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United States v. Fradella

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 25, 2017


         SECTION: “E” (2)


          Susie Morgan, U.S. District Court Judge.

         Before the Court is Steven Scott Sewell's motion to reconsider[1] the Court's order dismissing the original indictment[2] against Defendant Frank Fradella.[3] According to Sewell, the indictment's dismissal was procured by fraud and violated his rights as a crime victim under the Crime Victims' Rights Act (“CVRA”).[4] After careful review of the pleadings, record, and pertinent law, the Court finds it has no jurisdiction to consider the motion, as Sewell lacks standing.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Fradella was the chief executive officer of Home Solutions of America, Inc., a publicly-owned disaster restoration company based in Dallas, Texas.[5] On May 4, 2011, a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Texas indicted Fradella on three counts of securities fraud, two counts of false certification, and one count of making false and misleading statements in connection with his handling of Home Solutions' finances.[6] The Government's investigation into Fradella's crimes revealed he had bribed former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin in exchange for favorable city restoration contracts following Hurricane Katrina.[7] On May 29, 2012, as a part of his plea bargain, [8] Fradella consented to a Rule 20 transfer of his case from the Northern District of Texas to the Eastern District of Louisiana, where a grand jury investigation into Nagin's criminal conduct was ongoing.[9] On June 27, 2012, Fradella pleaded guilty to a two-count bill of information for bribing Nagin (Count 1) and falsely certifying financial reports (Count 2).[10]

         On November 26, 2014, Sewell filed a motion under the CVRA, Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (“MRVA”), [11] and Victim Witness Protection Act (“VWPA”), [12] alleging Fradella's false certifications underlying Count 2 of the Louisiana bill of information caused Sewell to suffer significant financial losses.[13] At this time, Sewell clearly was aware that Fradella had pleaded guilty to the two-count bill of information and not the six-count Texas indictment. This Court referred the motion to the magistrate judge, [14] who determined the clean hands doctrine precluded Sewell from obtaining victim status “for any purpose in the case.”[15] On February 4, 2015, over Sewell's objections, [16] this Court adopted the magistrate judge's opinion in full.[17]

         On April 10, 2015, Sewell sought a writ of mandamus under the CVRA.[18] By this time, Sewell knew Fradella's Texas indictment had been dismissed on February 19, 2015.[19] If Sewell believed the charges to which Fradella pleaded guilty in Louisiana did not encompass the full scope of Fradella's criminal conduct, Sewell could have raised that issue in this petition for mandamus.[20] Finding Sewell failed to timely seek the writ, the Fifth Circuit dismissed Sewell's petition on April 16, 2015.[21]

         This Court sentenced Fradella on February 11, 2015.[22] Over five months later, on August 3, 2015, Sewell filed a motion to unseal the sealed documents in Fradella's case.[23]In support of his motion, Sewell attached Fradella's Texas indictment, [24] the transcript of Fradella's testimony during the Nagin trial, [25] and Fradella's sentencing transcript.[26] This Court granted the motion to unseal in part on September 29, 2015, leaving sealed only Fradella's presentence report, its related documents, and the medical and personal information related to Fradella and his family.[27] Sewell filed the instant motion over five months later, on March 1, 2016.[28] In his motion, Sewell asks this Court to vacate its order and reconsider its dismissal of Fradella's Texas indictment, alleging the dismissal was obtained by fraud and in violation of the CVRA.[29]

         II. ANALYSIS

         Sewell argues that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(3) requires this Court to vacate the order dismissing Fradella's Texas indictment, as the Government obtained the dismissal by submitting “false and manufactured evidence” as a part of an “unconscionable plan or scheme . . . designed to influence the court.”[30] First, Rule 60 appears in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and provides no procedural avenue for relief in this criminal proceeding. Second, Sewell lacks standing to object to, or ask for reconsideration of, the dismissal of the indictment in this criminal case, as he is not a party to the proceedings.[31] “Unlike the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, there is no procedure for nonparty intervention into criminal cases, ”[32] and nothing in the CVRA or MVRA disturbs this well settled rule.[33]

         Congress enacted the CVRA in 2004 “to correct . . . the legacy of the poor treatment of crime victims in the criminal process.”[34] To ensure victims are “treated with fairness and with respect for [their] dignity and privacy, ”[35] the ACT affords victims the ability to assert their CVRA rights in the district court in which the defendant is being prosecuted.[36]Although the CVRA gives crime victims certain rights during the course of a criminal prosecution, [37] Congress “did not contemplate that victims would participate in criminal cases as parties with standing.”[38]

         That nonparties to criminal cases lack standing to participate in the proceedings is vital to the functioning of our criminal justice system. Hence, “nothing in [the CVRA] . . . impair[s] the prosecutorial discretion of the Attorney General or any officer under his direction.”[39] Bringing lesser charges against a cooperating witness in exchange for his testimony is commonplace. A prosecutor's ability to negotiate with defense counsel is “central to the administration of the criminal justice system, ”[40] and provides “[t]he potential to conserve valuable prosecutorial resources and for defendants to admit their crimes and receive more favorable terms at sentencing.”[41] Ultimately, Sewell, a nonparty who this Court determined is not a crime victim, has no standing to seek reconsideration of the Court's orders under the CVRA or otherwise.[42]



         Sewell's motion to reconsider is DISMISSED for lack of jurisdiction.


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