United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
K. Bredar Chief Judge.
Court held a motions hearing in this case on November 8.
2017. to address various pretrial motions, including those
filed by Defendant Jocelyn Byrd seeking dismissal of the
Superseding Indictment on speedy trial grounds (ECF No. 1043)
or. in the alternative, severance from her codefendants to
protect her right to a speedy trial (ECF No. 1041). The
issues have been briefed and argued by the parties and are
now ripe for resolution. Defendant Byrd's motions are not
without merit: however, the Court ultimately concludes that
neither her constitutional nor statutory right to a speedy
trial has been violated given the totality of the
circumstances present in this case. Moreover, severance is
not warranted on speedy trial grounds. Accordingly. Defendant
Byrd's motions will be DENIED.
September 29. 2016, a grand jury returned a two-count
Indictment against Defendant Byrd and forty codefendants
charging each of them with one count of conspiring to violate
the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
(''RICO") Act (18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)) and one
count of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to
distribute narcotics (21 U.S.C. § 846). That same day.
the grand jury also returned a four-count indictment in a
companion case. United States v. Bohl. et
al., Case No. JKB-16-484 (D. Md. 2016). naming
thirty-nine codefendants and alleging similar charges. As in
this case, all of the defendants in Bohl were
charged with one count of conspiring to violate RICO (18
U.S.C. § 1962(d)) and one count of conspiring to
distribute and possess with intent to distribute narcotics
(21 U.S.C. § 846). Thus, a total of eighty defendants
were charged with racketeering conspiracy across the two
closely related cases.
indictments alleged a wide-ranging conspiracy to violate RICO
through an agreement to carry out racketeering acts at
Eastern Correctional Institution ("ECI"). a
medium-security prison operated by the Maryland Department of
Public Safety and Correctional Services. ECI houses more than
3.300 inmates and employs over 600 correctional officers,
making it the largest state prison in Maryland. The facility
is divided into two wings (east and west) on a 620-acre
parcel of land near Westover, Maryland, in Somerset County,
on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The indictments alleged that
three categories of individuals-inmates, correctional
officers, and outside facilitators-conspired to enrich
themselves and corrupt the legitimate purposes of ECI through
the distribution of drugs and contraband inside the prison.
Additionally, the indictments alleged that various defendants
engaged in bribery and money laundering in furtherance of the
purported enterprise. Defendant Byrd, who was a correctional
officer at ECI. is alleged to have participated in multiple
racketeering acts in furtherance of the charged enterprise.
October 5. 2016. Defendant Byrd made her initial appearance
before the Court. The last of her codefendants had his
initial appearance before the Court on November 9. 2016. On
December 16. 2016. the Government filed motions in both cases
(Case No. 16-484. ECF No. 395; Case No. 16-485, ECF No. 413)
to exclude time under the Speedy Trial Act pursuant to 18
U.S.C. § 3161(h)(1), (h)(7)(A). The Government contended
that, given the number of defendants in each case and the
extensive discovery materials, additional time beyond the
seventy-day period normally required under 18 U.S.C. §
3161(c)(1) was necessary to allow the parties to conduct plea
negotiations and. in the event those negotiations were
unsuccessful, to prepare pretrial motions. The Court granted
the motions that same day, finding that "in order to
allow the Government and defense counsel to pursue plea
negotiations and in order to allow defense counsel to review
discovery and prepare pretrial motions, the ends of justice
served by continuing the trial of this matter outweigh the
best interests of the public and the defendants in a speedy
trial." (Case No. 16-484, ECF No. 396; Case No. 16-485.
ECF No. 414.) Specifically, the Court ordered that "the
time between the defendants' initial appearances and the
trial in this matter is excluded in computing the time within
which trial must commence.'' (Id.)
the Court had granted the Government's motion to exclude
time. Defendant Byrd objected on several grounds. (Case No.
16-485. ECF No. 419.) On January 6, 2017, the Court held a
hearing on Defendant Byrd's objections and ultimately
denied her motion that time not be excluded because
"plea negotiations between the Government and
codefendants in both . . . cases ha[d] been ongoing from
October 5, 2016, " the date of Defendant Byrd's
initial appearance, and "for the other reasons stated in
open court." (Case No. 16-485. ECF No. 427.) At the time
of the Court's order to exclude time, the Government had
obtained guilty pleas from three of Defendant Byrd's
codefendants and from two defendants in the companion case.
Since that time, an additional sixty-one defendants have
pleaded guilty between the two cases-an average of more than
one guilty plea per week over the last ten months.
September 12, 2017. the grand jury returned a Superseding
Indictment in each case. charging each of the remaining
defendants with one count of violating RICO (18 U.S.C. §
1962(c))-that is. a substantive violation of RICO as opposed
to the original RICO conspiracy that was charged. (Case No.
16-484, ECF No. 860; Case No. 16-485. ECF No. 975.) Defendant
Byrd was also charged with one count of conspiring to
distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled
substances (21 U.S.C. § 841. 846) and one
forfeiture count (18 U.S.C. § 1963).
Court held a scheduling conference on October 3, 2017. During
that conference the Court set trial dates in both cases. Due
to existing conflicts between the various parties'
calendars and the Court's calendar, the earliest
available date for trial was June 18, 2018. The Court set
that date for trial in Case No. 16-485. Defendant Byrd's
case, and has since transferred the remaining defendants in
Case No. 16-484 to Judge Deborah K. Chasanow to preside over
any remaining proceedings against them. The Court also
granted the defendants in both cases an opportunity to file
additional pretrial motions relevant to the Superseding
Indictments handed down in September 2017. Defendant Byrd now
seeks dismissal under the Sixth Amendment and the Speedy
Trial Act or, alternatively, severance on speedy trial
Byrd moves to dismiss the Superseding Indictment pursuant to
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(3)(A)(iii) and 18
U.S.C. § 3162(a)(2). In other words, she contends that
both her constitutional and statutory rights to a speedy
trial have been violated. Alternatively. Defendant Byrd
argues that her trial must be severed from that of her
codefendants in order to protect her right to a speedy trial.
Defendant Byrd's arguments are far from frivolous, and
indeed, were the circumstances of this case (and its
companion case) not what they are, she very well may be
entitled to the relief she seeks. Under the totality of the
circumstances present here, however, the delay is
reasonable. Although close to crossing the line and becoming
unreasonable, the delay is justified given the scale of the
Government's investigation, the number of defendants
charged, and the Government's diligence in prosecuting
the case. More importantly. Defendant Byrd is not detained
and there is no indication that her ability to present a
defense has been or will be prejudiced by the delay. Thus,
she cannot show a violation of her constitutional or
statutory right to a speedy trial. And because the delay has
not and will not infringe on Defendant Byrd's right to a
speedy trial, severance is not necessary to protect that
Sixth Amendment Speedy Trial Right
Sixth Amendment provides that "[i]n all criminal
prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy
and public trial." U.S. Const, amend. VI. A violation of
the speedy trial right requires dismissal of the indictment.
Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514. 522 (1972). "In
order to prove a Sixth Amendment violation in this context, a
defendant must show first that the Amendment's
protections have been triggered by arrest, indictment, or
other official accusation." United States v.
Woolfolk. 399 F.3d 590, 597 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal
quotations omitted). If the Sixth Amendment protections are
triggered, and there is no dispute that they are here, a
court next must consider whether dismissal is warranted based
on the totality of the circumstances, paying particular
attention to the four factors identified by the Supreme Court
in Barker. Those factors are: "Length of delay,
the reason for the delay, the defendant's assertion of
h[er] right, and prejudice to the defendant."
Barker. 407 U.S. at 530; accord Woolfolk,
399 F.3d at 597.
first of these, the length of the delay, serves a dual
purpose: "In addition to being a factor, the first
inquiry is also a threshold requirement, because
"[s]imply to trigger a speedy trial analysis, an accused
must allege that the interval between accusation and trial
has crossed the threshold dividing ordinary from
presumptively prejudicial delay.""
Woolfolk. 399 F.3d at 597 (quoting Daggett v.
United States,505 U.S. 647, 651-52 (1992)). If the
delay is sufficient to trigger a full inquiry, then "the
extent to which the delay stretches beyond the bare minimum
needed to trigger judicial examination" is "one
factor among several" to be considered by the court.
Doggett, 505 U.S. at 652; see also United States
v. Hall.551 F.3d 257. 271 (4th Cir. 2009) ("To
prevail on [a] speedy trial claim.... Defendant [is]
obliged, under Barker, to establish 'that on
balance, [the] four separate factors weigh in [her]
favor.'" (quoting United States v. Thomas,55 F.3d 144. 148 (4th Cir. 1995))). Ultimately, however, none
of the four factors is "either a necessary or sufficient
condition to the finding of a deprivation of the right of
speedy trial. Rather, they are related factors and must be
considered together with ...