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United States v. Chukwumah

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 1, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHUKWUDI JOHN CHUKWUMAH, Defendant.

ORDER

KATHRYN H. VRATIL, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion For Extension Of Time To File Pretrial Motions, Witness List, Exhibit List And Trial Setting And For Designation Of Excludable Time (Doc. #50) filed April 21, 2014. Defendant seeks a three-month continuance of trial, which was set for May 19, 2014. For reasons stated below, the Court overrules defendant's motion.

On June 14, 2013, the government filed a criminal complaint which charged defendant with conspiracy to transport stolen computer equipment and electronics in interstate commerce. On July 10, 2013, a grand jury returned an indictment which included the same charge. On October 8, 2013, the Court held a status conference and set this matter for trial on February 24, 2014. See Pretrial Order No. 2 (Doc. #29) filed October 10, 2013. The Court noted in that order as follows:

This is a firm trial setting. Absent a showing of truly extraordinary circumstances, no continuances will be granted. If defendant decides to change his or her plea pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(b), or if fewer trial days than noted above will be needed, counsel must immediately contact the courtroom deputy clerk for the presiding judge so the allocated trial time may be made available for another case.

Id. at 2-3.

On December 9, 2013, Obinna Achonu filed a motion to continue the status conference because new counsel needed additional time to review the discovery, analyze the charges, and confer with defendant in order to resolve this case without the necessity of a trial. See Motion Of Defendant Obinna Achonu For Continuance Of Trial Setting, With Suggestions In Support (Doc. #32). The Court granted the motion to continue, set a deadline for pretrial motions of February 24, 2014 and re-set trial for both defendants for May 12, 2014. See Order (Doc. #34). On February 25, 2014, Achonu filed a motion to continue the pretrial motions deadline to March 10, 2014 because counsel needed additional time to finalize negotiations with government counsel about a possible plea. See Motion Of Defendant Obinna Achonu For Continuance Of Motion Deadline And request To File Out Of Time, With Suggestions In Support (Doc. #35). In that motion, Achonu did not seek a continuance of trial. The Court granted defendant's motion and re-set the motions deadline to March 10, 2014. See Order (Doc. #36). In the order which granted defendant's motion to continue the motions deadline, the Court again noted the trial date of May 12, 2014 and noted as follows:

[T]his is a firm trial setting. Absent a showing of truly extraordinary circumstances, no continuances will be granted. If defendant decides to change his or her plea pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(b), or if fewer trial days than noted above will be needed, counsel must immediately contact the courtroom deputy clerk for the presiding judge so the allocated trial time may be made available for another case.

Id.

On April 11, 2014, Chukwumah filed a motion for a 60-day extension of trial. On April 14, 2014, the Court overruled defendant's motion to continue trial. See Order (Doc. #43). In the order overruling defendant's motion for continuance, the Court stated as follows:

Chukwumah has not shown that the ends of justice require an extension of the trial date. Defendant proposes a trial date some 12 months after the grand jury returned the indictment, well beyond the 70-day period set forth in the Speedy Trial Act.
Defendant does not explain what issues have arisen which he could not have reasonably anticipated before now. See Pretrial Order No. 1 (Doc. #16) at (court will "closely scrutinize any subsequent motions to extend Speedy Trial Act deadlines to determine whether they raise issues which should have been reasonably anticipated before the status conference"). Defendant certainly has not shown "truly extraordinary circumstances" which would justify a continuance of trial. Pretrial Order No. 2 (Doc. #29) at 2; Order (Doc. #36) at 1. In the last 18 months, at the request of the criminal bar, the Court adopted a new docketing procedure to eliminate rolling dockets and establish firm trial dates. Defense counsel does not explain why she cannot complete negotiations and/or prepare for trial on May 12, 2014. Furthermore, defense counsel cites no circumstances which require a 60-day delay of trial.

See id. at 3-4 (footnote omitted).

On April 21, 2014, the same day as the deadline for any pleas of guilty pursuant to a plea agreement, defense counsel filed a motion to withdraw, and new counsel entered an appearance. See Motion To Withdraw (Doc. #51); Entry of Appearance (Doc. #49). On April 28, 2014, because defendant did not show good cause for substitution of counsel, the Court overruled counsel's motion to withdraw.

In determining whether to grant an extension of time, the Court considers whether the ends of justice served by granting an extension outweigh the best interests of the public and defendants in a speedy trial. United States v. Toombs , 574 F.3d 1262, 1268 (10th Cir. 2009). ...


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