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United States v. Black

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 15, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DARRELL E. BLACK, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ERIC F. MELGREN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on three motions filed by Defendant Darrell Black: Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Indictment (Doc. 14) for violation of the Speedy Trial Act, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Counts 3 and 6 (Doc. 15) for failure to state an offense, and Defendant's Supplemental Motion to Dismiss Indictment (Doc. 30). On September 13, 2019, the Court heard oral argument on these matters. For the following reasons, the Court denies each of Defendant's motions.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On September 12, 2017, the Grand Jury returned an indictment, charging Black in Counts 1 and 4 with Interfering with Interstate Commerce by Robbery (in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951), in Counts 2 and 5 with Brandishing a Firearm in Furtherance of a Crime of Violence (in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)), and in Counts 3 and 6 with being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm (in violation of 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(1)).

         The indictment resulted from two armed robberies in May 2017. The Government alleges that on May 27, 2017, at around 3:20 a.m., Black entered the Extended Stay America hotel located at 9450 E. Corporate Hills and, while brandishing a gun, demanded money from the clerk. The clerk gave Black approximately $185 and Black fled the hotel.

         The Government alleges that on May 29, 2017, Black committed another armed robbery at the Days Inn and Suites located at 7321 E. Kellogg. At approximately 9:00 a.m., Black approached the clerk and produced a gun while demanding the money from the cash drawer. Before the clerk was able to retrieve the money, Black jumped over the counter and stole the money from the cash register and then fled.

         After committing the alleged robberies in Kansas, Black drove to Missouri and robbed the Staybridge Inn and Suites located at 805 Keene Street in Columbia. He robbed the clerk at gunpoint and was given money belonging to the hotel before departing. Black was arrested later that day in Jefferson City, Missouri, after attempting to flee. The arresting officer recovered a bag belonging to Black which contained ammunition. A handgun was also recovered nearby, which Black later admitted belonged to him and had been used to rob the motel in Columbia.

         On June 6, 2017, Black was initially charged by Complaint in the Western District of Missouri which was followed by an Indictment on July 18, 2017. In the Indictment, Black was charged with Interfering with Commerce by Robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951; Brandishing a Firearm in Furtherance of a Crime of Violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); Being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); and Possession of a Stolen Firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(j).

         After Black was indicted in Kansas in this case, his counsel in the Western District of Missouri contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas to convey Black's desire to have the Kansas case resolved in Missouri pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 20. The federal prosecutors in Kansas and the Western District of Missouri agreed to the transfer after Black agreed to enter a plea of guilty to the Kansas charges. Black's case was assigned to Judge Brian Wimes. However, on the date set for his plea in Missouri, Black pled guilty to the Missouri charges only, and Judge Wimes ordered the clerk of the court to return Black's Kansas case to the District of Kansas. On March 6, 2019, Black was sentenced in the Missouri matter to 318 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

         Following his sentencing in Missouri, Black was returned to Kansas to make a first appearance in this case. On March 22, Black appeared before Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale for a pretrial hearing. On July 2, Black filed the two motions now before the Court. Black moved the Court to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the Government failed to bring him to trial within 70 days of his first appearance before Judge Wimes as required by the Speedy Trial Act. While Black acknowledges that some of the time he spent in the custody of Missouri was excluded under the Speedy Trial Act, he argues that 171 days passed that are not excludable. The vast majority of this time occurred after Black pleaded guilty to the Missouri crimes but while he was awaiting sentencing on the Missouri crimes.

         Black also moved the Court to dismiss Counts 3 and 6 (felon in possession of a firearm) based on the Supreme Court's recent opinion in Rehaif v. United States. The Government's Response acknowledged that the Indictment was flawed under Rehaif, but the Government asked the Court to delay ruling on Black's motion to allow the Government the opportunity to obtain a Superseding Indictment that complied with the Supreme Court's ruling. On August 14, 2019, the Government filed a Superseding Indictment against Black.

         On September 13, 2019, the Court conducted a hearing on Black's two motions. At the hearing, the Court ordered (upon request of the parties) supplemental briefing to be filed by September 27. Both parties filed their supplemental arguments, although Black filed his as a Supplemental Motion to Dismiss the Indictment (Doc. 30). The Court has fully reviewed and considered the pleadings and statements at oral argument, and the Court now rules as follows.

         II. Legal Standard

         Congress passed the Speedy Trial Act to protect a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. “In any case in which a plea of not guilty is entered, the trial of a defendant charged in an information or indictment with the commission of an offense shall commence within seventy days from the filing date (and making public) of the information or 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.”[1] The Speedy Trial Act exempts certain time periods from the time in which an individual is required to be brought to trial.[2]

         When the Speedy Trial Act is violated, dismissal is mandatory, but the Court retains discretion to dismiss with or without prejudice.[3] When determining whether to dismiss with prejudice, the Court must consider the seriousness of the offense, the facts and circumstances of the case which led to the dismissal, and the impact of a re-prosecution on the administration of justice.[4]

         III. Analysis

         A. Motion to Dismiss Indictment (Doc. 14)

         Black argues that the Government violated the Speedy Trial Act by failing to bring him to trial within 70 (non-excludable) days of his initial appearance before Judge Wimes in the Western District of Missouri. Under 18 U.S.C. § 3161:

In any case in which a plea of not guilty is entered, the trial of a defendant charged in an information or indictment with the commission of an offense shall commence within seventy days from the filing date (and making public) of the information or indictment, or from the date the defendant has appeared before a judicial ...

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