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United States v. Hathaway

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

June 21, 2019



          Richard Mills United States District Judge.

         Pending is Defendant Ralph D. Hathaway's pro se motion for return of property under Rule 41(g) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

         The Defendant has filed a number of other pro se motions.

         Upon reviewing the Defendant's motion and other filings and the Government's response and evidence submitted in support, the Court concludes that an evidentiary hearing is not necessary.

         For the reasons that follow, the Defendant's pro se motion for return of property is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Ralph D. Hathaway is serving a 400-month sentence, following convictions for knowingly transporting a minor across state lines to engage in criminal sexual activity and two counts of traveling between states to do the same, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a), (b).

         The Government presented evidence that Defendant carried on a sexual relationship with the minor-victim, LH, from 2013 to June 2015. At the outset, the Defendant was 44-years-old and LH was 13-years old. The Defendant made multiple trips from his residence in Illinois to South Carolina for the purpose of engaging in sexual intercourse with LH. On June 6, 2015, the Defendant also transported LH from South Carolina over state lines, for purposes of engaging in criminal sexual activity. He was ultimately arrested and held in custody beginning on July 27, 2015.

         Before his trial, the Defendant filed a number of motions, some of which were pro se even though he was always represented by counsel. One motion (filed by counsel on the Defendant's behalf) was a motion to dismiss the indictment [Doc. No. 62], in which the Defendant claimed that the Government seized a silver HP laptop computer and black hard drive that contained exculpatory evidence. The Defendant claimed the evidence was destroyed or misplaced by the Government. In its response [Doc. No. 71] to the Defendant's motion, the Government stated that multiple laptops seized from the Defendant were returned to Defendant's wife. The Government further noted that the single hard drive which it seized was digitally copied and made available to the Defendant on or about June 7, 2016.[1]

         The Court held a hearing on the motion to dismiss and other motions on August 17 and 18, 2016. At the hearing, the Defendant did not challenge that the laptops were returned to his wife or that the hard drive was made available to him. The Government filed a post-hearing brief and the Court denied the Defendant's motion, stating, “It is unknown what happened to the items which are alleged to be missing. However, there is no evidence that the items were ever in the possession of the federal government.” Doc. No. 73, 3-4.

         Prior to the Defendant's April 2017 sentencing hearing, the Defendant filed pro se motions under Rule 41(g) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure for the return of property allegedly seized during the investigation. See Doc. Nos. 120, 121. Neither the Court nor the Government addressed the Defendant's motions at sentencing.

         Following his direct appeal, in August 2018, the Defendant filed another pro se motion for return of property pursuant to Rule 41(g). See Doc. No. 178. The Government did not file a response. On October 10, 2018, the Court denied the motion on the basis that Defendant would not be able to possess such materials while in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.

         On October 22, 2018, the Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration, clarifying that he was not requesting that the property be sent to him in prison, but to a family member who was then residing in the State of Illinois. See Doc. No. 179. In a Text Order dated November 5, 2018, the Court denied the motion for reconsideration, stating (incorrectly) that the Defendant's motion for return of property had been addressed at the April 2017 sentencing and need not be revisited.

         On November 26, 2018, the Defendant filed a timely notice of appeal.

         On appeal, the Government asked the appellate court to vacate the October 10 and November 5, 2018 Orders and remand the case to this Court to address the factual questions necessary to resolve the Defendant's motion for return of property. “The court must receive evidence on any factual issue necessary to decide the motion.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(g).

         The Seventh Circuit granted the Government's motion for remand and remanded the case for reconsideration in light of position taken in the Government's motion.

         The Defendant has filed several motions relating to the return of property. On August 22, 2018, the Defendant sought the return of the following various items:

• Adult novelty items (seven items enumerated);
• Medication (five items enumerated);
• Bedding (two items enumerated);
• One laptop computer;
• One external hard drive;
• Six notebooks;
• Surveillance system supplies (described as one “[g]rey small notebook-type with metal silver casing Acer (or) HP”);
• Four manuscripts authored by the Defendant; and
• Printouts of all communications and letters from the victim to the Defendant.


         The Defendant has filed a pro se motion to admit affidavits. The Court has considered the affidavits and witness statements of his family members and friends, which relate to events which he claims occurred in June and July of 2015.

         The Government states it is not in possession of any of the items sought by the Defendant. Many of the items have never been in its possession. Some of the items were in the Government's possession, but were later returned to the Defendant's family or used as evidence at trial. Two of the items were reported by the Defendant as having been taken in an alleged burglary prior to his arrest.

         A. Items alleged to have been seized

         The Government claims it inventoried 34 pieces of evidence for potential use at trial. Some of these were items discovered during executions of search warrants. Others were voluntarily provided by LH or other parties related to the case. Each piece of evidence was inventoried by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Relying on the affidavit of case agent Robert J. Krivanek, who on August 31, 2016, conducted a review of all evidence collected and inventoried by the ...

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