United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
the Court is the Motion to Sever Charges (Doc. 26) filed by
Quinton Hall ("Defendant"). Through his motion,
Defendant seeks to sever the counts as charged in the
Indictment (Doc. 1) under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
8(a) and 14. The United States of America ("the
Government") has filed a response. (Doc. 33). For
reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is DENIED.
18, 2016, a Grand Jury sitting in the Middle
District of Louisiana returned a four-count Indictment
charging Defendant with various federal drug crimes.
Specifically, Count One of the Indictment charges that
beginning in or about January 2015 and continuing until in or
about August 2015, Defendant conspired to distribute and
possess with intent to distribute fifty grams or more of
methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. (Doc. 1
at p. 2). Count Two charges that on or about January 22,
2015, Defendant possessed with intent to distribute five
grams or more of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(a)(1). (Doc. 1 at p. 4). Counts Three and Four
charge that on or about August 19, 2015, Defendant
distributed fifty grams or more of methamphetamine and
possessed a firearm during and in relation to a drug
trafficking crime in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1) and 924(c)(1)(a). (Id.).
filed the instant motion on June 22, 2017, asserting that the
Court should sever Count Two from Counts One, Three and Four
of the Indictment. (Doc. 26). Defendant argues that because
Count Two charges a different transaction date from the
remaining counts, joinder of the two offenses is improper
under Rule 8(a). Alternatively, Defendant argues that even if
joinder of Count Two is proper under Rule 8(a), the Court
should nonetheless sever the counts as requested because
"[Defendant's defense will be prejudiced by the
joinder of these counts" under Rule 14.
JOINDER OF OFFENSES
8(a) permits the joinder of two or more counts against a
defendant where "the offenses charged ... are of the
same or similar character, or are based on the same act or
transaction, or are connected with or constitute parts of a
common scheme or plan." The requirements of Rule 8 are
flexible: the offenses "may comprehend a series of many
occurrences, depending not so much upon the immediateness of
their connection as upon their logical relationship."
See United States v. Butler, 429 F.3d 140, 146-47
(5th Cir. 2005) (quoting United States v.
Fortenberry, 914 F.2d 671, 675 (5th Cir. 1990)).
"Generally, the propriety of joinder under Rule 8 is to
be judged from the allegations of the indictment, which for
these purposes are assumed to be true." United
States v. Chagra, 754 F.2d 1186, 1188 (5th Cir. 1985)
(citations omitted). This Circuit broadly construes Rule 8 in
favor of initial joinder of offenses. See Butler,
429 F.3d at 146.
on the allegations contained in the Indictment, it is clear
that Count Two is properly joined with the remaining counts.
The Indictment alleges a drug conspiracy that began sometime
in January of 2015 and ended in August of 2015. During the
period of the alleged conspiracy, Defendant conspix*ed with
three unnamed individuals and on two separate occasions to
commit the substantive crimes charged in the Indictment.
"It is well settled that the joinder of otherwise
separate acts may be allowed when the acts are properly
linked by means of a conspiracy charge." United
States v. Welch, 656 F.2d 1039, 1051 (5th Cir. 1981).
The Fifth Circuit has also recognized that "[p]roof of a
conspiracy count will validate a joinder of substantive
offenses growing out of that conspiracy." United
States v. Banks, 465 F.2d 1235, 1242 (5th Cir. 1972);
see also United States v. Cartwright, 632 F.2d 1290
(5th Cir. 1980) (permitting joinder of counts of misapplying
funds of federally insured institution, falsifying documents,
and conspiracy); United States v. Nettles, 570 F.2d
547, 552 (5th Cir. 1978) ("Where a substantive count is
within the scope of a conspiracy charged then their joinder
order to prove Count One, the Government must produce
evidence demonstrating the existence of a drug conspiracy
over the period of time alleged in the Indictment, which will
inevitably require the production of evidence relating to the
substantive crimes contained Counts Two, Three and Four.
Accordingly, the Court finds that the joinder of
Defendant's substantive drug counts (Counts Two, Three
and Four) with his conspiracy count (Count One) was proper
under Rule 8(a) because they constitute parts of a common
scheme or plan. B. SEVERANCE OF OFFENSES Even if two or more
offenses are properly joined under Rule 8(a), a court may
sever the offenses under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure
14 if the court finds that joinder of the offenses would
result in prejudice to the defendant. See Fed.R.Crim.P. 14;
United States v. Neuman, 08-24, 2009 WL 273208, at *
1 (E.D. La. Jan.23, 2009). Specifically, Rule 14 states that
"[i]f the joinder of offenses or defendants in an
indictment, an information, or a consolidation for trial
appears to prejudice a defendant or the government, the court
may order separate trials of counts, sever the
defendants' trials, or provide any other relief that
justice requires." Fed.R.Crim.P. 14. Prejudice occurs
when there is a serious x*isk that a jury will be prevented
"from making a reliable judgment about guilt or
innocence." United States v. Rodriguez, 553
F.3d 380, 394 (5th Cir. 2008). Usually, any possible
prejudice "c[an] be cured with proper instructions and
juries are presumed to follow their instructions."
United States v. Bullock, 71 F.3d 171, 175 (5th Cir.
1995). A district court's decision not to sever counts
will only be reversed if "the defendant can convincingly
demonstrate that a genuine prejudice to his trial strategy
outweighed considerations of judicial economy in proceeding
with a single trial." United States v.
Williamson, 482 F.2d 508, 512 (5th Cir. 1973).
"[T]he defendant bears a heavy burden of showing
specific and compelling prejudice." United States v.
Hamilton, 694 F.2d 398, 401 (5th Cir. 1982).
Court finds that severance under Rule 14(a) is not required.
First, Defendant's vague assertions of prejudice are
insufficient as a matter of law to satisfy his burden under
Rule 14. Defendant argues, without sufficient specificity,
that if the Court denies his motion to sever, this would
impede his ability to present separate defenses relative to
the individual charges would potentially open the way for an
improper accumulation of evidence as to the separate counts.
(Doc. 26-1 at pp. 3-4). These barebones statements fall far
short of the heavy burden necessary to demonstrate compelling
prejudice for purposes of severance. "[T]he defendant
bears a heavy burden of showing specific and compelling
prejudice." See Hamilton, 694 F.2d at 401
(requiring a specific showing of compelling prejudice under
even if the Court were to accept as true any alleged
prejudice and sever Count Two from the remaining counts, the
logical relationship between all of the counts in the
Indictment requires that there be an evidentiary overlap
between the two trials. Where evidence of the severed offense
would be admissible in both trials, the defendant suffers no
unfair prejudice by a single trial of all charges. See
United States v. Ramey, No. 07-20833, 2008 WL 4582089,
at *6 (5th Cir. Oct. 15, 2008) (because "the relatedness
of the facts here makes it plain that the same facts
admissible to prove obstruction of justice would have been
admissible in a separate trial for passport fraud, " the
defendant "was not prejudiced by joinder");
United States v. Smith, 281 Fed.App'x. 303,
304-05 (5th Cir. 2008) (joinder of drug charges and
murder-for-hire charges did not result in sufficient
prejudice to warrant a Rule 14 severance where there was a
"logical relationship" between the counts);
Hamilton, 694 F.2d at 400-01 (holding that "no
significant prejudice can have resulted from denial of the
motion to sever" where "evidence relating to the
interstate theft count would doubtless have been admissible
in a separate trial of the wire fraud charges"). To the
extent thex*e is not a complete overlap in the evidence used
to prove each count of the Indictment, the Court will
consider giving a limiting ...