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United States v. Dodt

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

February 22, 2019

DONALD DODT, Defendant.


          Max O. Cogburn Jr. United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Dodt's Opposition to Michael Saxon's Motion for Trial Continuance or, In the Alternative, Severing of his Trial. Prior to the time for a Response, the Court reviewed such motion and determined that it was a Motion to Dismiss based on a violation of constitutional speedy trial and a Renewed Motion to Sever and conveyed that determination to the parties. Inasmuch as it was clear that the trial as to Defendant Saxon could not proceed in March due to a genuine need for that defendant to prepare (as well as an outstanding motion), the Court granted that motion and continued the matter as to Defendant Saxon and the remaining co-defendants, excepting out Defendant Dodt for consideration of the above motions.[1]

         Review of Defendant Dodt's (hereinafter “defendant's') brief reveals that his demand for trial in March is based on a number of concerns. First, defendant argues that a presumption has already arisen under the Sixth Amendment that his speedy trial rights have been violated and that further continuance past the March term will only aggravate that constitutional violation. Second, defendant has expressed concerns based on his advanced age, his suffering a number of chronic illnesses, and the fact that he remains detained pending trial. As each of these arguments merit serious consideration, they will be addressed seriatim.


         I. Alleged Violation of Defendant's Right to a Speedy Trial

         Since at least 2006, the Supreme Court has made clear that “speedy trial waivers” are ineffectual when it comes to statutory speedy trial. Zedner v. United States, 547 U.S. 489 (2006).

         Indeed, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has reiterated the point, holding as follows:

The record establishes that, in granting the pre- Zedner continuance on March 24, 2006, the district court focused on the speedy trial waivers and the schedules of counsel and the court. At no point during the conference did the court mention a concern about giving the parties additional time to prepare for trial or mention other ends-of-justice factors.
Zedner's new interpretation of the Speedy Trial Act imposed stricter requirements for granting ends-of-justice continuances. These requirements meant, among other things, that the Henrys' speedy trial waivers were invalid. The district court acted immediately after Zedner was issued, bringing the problem to the parties' attention and attempting (understandably) to rectify it and keep the case on track. Zedner's strictures, however, made it impossible for the district court to square the March 24, 2006, continuance with the Act.

United States v. Henry, 538 F.3d 300, 306 (4th Cir. 2008). Although not alleged, the Court will first consider whether there has been as statutory speedy trial violation and then consider whether there has been a constitutional speedy trial violation.

         A. Statutory Speedy Trial

         The Speedy Trial Act provides in relevant part that the time period for a statutory speedy trial claim under 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(1) is measured from “the filing date (and making public) of the ... indictment, or from the date the defendant has appeared before a judicial officer of the court in which such charge is pending, whichever date last occurs.” Id. Review of the docket reveals that the Indictment was filed September 16, 2015 (#3), that defendant made his first appearance before a judicial officer October 6, 2017 (#s 6, 7 & 8), and that he was arraigned October 12, 2017. See Clerk's Minute Entries.

         Review of the docket also reveals that since arraignment (the later date for statutory Speedy Trial purposes), all the time up to an inclusive of the March 2019 docket call is excludable time. Trial was initially set for November 20, 2017. Since then, Defendant filed five motions to continue, resulting in the continuance of his case to November 2018. (Motions to Continue ## 144, 149, 171, 190, 203). On October 23, 2018, upon motion of co-Defendant Stephen Finck, the trial was continued to January 22, 2019. Defendant did not object to this continuance. On November 27, 2018, co-Defendant Michael Saxon was arraigned, pled not guilty, and was joined in the trial set for January 22, 2018.

         On January 7, 2019, Defendant Saxon moved to continue the January 2019 trial date to allow counsel time to review discovery and prepare Defendant Saxon's defense. Defendant Saxon requested a continuance to on or after May 1, 2019 due to preparation for a lengthy trial in a separate matter set for April 1, 2019. MTC (#243). Defendant Dodt did not object to the motion or file a motion to sever at that time. The Court granted the motion, but continued the trial to March 18, 2019, instead of May, explaining “[w]hile counsel has requested to the May term due to another trial, the Court finds it best to ...

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