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United States v. MGP Ingredients, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

July 24, 2019




         This matter comes before the court on defendant MGP Ingredients, Inc.'s Motion to Continue (Doc. 29) and defendant Harcros Chemicals Inc.'s Motion to Sever (Doc. 30). The government has filed a Response to both motions. Doc. 31. And, MGP Ingredients, Inc., (“MGP”) has filed a Response to the Motion to Sever filed by Harcros Chemicals Inc. (“Harcros”). Doc. 33. On June 20, 2019, the court held a hearing on both motions, and, at the end of that hearing, the court took the two motions under advisement. Doc. 34. The court has considered the parties' arguments raised in their papers and at the hearing. For reasons explained below, the court grants MGP's Motion to Continue and denies Harcros's Motion to Sever.

         I. Facts

         On March 6, 2019, the government filed an Indictment against Midwest Grain Products, Inc. and Harcros Chemicals Inc. It alleged violations of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401-7671q. Doc. 1. On April 3, 2019, MGP filed a Motion to Dismiss Indictment (Doc. 7), contending that “Midwest Grain Products, Inc.” had not existed as a corporate entity for more than 16 years. Doc. 8 at 1. Instead, MGP argued, the Indictment was ambiguous because the government could have intended to indict one of two existing companies: “MGP Ingredients, Inc.” or “MGPI Processing, Inc.” Id. at 3. The government filed a Response opposing MGP's motion. Doc. 14. Harcros did not join MGP's motion.

         On May 6, 2019, the court conducted a hearing with MGP and the government. There, the government eventually announced that it planned to return to the grand jury to seek a superseding indictment charging the correct company. On May 22, 2019, MGP filed a Motion to Continue Status Conference, which Harcros did not join. Doc. 20. The court granted the motion two days later, setting June 17, 2019, as the new status conference date. Doc. 21.

         On May 29, 2019, the grand jury returned a Superseding Indictment (Doc. 22), which named “MGP Ingredients, Inc.” as a defendant. Doc. 22. On June 17, 2019, the court conducted a status conference with the parties. Doc. 24. At the conference, Harcros notified the court that it demanded a speedy trial under the Speedy Trial Act (“STA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3161-3174. Doc. 28 at 4. Specifically, Harcros asserted, its speedy trial deadline would arrive one week later- June 24, 2019. Id. at 7. MGP, in response, stated that it was waiving its speedy trial rights and planned to file a motion to continue the trial. MGP also sought an ends-of-justice exclusion of time based on the case's purported complexity. Id. at 10. Harcros announced that it would file a motion to sever.

         In sum, the court now must address the following motions. First, MGP has filed a Motion to Continue. Doc. 29. MGP's motion asks the court to designate the case as complex; exclude time under the STA's “ends-of-justice” provision; and set a new trial date for January 2020. Id. at 1-2. Harcros has filed a Motion to Sever. Doc. 30. Harcros invokes its speedy trial rights and asserts that the court-if it determines MGP is entitled to a trial date beyond Harcros's STA deadline-must sever Harcros and try the case against Harcros separately. Doc. 30 at 1. The court considers each motion, in turn, below.

         II. Discussion

         A. Defendant MGP's Motion to Continue (Doc. 29)

         The STA requires a federal criminal trial to commence within 70 days of the filing of an indictment or the defendant's initial appearance-whichever is later. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(1). Time may be excluded from this 70-day period for “[a]ny period of delay resulting from a continuance . . . if the judge granted such continuance on the basis of his findings that the ends of justice served by taking such action outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial.” Id. § 3161(h)(7)(A). Although courts should grant ends-of-justice continuances sparingly, a continuance under this provision “afford[s] the district court a modicum of flexibility in managing particularly complex or difficult cases.” United States v. Margheim, 770 F.3d 1312, 1318 (10th Cir. 2014). When deciding whether to grant an ends-of-justice continuance, the district court must consider the following factors:

(i) Whether the failure to grant such a continuance in the proceeding would be likely to make a continuation of such proceeding impossible, or result in a miscarriage of justice.
(ii) Whether the case is so unusual or so complex, due to the number of defendants, the nature of the prosecution, or the existence of novel questions of fact or law, that it is unreasonable to expect adequate preparation for pretrial proceedings or for the trial itself within the time limits established by this section.
(iv) Whether the failure to grant such a continuance in a case which, taken as a whole, is not so unusual or so complex as to fall within clause (ii), would deny the defendant reasonable time to obtain counsel, would unreasonably deny the defendant or the Government continuity of counsel, or would deny counsel for the defendant or the attorney for the Government the reasonable time necessary for effective preparation, taking into account the exercise of due diligence.

18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(B)(i), (ii), (iv).[1] To apply the ends-of-justice provision adequately, the record must explain “why the mere occurrence of the event identified by the party as necessitating the continuance results in the need for additional time.” United States v. Toombs, 574 F.3d 1262, 1271-72 (10th Cir. 2009) (first citing United States v. Williams, 511 F.3d 1044, 1058 (10th Cir. 2007); then citing United States v. Gonzales, 137 F.3d 1431, 1434-35 (10th Cir. 1998)). This requirement “both ensures the district court considers the relevant factors ...

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