (Doc. 602), Taylor contends that the discovery which the government has provided to defendants as of March 23, 2018 did not implicate him in any criminal activity charged in the pending Indictment. In his brief, (Doc. 567), Sims states that he “requests that the Government make an affirmative search of all its records and information and those of all related Government agencies and repositories of possible evidence responsive to [his discovery] requests, as well as all state agencies involved.”

         In U.S. v. Yawson, 2014 WL 3401663, *1 (W.D.Pa. July 10, 2014), the court stated:

Generally, governmental disclosure of evidence in criminal cases is governed by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has recognized that discovery in criminal cases is limited to those areas delineated in Rule 16(a)(1) “with some additional material being discoverable in accordance with statutory pronouncements and the due process clause of the Constitution.” United States v. Ramos, 27 F.3d 65, 68 (3d Cir. 1994). As a general matter, these other areas are limited to the Jencks Act and materials available pursuant to the “Brady doctrine.” Id.

         The court will GRANT defendants' motion for full discovery under Rule 16 and direct the government to immediately provide defendants with all material to which they are entitled under Rule 16 if it has not already done so.

         Moreover, as part of its continuing duty under Rule 16, the government recently provided the remaining defendants with additional discovery materials, including the names and partial names, with addresses and other contact information redacted, of several persons who may possess relevant information pertaining to the charges against the defendants. (See Doc. 616). Taylor did not indicate in his recent motion for a continuance of the FPTC and trial if the new discovery materials he received from the government implicates him in the charged offenses. (Doc. 616). In any event, while Taylor requested that the government provide him with additional information in his reply brief, he has now been recently provided with additional materials.

         Additionally, to the extent that defendants request the statements made by co-conspirators, the court finds that this information does not fall under Rule 16 discovery and thus, the government is not required to provide such statements to defendants at this time. In U.S. v. Cheatham,500 F.Supp.2d 528, 538 (W.D.Pa. 2007), the court stated “[d]istrict courts of the Third Circuit have consistently held that Rule 16 does not provide for the discovery of a co-conspirator's statement.”) (citations omitted). The court in Cheatham, Id. at 538-39, then “agree[d] with these courts and [found] that Rule 16 does not provide for ...

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