United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. CLIFFORD SHIRLEY, Jr., Magistrate Judge.
All pretrial motions in this case have been referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) for disposition or report and recommendation regarding disposition by the District Court as may be appropriate. This case came before the Court on May 4, 2015, for a motion hearing on all pending pretrial motions. Assistant United States Attorneys Frank M. Dale, Jr., and Jennifer Kolman appeared on behalf of the Government. Assistant Federal Defender Benjamin Gerald Sharp represented Defendant Valdez-Morales. Attorneys Charles G. Currier and William Tyler Weiss appeared on behalf of Defendant Blair. Attorney Robert R. Kurtz represented Defendant Aurora Carvajal. Attorney Jonathan Patrick Harwell represented Defendant Allen. Attorney Karmen L. Waters appeared on behalf of Defendant Luis Carvajal. Attorney Joshua D. Hedrick represented Defendant Vargas. Attorney Russell T. Greene appeared on behalf of Defendant Ayala. All Defendants, except for Defendants Vargas and Ayala, were present and participated with the aid of an interpreter. Defendants Vargas and Ayala asked to be excused from the hearing.
The Court addressed Defendant Aurora Carvajal's Motion for Designation as Complex Case and Motion to Continue all Deadlines [Doc. 40]. The motion asks to continue the May 26 trial date and all deadlines in this case due to the number of defendants, the length of the alleged conspiracy, and the voluminous discovery, some of which is in Spanish and will have to be translated. The motion relates that the Government can scan the discovery into an electronic, searchable format, which Defendant contends would greatly aid defense counsel in the review of discovery but which will take ten weeks. The motion states that all Defendants, except for Defendant Blair, join in the request to continue the trial.
Defendant Blair has responded [Doc. 46] in opposition to the request to continue the trial and declare the case to be complex. She contends that she is entitled to be tried in ninety days. She states that, if the case is declared complex, she will have to wait in custody, to the detriment of her family and her business, while the Government scans discovery, which should have been ready to distribute in the electronic form before she was charged and arrested. Alternatively, Defendant Blair maintains that if the Court designates this case as complex and continues the trial, it should release her on the current trial date.
At the May 4 hearing, Mr. Kurtz stated that the Government has disclosed fifty-two (52) bankers boxes of discovery in this case. He estimated that the boxes contained approximately 100, 000 documents. Additionally, the Defendants have yet to receive the data from some fifty digital devices that were seized in the execution of search warrants or bank records, which are still being compiled. Mr. Kurtz stated that having the paper documents available in a searchable, electronic format would aid counsel in reviewing discovery. He said that the Government could send the boxes of documents to a federal facility in Columbia, South Carolina, where they would be scanned in the same order as they presently exist in the boxes. The scanning of these documents will take approximately ten weeks. Mr. Kurtz stated that he had discussed the need for a lengthy trial continuance with Defendant Aurora Carvajal and that she agreed essentially to waive her speedy trial rights and continue the trial to early 2016.
The Government does not oppose the requested continuance. AUSA Dale said that the Government has made all the discovery available for the defendants to inspect. He stated that the IRS is scanning the bank documents locally and that these are almost ready to disclose. He stated that the Government has offered, at no cost to the Defendants, to send the hard copy discovery to a facility in South Carolina to be scanned into an electronic, searchable format. He stated that the facility scans and bates numbers the documents, maintaining the chain of custody, as well as preserving the current order of the documents.
Attorney Sharp stated that Defendant Valdez-Morales does not object to the requested trial continuance. He said that he and the Defendant have discussed the Defendant's speedy trial rights and the potential continuance. He said that although his client is also in custody, Defendant Valdez-Morales is in a different position than Defendant Blair due to his legal status.
Attorney Greene said that Defendant Ayala also does not object to the motion to continue the trial and all deadlines. He said that they had discussed the Defendant's speedy trial rights and that the Defendant did not object to the motion or to the trial being continued to the first part of next year.
Attorney Hedrick stated that Defendant Vargas agrees with the motion to continue wholeheartedly. He said that he much preferred to receive discovery in a searchable, electronic format. He stated that he had discussed the motion to continue with Defendant Vargas, who understands that she is waiving her speedy trial rights and that she will remain under her current conditions of release pending the new trial date.
Attorney Waters said that Defendant Luis Carvajal also agrees with the motion to continue the trial. She stated that he understands his speedy trial rights.
Attorney Currier stated that Defendant Blair remains opposed to a trial continuance while detained. He said that he had spent two and one-half to three days scanning two boxes of the discovery. He said that the Defendant's incarceration greatly hinders her ability to participate in the preparation of her defense. He stated that while at the jail, Defendant Blair has no access to electronics and cannot retain more than a two-inch stack of documents to review in the absence of counsel. Mr. Currier informed the Court that Defendant Blair did not waive her right to a speedy trial but, instead, wants her day in court and maintains her innocence. He stated that Defendant Blair wanted to proceed to trial on May 26 regardless of his ability to review the remaining discovery. Mr. Currier said under the present policies at the jail, the Defendant can only review documents when counsel is there. He asked the Court to order the marshals to accommodate Defendant Blair's reasonable efforts to prepare for trial. He stated that he planned to file a motion for Defendant Blair to be severed for a separate trial from that of her codefendants.
AUSA Dale responded that the Government had attempted to accommodate Mr. Currier's review of the discovery but that Mr. Currier could not review the discovery in the three weeks before the current trial date. He opined that the solution was to continue the trial so that counsel would have time to review the discovery. Mr. Dale stated that the Government had an interest in the Defendant receiving a fair trial and that it would be a waste of resources to have to try the case twice. He said that he believed the access issues at Knox County Jail could be overcome. He believed the trial of this case would take one week against a single defendant and longer against all defendants.
Mr. Currier argued that the Government should provide a statement of what evidence it intends to use in its case-in-chief. He stated that he had requested, but had yet to receive, a copy of the sealed affidavit that accompanied the search warrants in this case. Mr. Currier also requested additional time to file motions, given the difficulties he and the Defendant have had so far. He suggested an abbreviated schedule for addressing new motions but, ultimately, agreed that there was likely not enough time for the Court to hear additional motions before the May 26 trial date. He emphasized that Defendant Blair was a hard worker and that she wanted to go to trial.
The Court finds Defendant Aurora Carvajal's motion to continue the trial to be well-taken and that the ends of justice served by granting a continuance outweigh the interest of the Defendants and the public in a speedy trial. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(A). The Court begins by observing that seven Defendants are charged [Doc. 3] in a twenty-seven-page Indictment with conspiring to submit false tax claims from 2012 to December 16, 2014 (Count One). They are also charged with conspiracy to commit mail (Count Two) and wire (Count Three) fraud and with money laundering (Count Four) during that same time frame. Defendant Valdez-Morales is charged (Count Five) with illegal reentry of a previously deported alien. Discovery in this case is voluminous, involving approximately 100, 000 paper documents seized from several locations; data from digital devices; and bank records, which have yet to be disclosed. To require counsel to proceed to trial without the opportunity to review all of the discovery would be a miscarriage of justice. See 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(B)(i). ...