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United States v. Djuga

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 25, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
LEONID DJUGA

ORDER AND REASONS

LANCE M. AFRICK, District Judge.

The Court has pending before it a motion[1] filed by defendant, Leonid Djuga ("Djuga"), to dismiss count one of the indictment or, alternatively, for a bill of particulars. The government has filed a response[2] and the matter is now ripe for decision.

BACKGROUND

On July 18, 2014, the grand jury returned a three-count indictment[3] against Djuga and two co-defendants, Jesse Gore ("Gore") and Joseph Scott Carr ("Carr"). Count one of the indictment charges that:

Beginning at a time unknown, but prior to January 1, 2014, and continuing to on or about July 15, 2014, in the Eastern District of Louisiana and elsewhere, the defendants, [Djuga, Gore, and Carr] did knowingly and intentionally combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, a Schedule II drug controlled substance, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A); all in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846.[4]

Count two charges Carr with distribution of a quantity of methamphetamine and count three charges Gore with possession with the intent to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine.[5] On January 29, 2015, Carr pleaded guilty to count two and Gore pleaded guilty to count three.[6] Carr and Gore have not yet been sentenced.

Djuga moves to dismiss the count-one conspiracy charge as "impermissibly vague."[7] In the alternative, he requests a bill of particulars providing additional details regarding count one.[8] The government opposes all relief, contending that the indictment is sufficient and that Djuga has otherwise been provided with sufficient detail regarding the conspiracy charge.[9]

LAW & ANALYSIS

A. Motion to Dismiss

"An indictment is sufficient if it contains the elements of the charged offense, fairly informs the defendant of the charges against him, and ensures that there is no risk of future prosecutions for the same offense." United States v. Thomas, 348 F.3d 78, 82 (5th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Generally, an indictment which follows the language of the statute under which it is brought is sufficient to give a defendant notice of the crime of which he is charged." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). "It is well established that in an indictment for conspiring to commit an offense-in which the conspiracy is the gist of the crime-it is not necessary to allege with technical precision all the elements essential to the commission of the offense which is the object of the conspiracy.'" United States v. Lawrence, 727 F.3d 386, 397 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting United States v. Graves, 669 F.2d 964, 968 (5th Cir. 1982)). "[S]tating the manner and means is not necessary indictment language." United States v. Fernandez, 559 F.3d 303, 328 (5th Cir. 2009).

"To prove that a defendant is guilty of conspiring to distribute illegal drugs under 21 U.S.C. § 846, the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) the existence of an agreement between two or more persons to violate narcotics laws, (2) knowledge of the conspiracy and intent to join it, and (3) voluntary participation in the conspiracy." United States v. Turner, 319 F.3d 716, 721 (5th Cir. 2003). A § 846 drug conspiracy charge does not require that the government prove an overt act. See Turner, 319 F.3d at 721; see also Lawrence, 727 F.3d at 397-98 (explaining that if a statute does not require proof of an overt act, an indictment for violation of that statute need not allege any overt acts).

Count one of the indictment charges that Djuga and his co-defendants "did knowingly and intentionally combine, conspire, confederate, and agree... to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of... methamphetamine."[10] Although this indictment does "little more than recite the statutory elements of the crime, " as Djuga asserts, [11] that is all that is required, and Djuga cites no authority supporting the degree of factual specificity he demands.[12] Count one of the indictment alleges the elements of the § 846 charge in the language of the statute and it is therefore sufficient. See United States v. Lutcher, No. 03-338, 2009 WL 666767, at *3-4 (E.D. La. Mar. 10, 2009) (finding that a motion challenging the sufficiency of a substantially similar indictment charging a § 846 drug conspiracy would have been "meritless" because the indictment "tracks the statutory language in charging the defendant with conspiring to possess illegal drugs"). Accordingly, his motion to dismiss is denied.

B. Motion for a Bill of Particulars

"The purposes of a bill of particulars are to obviate surprise at trial, enable the defendant to prepare his defense with full knowledge of the charges against him, and to enable double jeopardy to be pled in case of a subsequent prosecution." United States v. Mackey, 551 F.2d 967, 970 (5th Cir. 1977). "A defendant should not use the Bill of Particulars to obtain a detailed disclosure of the government's evidence prior to trial." United States v. Kilrain, 566 F.2d 979, 985 (5th Cir. 1978) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); accord United States v. Burgin, 621 F.2d 1352, 1359 (5th Cir. 1980) (holding that a bill of particulars "is not designed to compel the government to detailed exposition of its evidence or to explain the legal theories upon which it intends to rely at trial"); United States v. Davis, 582 F.2d 947, 951 (5th Cir. 1978) ("[I]t is well established that generalized discovery is not a permissible goal of a bill of particulars."). Criminal defendants "are not entitled to discover all the overt acts that might be proved at trial" through a bill of ...


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