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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 24, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JABOREE WILLIAMS, Defendant.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SEVER

          WILLIAM E. DUFFIN U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         On November 17, 2016, defendant Jaboree Williams moved to sever Counts Seven and Eight of his original indictment (ECF No. 21) from the remaining counts in the indictment. (ECF No. 49.) Count Seven charged Williams with conspiring to distribute heroin, and Count Eight charged Williams with distributing heroin resulting in the overdose of a third-party, “V-4.” (ECF No. 21). The remaining counts in the original indictment charged Williams with sex trafficking (Counts One through Six) and evidence destruction (Count Nine).

         On December 13, 2016, the government filed a nineteen-count superseding indictment against Williams. (ECF No. 62.) The offenses charged in Count Seven and Eight of the original indictment became Counts Nine and Ten of the superseding indictment. (ECF Nos. 21, 62.) The other added counts concerned evidence obstruction, interference with grand jury investigation, and violations of the court's no contact order. (ECF No. 62.)

         The next day, December 14, 2016, the government filed a response to the defendant's motion to sever (ECF No. 61) without addressing the impact the superseding indictment would have on Williams's motion to sever. Williams's reply (ECF No. 64) also did not address the differences between the original and superseding indictments. Nevertheless, the motion has not been withdrawn. Being fully briefed (ECF Nos. 49, 61, 64), the motion is ready for resolution.

         Williams sets forth three reasons why the two drug distribution counts should be severed from the other counts in the indictment. First, he argues that Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8(a) does not allow joinder because the drug trafficking acts and the sex trafficking acts did not constitute the same act or transaction nor are they connected by a common scheme or plan. Next Williams asserts that under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 14(a) he will be prejudiced by joinder of all of the counts. Lastly, Williams says that he will also be prejudiced by joining all of the counts in one trial because he has determined that he likely would testify in a trial regarding human trafficking but likely would not testify in a trial regarding drug trafficking.

         The government contends that Williams's drug trafficking and sex trafficking are connected with a common scheme or plan and that the evidence introduced at a sex- trafficking trial will substantially overlap with the evidence presented at a drug trafficking trial. The government asserts that one of the victims of sex trafficking identified in the indictment, “V2, ” will testify about how her involvement in the sex trafficking crimes motivated her to participate in the drug trafficking crimes. The government's theory is that Williams's sex trafficking offenses involving V2 gave him extreme control over her to the point where she was willing to aid in his drug trafficking. V2's testimony regarding the sex trafficking and drug trafficking will be inextricably intertwined.

         Analysis

         Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8(a) permits joinder of offenses if they 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.” Typically, courts judge the propriety of joinder based upon the face of the indictment rather than the evidence that supports that indictment. United States v. Berg, 714 F.3d 490, 495 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting United States v. Lanas, 324 F.3d 894, 899 (7th Cir. 2003)) (“[I]n assessing whether joinder was proper, we look solely to the face of the indictment and not to the evidence adduced later at trial.”); United States v. Alexander, 135 F.3d 470, 475 (7th Cir. 1998) (“In assessing the propriety of joinder under this rule, we look solely to the face of the government's indictment and not to any evidence ultimately presented at the defendant's trial.”); United States v. Coleman, 22 F.3d 126, 132 (7th Cir. 1994) (quoting United States v. Quintanilla, 2 F.3d 1469, 1482 (7th Cir. 1993) (“The test of misjoinder is what the indictment charges, not what the proof at trial shows.”)).

         “Judicial economy and convenience are the chief virtues of joint trials.” United States v. Coleman, 22 F.3d 126, 132 (7th Cir. 1994). Thus, “there is a strong policy preference in favor of the joinder of qualifying charges and [Rule 8a] must be broadly characterized toward that end.” Alexander, 135 F.3d at 475 (7th Cir. 1998). Whether efficiencies will be realized often depends upon the extent of evidentiary overlap between the joined charges. Coleman, 22 F.3d at 132. “Separate counts that involve much of the same evidence would, if tried separately, engender duplicative efforts at trial. On the other hand, separate counts that for the most part depend on separate evidence save fewer steps when tried together.” Id.

         The court begins with an analysis of the face of the superseding indictment. While Williams originally brought this motion to sever on the basis of the original indictment, that indictment was superseded on December 13, 2016. (ECF No. 62). Count Nine of the Superseding Indictment reads:

Beginning in approximately January of 2015, and continuing through July of 2015, in the State and Eastern District of Wisconsin, Jaboree Williams knowingly and intentionally conspired with persons known and unknown to the grand jury, to possess with the intent to distribute and distribute controlled substances, including a mixture and substance containing heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1). All in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(C) and 846.

(ECF No. 62 at 9). Count Ten of the Superseding Indictment reads:

1. On or about June 20, 2015, in the State and Eastern District of Wisconsin, Jaboree Williams knowingly distributed a mixture and substance containing heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance. 2. Serious bodily injury, including the heroin overdose of V-4, resulted from the use of the heroin distributed. All in violation of Title 21, United States ...

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