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United States v. Snoddy

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 13, 2017


         SECTION “N”

          ORDER & REASONS


         The Clerk of Court has custody of reel-to-reel tapes[1] which were pledged by defendant Donald E. Gilbreth (“Gilbreth”) in 1984 as security for the $500, 000 appearance bonds of Gilbreth and his co-defendant, David L. Snoddy (“Snoddy”), in the above-captioned criminal action.[2]After the defendants lost their appeals and reported to prison to serve their prison terms, District Judge Robert F. Collins canceled the appearance bonds and the pledge of the tapes and ordered the tapes returned to Gilbreth in 1986; approximately one month later in a supplemental order, Judge Collins ordered the tapes returned to Gilbreth's attorney, Michael S. Fawer (“Fawer”). (Docs. 343 and 345). A receipt signed by Fawer and former Deputy Clerk, Joyce A. Giliberto indicates that the Clerk of Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Loretta G. White, returned five master tapes to Fawer on September 11, 1986. Nevertheless, as of the present date, tapes remain in the custody of the Clerk of Court which appear to be the very tapes pledged by Gilbreth in 1984.[3]

         The tapes were discovered in the safe deposit box assigned to the Clerk of Court at the Whitney Bank, Poydras Street Branch, by Clerk's Office personnel, sometime after the retirement of the previous Clerk of Court. After the discovery of the tapes, the Clerk's Office made efforts to locate Gilbreth. Public records research indicated that Gilbreth died in 2005.

         Because the whereabouts of Gilbreth were unknown to the Court, on July 21, 2016, the undersigned Chief Judge appointed counsel, A. Gregory Grimsal (“Grimsal”), to represent Gilbreth as an absentee defendant and either confirm his death, locate him, or identify his heirs and/or estate representatives so that they could be notified of the deadline to file a claim of entitlement to the tapes. The Court also directed the Clerk to notify certain parties known to have been involved in the underlying criminal action of the fact that the tapes remained in the Clerk's custody and of deadline for filing any claims of entitlement to the tapes. (Doc. 397).

         The Court ordered that any person claiming ownership of and legal entitlement to the return of the pledged tapes file a motion and claim setting forth the nature and extent of their right and interest in the property on or before January 18, 2017. (Doc. 397). The deadline for filing such claims was subsequently extended to April 18, 2017. (Doc. 408).

         1. Report of Appointed Counsel regarding Donald Gilbreth

         On March 23, 2017, counsel for absentee defendant Gilbreth filed a report describing the efforts made to locate him or his heirs or estate representatives and to notify them of the instant proceedings instituted to return the pledged property. (Doc. 409). As set forth in detail in the report, counsel located Gilbreth's brother, Ruble Gilbreth (“Ruble”), who resided in Big Sandy, Tennessee, and learned from Ruble that Gilbreth died on July 17, 2005, in Memphis, Tennessee. Attached to counsel's report is a certified copy of the Certificate of Death of one Donald Evans Gilbreth indicating that at the time of his death, Gilbreth was married to Janis Ezell Collett (“Collett”). Ruble also indicated that while Gilbreth had no children with Collett, he had four children, three with a prior spouse and a son with another woman, but he could not provide their names, addresses, or any other information about them.

         Through efforts described in the report, appointed counsel located Collett, who resides in Killeen, Alabama. Collett indicated that she knew that Gilbreth had three children with a prior spouse, but other than indicating that they had been adopted by their step-father and that the last name of the sons may be McLaurin, she could not locate them. Collett indicated that Gilbreth did not have a will and that at the time she was contacted by appointed counsel, no legal process had been instituted to distribute his assets.

         Appointed counsel's independent investigation did not reveal that any probate proceedings for Gilbreth's estate had been commenced prior to the time he located Collett.

         Appointed counsel was able to determine that, prior to marrying Collett, Gilbreth had been married to Jean Miree Yuille (“Yuille”) who resided in Florence, Alabama. An online obituary indicated that she died on August 3, 2014. The obituary indicated that Yuille was survived by a son, William T. Yuille.

         Appointed counsel arranged for the below listed advertisement to be published in the legal notices sections of the (1) Times Daily (Florence, Alabama); (2) Sun Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi); (3) Daily News (Memphis, Tennessee); (4) Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee), and (5) Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana):

If you believe you are or may be a potential heir to the estate of Donald Evans Gilbreth, you may be entitled to certain property currently in the custody of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans, Louisiana. All potential claimants must file a motion asserting their claim to the property in this action entitled United States v. David L. Snoddy and Donald E. Gilbreth, Criminal Action No. 83-541, on or before April 18, 2017. For more information, please contact A. Gregory Grimsal or Alex B. Rothenberg at Gordon, Arata, McCollam, Duplantis & Eagan, LLC, 201 St. Charles Ave., Floor 40, New Orleans, Louisiana 70170, 504-582-1111.

         William Yuille, III, called appointed counsel to inquire about the advertisement in the Times Daily in Florence, Alabama. He indicated that he was Jean Yuille's son and Donald Gilbreth's step-son, that his mother and Gilbreth had no children together, and that he did not know the names or contact information of Gilbreth's biological children. He confirmed that Jean Yuille had passed away.

         On March 6, 2017, appointed counsel sent written notification of the pendency of the proceedings and the claims filing deadline by certified U.S. Mail to William Yuille, III, Ruble Gilbreth, and Janis Collett. As noted, pursuant to the Court's direction, the Clerk's Office sent notification of the claims deadline to the United States Attorney and Chief United States Probation Officer, as well as co-defendant ...

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