United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
B. BRODY, J.
Government charges Defendant Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu with two
counts of fraudulently attempting to obtain citizenship, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1425; four counts of fraud in
immigration documents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1546(a); three counts of false statements in relation to
naturalization, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1015(a); and
seven counts of perjury, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1621. These charges stem from Woewiyu's alleged
participation in a military organization committed to the
violent overthrow of the Liberian government, and the false
information that Woewiyu subsequently provided about his
involvement in this organization in his application for
United States citizenship.
December 20, 2017, Woewiyu filed a motion to dismiss the
indictment without prejudice for a violation of the Speedy
Trial Act. On January 31, 2018, the Court denied
Woewiyu's motion to dismiss. Woewiyu's trial is
scheduled for June 11, 2018. The following is an explanation
of the Court's decision to deny Woewiyu's motion to
dismiss the indictment without prejudice for a violation of
the Speedy Trial Act.
1972, Woewiyu has had Legal Permanent Resident status in the
United States. On or about January 23, 2006, Woewiyu applied
for United States citizenship by submitting an Immigration
and Naturalization ("INS") Form N-400. On January
30, 2014, a federal grand jury indicted Woewiyu for false
answers that he provided on his Form N-400 and during his
interview with an Immigration Services Officer.
the indictment charges that Woewiyu, along with Charles
Taylor and others, founded the National Patriotic Front of
Liberia ("NPFL"), a military organization dedicated
to the violent overthrow of the Liberian government that was
led by Samuel Doe. Indictment ¶ 5, ECF No. 1. Woewiyu
served as both the NPFL spokesman and the Minister of
Defense. Indictment ¶ 7.
September of 1990, Samuel Doe was captured, tortured, and
executed. Indictment ¶ 8. The indictment further charges
that after Doe's death, the NPFL continued "with a
brutal campaign for control of the country, " fighting
against other factions. Indictment ¶ 9. "During
defendant Woewiyu's tenure as NPFL Minister of Defense,
the NPFL conducted a particularly heinous and brutal military
campaign. It was characterized by the torture of perceived
adversaries, the execution of civilians, the killing of...
peacekeepers, the forced sexual slavery and rape of girls and
women, the conscription of child soldiers, and the murder of
humanitarian aid workers." Indictment ¶ 11.
indictment further charges that when Woewiyu applied for U.S.
citizenship in January of 2006, he made several
misrepresentations on his Form N-400 and during his interview
with an Immigration Services Officer, despite certifying
under penalty of perjury that his answers were correct.
Indictment ¶ 15. For instance, Question 10 asked
"Have you EVER advocated (either directly or
indirectly) the overthrow of any government by force or
violence?" Indictment ¶ l7.b. Woewiyu responded no,
even though he had advocated the overthrow of the Liberian
government by force or violence when it was led by Samuel
Doe. Indictment ¶ l7.b. Additionally, Question 11 asked
"Have you EVER persecuted (either directly or
indirectly) any person because of race, religion,
national origin, membership in a particular social group, or
political opinion?" Indictment ¶ l7.c. Woewiyu
responded no, even though, as a member of the NPFL, he had
"persecuted others because of their political opinions,
and membership in a particular social group." Indictment
12, 2014, the indictment against Woewiyu was unsealed. On May
13, 2014, Woewiyu made his initial appearance before a
magistrate judge. On May 16, 2014, an arraignment and
detention hearing was held. During the hearing, Woewiyu
pleaded not guilty to all counts in the indictment and the
magistrate judge ordered pretrial detention. On May 21, 2014,
the Court scheduled Woewiyu's trial for July 7, 2014.
12, 2014, the Government filed a motion to have the case
declared complex and for a continuance of the trial date. On
that same date, the Court granted the Government's motion
and ordered an open-ended "ends of justice"
continuance pursuant to the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C.
§ 3161(h)(7)(A) ("Open Ended "Ends of
Justice" Continuance"). The Court granted the
continuance on the basis of finding that the case was
"so unusual and so complex due to the nature of the
prosecution and the state of the evidence that it is
unreasonable to expect adequate preparation for pretrial
proceedings or for the trial itself within the time limits
established by the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3161
et. seq." Speedy Trial Act Order, ECF No. 13 ¶ 1.
The Court determined the case was so unusual and complex
because of: (1) novel issues in the case, involving conduct
and events that occurred decades ago on another continent
during a civil war, which would require review of complicated
documentary evidence such as ancient documents and
documentary evidence from foreign sources; (2) the
Government's ongoing efforts to obtain testimony and
recordings from foreign sources, including the Netherlands
and the United Kingdom; and (3) the "voluminous and
complicated" discovery that Defendant and his counsel
would need time to review. Speedy Trial Act Order ¶ 3.
As a result, the Court concluded that the ends of justice
served by granting the continuance outweighed the best
interests of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial.
Speedy Trial Act Order 13 ¶ 5.
September 17, 2014, Woewiyu filed a motion for pretrial
release. On October 21, 2014, the Court held a hearing
regarding Woewiyu's motion for pretrial release. During
the hearing, defense counsel indicated that obtaining
evidence in the case would "require requests that are
going to take a long time to fill." Mot. Pretrial
Release Hr'g Tr. 78:4-7 [hereinafter Release Hr'g
Tr.]. Defense counsel argued that one factor to consider in
determining whether to grant pretrial release for Woewiyu was
that "[t]his case is going to take a long time to get to
trial." Release Hr'g Tr. 109:24-25. Defense
counsel's statement prompted the Court to ask the
Government how soon it would be ready for trial. Release
Hr'g Tr. 110:2-4. The Government answered, "I would
hope to try it, Your Honor, early in 2015." Release
Hr'g Tr. 110:5-6. Defense counsel responded, "I
don't see that as remotely possible, Your Honor."
Release Hr'g Tr. 110:8-9. Defense counsel explained:
"I know I am going to have requests that are going to
take time because I suspect I'm going to be requesting
classification information and - classified information and
that's - that's going to take some period of
time." Release Hr'g Tr. 110:20-24. Relying on the
Government's motion to have the case declared complex and
for a continuance of the trial date, and the Court's
decision to grant the Government's motion to continue the
trial, defense counsel argued that the case could not be
tried for a long time because "there's still going
to be lots of discovery." Release Hr'g Tr. 111:14-21.
October 22, 2014, the Court granted Woewiyu's motion for
pretrial release. ECF No. 30. No. new trial date was set as
a result of the pretrial release hearing. Rather, defense
counsel's representation at the hearing that he suspected
he was going to request classified information triggered the
Government's obligations under the Classified Information
Procedures Act ("CIPA"). Linwood C. Wright Aff.
¶ 2, ECF No. 76 [hereinafter Wright Aff.].
on December 11, 2014, Linwood C. Wright, the Assistant United
States Attorney assigned to prosecute Woewiyu's case,
"requested that the Department of Justice's National
Security Division (NSD) ask another government entity to
conduct a prudential search request, in order to determine
whether the entity possessed classified documents relating to
[Woewiyu]." Wright Aff. ¶ 2. On January 15, 2015,
following the NSD's request, the "entity retrieved
documents that were responsive to the prudential search
request." Wright Aff. ¶ 2.
order to review the classified documents, Wright needed to
obtain additional security clearance. On February 24, 2015,
Wright was granted an additional clearance. Wright Aff.
¶ 3. Wright then coordinated with the government entity
to review the classified documents. Wright Aff. ¶ 4.
"[Wright] was granted permission to review those
documents on convenient dates specified by the government
entity, at the entity's facility." Wright Aff.
¶ 4. Wright reviewed documents on eight days during the
months of July through September 2015. As a result of his
review, Wright made "numerous classified notes."
Wright Aff. ¶ 4.
December 10, 2015, the government entity that possessed the
classified documents, reviewed Wright's classified notes,
redacted portions of them, and then transmitted them to NSD.
Wright Aff. ¶ 5. On May 17, 2016, NSD transmitted
Wright's classified notes to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation ("FBI") in Philadelphia and they were
stored in the FBI's Sensitive Compartmented Information
Facility. Wright Aff. ¶ 5.
his request and review of classified documents, Wright did
not file any motions informing the Court of his investigation
into classified documents related to Woewiyu. Notwithstanding
his failure to file any motions, however, Wright kept the
Court informed of the classified status of the case and his
ongoing efforts to obtain and review documents.
December 12, 2014 and June 10, 2016, Wright engaged in
multiple phone conversations with Criminal Deputy Clerk James
Scheidt. During these conversations, Wright
informed Scheidt of his ongoing investigation into classified
documents related to Woewiyu, and the strong likelihood that
once he completed his review the Court would need to conduct
its own review of these classified documents. Scheidt relayed
the content of these conversations to the Court, keeping the
Court apprised of the classified nature of the case and the
complex and complicated discovery process.
22, 2016, the Government filed both an Unopposed Motion to
Designate a Classified Information Security Officer and a
Motion for a Pretrial Conference Pursuant to the Classified
Information Procedures Act. ECF Nos. 44, 45. Following the
Government's filing of formal CIPA motions, the Court
began the arduous task of reviewing classified information,
which first required several staff members to obtain security
clearance and then required review of all materials in a
Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.
28, 2016, the Court granted the Government's Unopposed
Motion to Designate a Classified Information Security Officer
and designated a classified information security officer. ECF
No. 48. On March 2, 2017, the Court granted the
Government's Motion for a Pretrial Conference Pursuant to
the Classified Information Procedures Act. ECF No. 49.
April 4, 2017, Woewiyu filed a Motion in Opposition to
Bifurcated CIPA § 2 Conference that the Court denied on
April 10, 2017. ECF Nos. 51, 52.
April 12, 2017 through July 17, 2017, the parties filed three
CIPA § 4 motions. On April 12, 2017, Woewiyu filed a
Motion to Compel Discovery of CIPA § 4 Material. ECF No.
53. On June 30, 2017, the Government filed an ex parte motion
under CIPA § 4. See ECF No. 72. On July 17,