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United States v. Ruffin

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

January 12, 2018

United States of America,
v.
Bondurant Akeem Ruffin, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Robert T. Numbers, II, United States Magistrate Judge

         On December 21, 2016, a Grand Jury indicted Defendant Bondurant Akeem Ruffin for knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Ahead of his criminal trial, Ruffin has filed a variety of motions: a Motion for Notice of Intent to Use 404(b) Evidence (D.E. 29); a Motion for All “Jencks” Material (D.E. 30); a Motion for Disclosure of Favorable Material (D.E. 31); a Motion for Disclosure of Rule 807 Evidence (D.E. 32); and a Motion for Order to Preserve Rough Notes and Disclosure for Inspection and Copying (D.E. 33). The Government has responded to these motions (D.E. 39, 40, 41, 42, 43) and they are ripe for disposition.

         I. Motion for Notice of Intent to Use 404(b) Evidence

         Ruffin first seeks an order requiring the Government to give notice of its intent to introduce evidence that falls under Rule 404(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence. (D.E. 29.) In response, the Government contends that Ruffin's motion should be denied as moot because it will produce the requested documents and information no later than seven days before trial, in compliance with the requirements of Rule 404(b). (D.E. 39.)

         Ruffin requests that the Government “disclose the date, nature and circumstances of all evidence showing other crimes, wrongs or acts not charged in the indictment which the government intends to introduce at trial pursuant to Rule 404(b).” (D.E. 29 at 1.) However, under Rule 404(b)(2), a defendant is only entitled to receive “reasonable notice of the general nature of any [Rule 404(b)] evidence that the prosecutor intends to offer at trial . . . .” Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)(2)(A). The Government represents to the Court that it will comply with its obligations under Rule 404(b) no later than one week before trial. (D.E. 29 at 1.)

         Therefore, Ruffin's request regarding Rule 404(b) evidence is granted in part and denied in part. The Government is ordered to notify Ruffin of the general nature of any Rule 404(b) evidence it intends to offer at trial no later than seven days before the date trial is scheduled to begin.

         II. Motion for Early Release of Jencks Material

         Next, Ruffin requests that this Court order the Government to disclose material covered by the Jencks Act, 18 U.SC. 3500, prior to the beginning of the trial. (D.E. 30 at 2.) Ruffin claims that early disclosure is necessary for the adequate preparation of his defense because “there are numerous witnesses who will, or may, be testifying at trial.” (D.E. 30 at 1-2.) However, the Jencks Act provides that “no statement or report in the possession of the United States which was made by a Government witness or prospective Government witness (other than the defendant) shall be the subject of subpena [sic], discovery, or inspection until said witness has testified on direct examination in the trial of the case.” 18 U.S.C. 3500(a). The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that in light of the language of the statute, a “district court may not require the government to produce Jencks Act material relating to one of its witnesses until after the witness has testified.” United States v. Lewis, 35 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994).

         Although a district court may not require early disclosure of Jencks Act material, the Government may voluntarily disclose the requested documents and information prior to trial. Id. In this case, the Government has represented that it has already made an early production of Jencks Act material, and will continue to disclose Jencks Act material “in time for its effective use in trial.” (D.E. 41 at 1-2.) While this representation is not legally binding, the Government is no doubt aware of the consequences attendant to failing to honor commitments made before this Court.

         In light of the plain language of the statute and the Fourth Circuit's holding in Lewis, Ruffin's motion for early disclosure of Jencks Act materials is denied.

         III. Motion for Disclosure of Brady Material

         Ruffin also requests that this Court order the Government to produce favorable material, pursuant to the holdings of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and its progeny. (D.E. 31.) According to the Brady decision, the Government has an affirmative obligation to produce evidence that is “both favorable to an accused and ‘material to either guilt or punishment.'” United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 674 (1985); Brady, 373 U.S. at 87. This evidence must be produced “in time for its effective use at trial.” United States v. Smith Grading & Paving, Inc., 760 F.2d 527, 532 (4th Cir. 1985).

         In response, the Government acknowledges its obligations to provide Brady materials in a timely manner. (D.E. 40 at 2.) Furthermore, the Government represented to the court that it has already “provided, through multiple productions, discovery to the Defendant, ” and that it is not aware of any additional evidence subject to disclosure under Brady. (D.E. 40 at 1.) The Government also contends that it will continue to supplement its discovery productions and will “disclose all exculpatory and impeachment evidence in time for its effective use at trial” pursuant to its ongoing duty to disclose Brady material. (D.E. at 2.)

         In light of the Government's actions to date and its representations to the court, “[t]he court credits the government's assertion that it will disclose all exculpatory and impeachment evidence in time for its effective use at trial.” United States v. Howard, No. 5:12-CR-9-D, 2012 WL 2525625, at *3 (E.D. N.C. June 29, 2012) (citing Smith Grading, 760 F.2d at 532). Therefore, the motion requiring disclosure of Brady material is granted in part and denied in part. The Government shall produce Brady material on a prompt, ongoing ...


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