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United States of America v. Juan Britton

December 5, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JUAN BRITTON, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY U. S. District Judge

Wednesday, 05 December, 2012 03:59:25 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION*fn1

This case is before the court for ruling on the Rule to Show Cause (#56) issued by this court to Attorney Beau B. Brindley on November 26, 2012. A hearing was held on November 30, 2012, and Attorney Brindley appeared. Following this hearing, this court makes these findings of fact: (1) Attorney Brindley entered his appearance on behalf of Defendant Juan Britton on July 26, 2011; (2) since that date, Attorney Brindley, who is lead counsel for Defendant Britton, appeared mainly by telephone or his associate, Michael J. Thompson, appeared for Defendant Britton; (3) on November 6, 2012, this court entered a text order, directed to Defendant Britton, which set a status conference by personal appearance and specifically stated that "Attorney Beau Brindley to be present in person on 11/26/2012 at 1:00 p.m. and not through other counsel;" (4) Attorney Brindley did not appear on 11/26/2012 at 1:00 p.m.; (5) this court issued an Order setting a contempt hearing for 11/30/2012 at 1:00 p.m.; (6) Attorney Brindley filed a Response to Rule to Show Cause Order and Request to Continue Hearing (Motion to Continue) (#59), which was denied; (7) the Motion to Continue contained demonstrably false statements; (8) Attorney Brindley appeared before this court on 11/30/2012, was sworn, and made false statements to this court; and (9) Attorney Brindley willfully failed to obey an order of this court. Based upon these findings, this court concluded that Attorney Brindley was in willful contempt of this court and remanded him to the custody of the United States Marshal for a term of 48 hours, to be released on 12/2/2012, at 1:30 p.m.

BACKGROUND

I. Summary of the underlying case

On November 3, 2010, Defendant Britton and his co-defendant Antonio Colon were charged by indictment (#7) with the offense of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 500 or more grams of a mixture and substance containing cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance. Defendant Britton was also charged with the offense of knowingly possessing 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing cocaine with the intent to distribute it. John

C. Taylor of the Federal Public Defender's office was appointed to represent Defendant Britton. On July 13, 2011, Defendant Britton was charged by superseding indictment (#25) with two counts of knowingly possessing 500 grams of a mixture and substance containing cocaine with the intent to distribute it, two counts of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing cocaine, and one count of knowingly possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Defendant Colon was again charged with one count of conspiracy.

On July 26, 2011, Attorney Brindley filed a Motion to Substitute Counsel (#29) and asked that he and Attorney Michael J. Thompson be substituted as counsel for Defendant Britton.

On July 27, 2011, Attorney Thompson appeared for Defendant Britton before Magistrate Judge David G. Bernthal. Judge Bernthal allowed the substitution and arraigned Defendant Britton on the superseding indictment. Numerous status conferences and hearings on motions to continue have subsequently been held in this case by this court. Attorney Brindley, who is lead counsel in the case, has only appeared in person on one occasion, on June 21, 2012. Otherwise, Attorney Brindley has appeared by telephone or Attorney Thompson has appeared on behalf of Defendant Britton.

On February 8, 2012, a second superseding indictment (#38) was filed. This indictment added a charge against Defendant Britton that he knowingly and intentionally distributed 500 grams of more of a mixture and substance containing cocaine and also added charges against Defendant Colon. Attorney Thompson appeared on February 16, 2012, for Defendant Britton's arraignment on the second superseding indictment. The case was set for a final pretrial conference on April 5, 2012, and a jury trial on April 16, 2012. On March 23, 2012, Defendant Britton filed a Motion to Continue the trial date (#48). On March 26, 2012, this court entered a text order which set a hearing on the Motion to Continue on April 5, 2012, at 2:15 p.m. by personal appearance. This court's Order also stated "Attorney Brindley and Defendant Britton are to be present in open Court for this hearing." Regardless of the Order, on April 5, 2012, only Attorney Thompson appeared on behalf of Defendant Britton. The Motion to Continue was granted and the trial date was vacated. On June 21, 2012, Attorneys Brindley and Thompson appeared on behalf of Defendant Britton and the case was set for a final pretrial conference on February 8, 2013, at 1:30 p.m. and a jury trial on February 19, 2013, at 9:00 a.m.

On June 28, 2012, Defendant Colon filed a Motion to Quash Arrest and Suppress Evidence (#52). A hearing on the Motion was subsequently set for November 26, 2012, at 1:30 p.m. On November 6, 2012, in the interest of directly confirming the status with Attorney Brindley, this court entered a Text Order which stated:

TEXT ORDER as to Juan Britton Entered by Judge Michael P. McCuskey on 11/6/2012. Status Conference set for 11/26/2012 at 1:00 PM by personal appearance in Courtroom A in Urbana before Judge Michael P. McCuskey. Pre-trial motions and the jury trial in this case will be discussed by the Court with defendant's lead counsel Beau Brindley and AUSA Coleman. Attorney Beau Brindley to be present in person on 11/26/2012 at 1:00 p.m. and not through other counsel. The US Marshal is directed to transport defendant Britton so he can be present in person for this hearing. (Emphasis added.)

II. Attorney Brindley's refusal to appear in accordance with Order of November 26, 2012

On November 26, 2012, Attorney Brindley did not appear as ordered. Notably, Attorney Richard Beuke, who was counsel for Britton's co-defendant, Colon, did in fact appear as ordered (10-CR-20090-MPM-DGB-2, Minute Entry for November 27, 2012). The clerk attempted to call Attorney Brindley's office number. There was no answer so this court left a voice mail message. This court entered a minute entry, stating in pertinent part, as follows: "Rule to Show Cause to enter as to why attorney Beau Brindley should not be held in contempt of court for failure to appear for ...


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