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United States of America v. Margaret Davis

July 27, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Byron G. Cudmore, U.S. Magistrate Judge:


Friday, 27 July, 2012 01:46:19 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Margaret Davis' Motion for Severance of Defendants Pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 14 and Bruton v. United States (d/e 33) (Motion to Sever), and her Motion for Transfer of Venue to Northern District of Illinois Pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 21(b) (d/e 35) (Motion to Transfer).

Davis and her co-defendant Tonja Cook are charged with mail fraud, and Davis is also charged with money laundering. Indictment (d/e 1). The Indictment alleges that Davis was the Program Director and Cook was the Treasurer of the Chicago Chapter of the Black Nurses Association (CCBNA). Both resided in Chicago, Illinois. The Indictment alleges that Davis and Cook engaged in a scheme to defraud Illinois state agencies by securing more than $1,000,000.00 in grants for the CCBNA and then diverting as much as $500,000.00 or more to their own benefit or the benefit of their families, friends and associates. Indictment, ¶ 26. The grant applications were submitted to the Springfield, Illinois, offices of the various agencies, and the checks were disbursed from offices in Springfield, Illinois, and sent to Davis and Cook in Chicago, Illinois. Indictment, Counts 1 through 14. The Indictment further alleges that Davis engaged in money laundering by depositing checks into a bank account and then cashing checks written on that account. Indictment, Counts 15 and 16.


Defendant Cook has made incriminating admissions to law enforcement officers. Davis moves to sever her case from Cook because admission of Cook's statements at trial would be prejudicial to Davis. See Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 135-37 (1968). The Government states that Cook intends to plead and testify against Davis, so no Bruton problem will arise at trial. If Cook does not plead, the Government will advise the Court and may consent to a severance. The Court, therefore, will reserve ruling on the Motion to Sever at this time. The completion of the anticipated plea of Cook will render the Motion to Sever moot.

Davis argues that she is entitled to a ruling on the Motion to Sever now because she is in the process of preparing for trial and needs to know whether her trial will be severed. The Court disagrees. Davis can prepare for trial now. The Court will not allow a joint trial to proceed that would cause a Bruton problem.*fn2


Davis moves to transfer the case to the Northern District of Illinois for the convenience of the parties. Fed. R. Crim. P. 21(b). Venue is proper in the District in which the crime was committed. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2 cl. 3; 18 U.S.C. § 3237(a); Fed. R. Crim. P. 18. The Indictment alleges that the crimes were committed in both this District and the Northern District of Illinois. Davis concedes that venue is proper in this District, but asks for a transfer to the Northern District for the convenience of the parties.

Defendant Davis may move this Court to transfer the case to another District "for the convenience of the parties, any victim, and the witnesses, and in the interest of justice." Fed. R. Crim. P. 21(b). Davis has the burden to prove that the case would be better off transferred to another District. Matter of Balsimo, 68 F.3d 185, 187 (7th Cir. 1995). The Court ordinarily respects the Government's choice of forum. United States v. McManus, 535 F.2d 460, 463 (8th Cir. 1976).

The Court considers ten factors in determining whether to transfer venue for convenience and in the interest of justice: (1) location of corporate defendant; (2) location of possible witnesses; (3) location of events likely to be in issue; (4) location of documents and records likely to be involved; (5) disruption of defendant's business unless the case is transferred; (6) expense to the parties; (7) location of counsel; (8) relative accessibility of place of trial; (9) docket condition of each district of division involved; and (10) any other special elements which might affect the transfer. Platt v. Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., 376 U.S. 240, 243-44(1964); United States v. Morrison, 946 F.2d 484, 489 n.1 (7th Cir. 1991). In weighing these factors, no one consideration is dispositive. Morrison, 946 F.2d at 490 n.1. If the factors are equally balanced, then the Court should deny a Rule 21(b) request to transfer venue. United States v. Bowdoin, 770 F.Supp.2d 133, 137 (D.D.C. 2011).

The factors are fairly equally balanced in this case. There is no corporate defendant, so the first factor is not relevant. Defendant Davis resides in Chicago, Illinois, but her residence does not have independent significance in determining whether a transfer would be in the interests of justice. United States v. Zylstra, 713 F.2d 1332, 1336 (7th Cir. 1983) (quoting Platt, 376 U.S. at 245-46). Davis has health problems, but she has twice secured permission to travel while on bond to attend professional conventions in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Orlando, Florida. Text Orders entered July 11, 2011, and May 22, 2012. Davis, thus, can travel, and so can come to Springfield for trial.

The location of the witnesses will impose an equal burden regardless of whether the trial is in Springfield or Chicago. The Government's investigative witnesses and state agency witnesses reside in this District in or near Springfield, but other witnesses of the alleged fraud reside in the Northern District in or near Chicago.*fn3 Either way, some witnesses will be required to travel. The burden on either set of witnesses to travel is not that significant. Springfield and Chicago are approximately 200 miles apart, are connected by Interstate 55, and by regular bus, train, and ...

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