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United States v. Lauderdale

April 11, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RONNIE LAUDERDALE, ET AL., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

On March 30, 2007, this Court held a hearing on defendant Ronnie Lauderdale's motion to dismiss indictment (Doc. 55). At that hearing, the Court allowed Defendant and the Government to present oral argument on the issue of whether Lauderdale's statutory right to a speedy trial had been violated. The Court found that those rights had been violated and issued an Order dismissing the indictment against Defendant and ordering Defendant's immediate release from custody (see Doc. 69). At that time, this Court informed the parties that it would take under advisement the issue of whether the dismissal shall be with or without prejudice, and permitted Defendant to file a reply to the Government's response to his motion to dismiss (see Doc. 67). Defendant has done so (see Doc. 70).

Having considered the oral arguments presented by the parties at the March 30, 2007 hearing and having carefully reviewed the written record of this matter including the parties' briefs, the Court now ORDERS that the dismissal of the indictment shall be without prejudice, for the reasons set forth below.

18 U.S.C. § 3161 grants a criminal defendant a statutory right to a speedy trial. In particular, section 3161(c)(1) mandates that "the trial of a defendant charged with the commission of an offense shall commence within 70 days from the filing date (and making public) of the information or indictment, or from the date the defendant has appeared before a judicial officer of the court in which such charge is pending, whichever date occurs last." 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(1).

When a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c) is found to have occurred (as was the case in the present matter) 18 U.S.C. § 3162(a)(2) mandates that the cause of action be dismissed upon motion of the defendant. As mentioned, this Court has done so (see Doc. 69) and now turns to the question of whether the dismissal shall be with or without prejudice.

Section 3162(a)(2) governs the considerations to be weighed in determining whether a case should be dismissed with or without prejudice when a violation of § 3161(c) has occurred:

In determining whether to dismiss the case with or without prejudice, the court shall consider, among others, each of the following factors: the seriousness of the offense; the facts and circumstances of the case which led to the dismissal; and the impact of a reprosecution on the administration of this chapter and on the administration of justice.

18 U.S.C. § 3162(a)(2).

The Supreme Court has noted that "Congress did not intend any particular type of dismissal to serve as the presumptive remedy for a Speedy Trial Act violation." United States v. Taylor, 487 U.S. 326, 334 (1988). "The decision to dismiss with or without prejudice [has been] left to the guided discretion of the district court, and ... neither remedy [has been] given priority." Id. at 335. Nonetheless, district courts have been "specifically and clearly instructed" to consider the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3162(a). Id. at 336. Accordingly, the Court now considers each of those factors in making its determination.

Seriousness of the Offense

The offense Defendant is charged with in this matter, violation of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act, is serious and Defendant concedes as much (see Doc. 55, p. 3). Defendant himself approximates that he would be facing a sentence "between 15 and 60 years" if convicted of the charged offense. Id. In fact, the violation that Defendant is charged with is punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than ten years and not more than his natural life. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A).

Further, the Seventh Circuit has indicated that the possession of large amounts of cocaine is a serious offense within the context of § 3162(a)(2). See United States v. Arango, 879 F.2d 1501, 1508 (7th Cir. 1989)(delay of three months not per se substantial enough to justify dismissing charges with prejudice); see also, United States v. Regilio, 669 F.2d 1169 (7th Cir. 1982)(noting strong public interest in prosecuting drug dealers). This being the case, it is notable that Defendant's alleged conduct in the present matter is substantially more egregious than mere possession. Here, the Government alleges that Defendant made a post-arrest statement admitting not only that he possessed a substantial amount of cocaine -- twenty kilograms -- but that he in fact delivered those twenty kilograms of cocaine to one of his co-defendants the day before his arrest (see Doc. 1, ¶ 19; Doc. 67, Ex. A). In addition, Defendant admitted that he also had made two previous deliveries -- ten kilograms of cocaine each -- to the same co-defendant. Id.

In light of these allegations, it is clear that the conduct Defendant is charged with goes well beyond "serious." Defendant did not merely possess a substantial amount of cocaine; Defendant appears to have been directly responsible for supplying the drug trade in this region with at least thirty-two kilograms -- over half a million dollars worth -- of cocaine. Id. Accordingly, the ...


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