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United States v. Daniels

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LAZANDY DANIELS

         SECTION: “H” (4)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Lazandy Daniels's Motion to Recuse the U.S. Attorneys in the Eastern District of Louisiana (Doc. 260) and Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12 (Doc. 261). For the following reasons, these Motions are DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant Lazandy Daniels was indicted on January 14, 2016, on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base (“crack”), along with co-defendants Craig James and Leon Jackson.[1] He was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to these charges on January 27, 2016. Subsequently, on April 28, 2016, he was charged via a superseding indictment with an additional count of distribution of cocaine base (“crack”). This indictment added Joppa Jackson as a codefendant. Daniels was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the charges of the superseding indictment on May 11, 2015. Defendant now moves to dismiss the indictment and recuse the office of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana based on the alleged misconduct of Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Justin Moran, the lead case agent in this matter. The Government opposes both Motions.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         In these Motions, Defendant asks the Court to (1) dismiss the indictment and (2) disqualify the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The Court will address these requests in turn.

         I. Dismissal of the Indictment is Not Warranted

         Defendant asks this Court to dismiss the pending indictment based on the bare assertion that this case amounts to “selective prosecution” by the U.S. Attorney's office. He avers that this “selective prosecution” stems from the fact that Special Agent Justin Moran, the lead case agent in this matter, is the subject of disciplinary proceedings and that other cases headed by Moran have been dismissed. Defendant cites no law in support of such a draconian remedy, and the Court can locate none. “A selective-prosecution claim is not a defense on the merits to the criminal charge itself, but an independent assertion that the prosecutor has brought the charge for reasons forbidden by the Constitution.”[2] “The Attorney General and United States Attorneys retain broad discretion to enforce the Nation's criminal laws.”[3] Accordingly, “[t]he presumption of regularity supports their prosecutorial decisions and, in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, courts presume that they have properly discharged their official duties.”[4] In order to make out a prima facie showing of unconstitutional selective prosecution, a defendant must (1) “demonstrate that they were singled out for prosecution while others similarly situated who committed the same crime were not prosecuted” and (2) “show that the government's discriminatory selection of them for prosecution was invidious or done in bad faith-i.e., that the government selected its course of prosecution ‘because of, ' rather than ‘in spite of, ' its adverse effect upon an identifiable group.”[5]

         Defendant's argument rests on the premise that he has been singled out for prosecution because he avers that all cases in which Agent Moran was the lead investigator have either been dismissed or reassigned to other U.S. Attorneys. He has offered no support for this contention, which the Government avers is factually inaccurate. Even taken as true, this allegation, standing alone, is insufficient to make a prima facie showing of selective prosecution, as Defendant makes no allegation of bad faith on the part of the Government.

         Defendant also argues that he will “be denied his sixth amendment right to confront his accuser, Justin Moran” based on the belief that Agent Moran will assert his Fifth Amendment right not to testify. This argument misconstrues the protection provided by the Sixth Amendment. The Supreme Court has made clear that “the right to confrontation is a trial right, designed to prevent improper restrictions on the types of questions that defense counsel may ask during cross-examination.”[6] Put simply, if Agent Moran invokes his Fifth Amendment rights and does not testify at trial, the Sixth Amendment is not implicated. Accordingly, dismissal of the indictment is not warranted.

         II. Recusal of the United States Attorney's Office is Not Warranted

         Defendant next contends that the alleged misconduct of Agent Moran somehow warrants the disqualification of the entire office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “Disqualification cases are governed by state and national ethical standards adopted by the court.”[7]District courts faced with a motion to disqualify must apply the ethical standards of the district court, the state in which the district court sits, and the national standards adopted by the Fifth Circuit.[8] The Eastern District of Louisiana has adopted the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct as the local ethical standards.[9]

         Courts should not mechanically apply the rules of disqualification.[10]Instead, “court[s] must take into account not only the various ethical precepts adopted by the profession but also the social interests at stake.”[11] “All of the facts particular to a case must be considered, in the context of the relevant ethical criteria and with meticulous deference to the litigant's rights.”[12] The Court reviews motions to disqualify “with fairly strict scrutiny. Although any doubts are to be resolved in ...


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