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UNITED STATES v. BLACKLEY

November 12, 1997

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RONALD HENDERSON BLACKLEY, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LAMBERTH

 This matter comes before the court on defendant's Motion to Dismiss Indictment of Ronald Henderson Blackley pursuant to Fed. R. Crim P. 12(b). For the reasons stated in this Memorandum Opinion, defendant's motion is denied.

 I. BACKGROUND

 A. The Chronology Leading Up to the Motion to Dismiss

 On August 8, 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno applied for the appointment of an Independent Counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 592(c)(1) "to investigate whether any violations of federal criminal law were committed by Secretary of Agriculture Alphonso Michael (Mike) Espy, and to determine whether prosecution is warranted." On September 9, 1994, the Special Division for the Purpose of Appointing Independent Counsels of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ("Special Division") appointed Donald C. Smaltz as Independent Counsel with the power, authority and jurisdiction to investigate:

 
whether Alphonso Michael (Mike) Espy, Secretary of Agriculture, has committed a violation of any federal criminal law, other than a Class B or C misdemeanor or infraction, relating in any way to the acceptance of gifts by him from organizations and individuals with business pending before the Department of Agriculture.
 
other allegations or evidence of violation of any federal criminal law, other than a Class B or C misdemeanor or infraction, by any organization or individual developed during the Independent Counsel's investigation referred to above and connected with or arising out of that investigation.
 
any violation of 28 U.S.C. § 1826, or any obstruction of the due administration of justice, or any material false testimony or statement in violation of federal criminal law, in connection with any investigation of the matters described above.
 
[and] to seek indictments and to prosecute any organizations or individuals involved in any of the matters described above, who are reasonably believed to have committed a violation of any federal criminal law arising out of such matters, including organizations or individuals who have engaged in an unlawful conspiracy or who have aided and abetted any federal offense.

 Under the authority of 28 U.S.C. § 594, the Special Division also granted the Independent Counsel the prosecutorial jurisdiction to fully investigate and prosecute "all matters and individuals whose acts may be related to that subject matter, inclusive of authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes (other than those classified as Class B or C misdemeanors or infractions) that may arise out of the above described matter, including perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of justice and intimidation of witnesses."

 On January 25, 1996, the Independent Counsel filed under seal an Application for Referral of a Related Matter with the Special Division. This application was opposed by the Attorney General. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 594(e), the Special Division granted the Independent Counsel's application on April 14, 1996, ordering referral of the related matter, and granting the following investigative and prosecutorial jurisdiction:

 
The jurisdiction and authority to investigate and prosecute any violation of any federal law, other than a Class B or C misdemeanor, by any organization or individual, related to any application, appeal or request for subsidy made to or considered by the United States Department of Agriculture, for which Secretary of Agriculture Alphonso Michael (Mike) Espy and/or his Chief of Staff Ronald Blackley intervened in the application, approval, or review process.

 In support of its grant of referral jurisdiction, the Special Division noted that Independent Counsel Smaltz had shown that the new matter was "demonstrably related to the factual circumstances that gave rise to the Attorney General's initial investigation and request for appointment of an independent counsel." In re Espy, 317 U.S. App. D.C. 25, 80 F.3d 501, 509 (D.C. Cir. 1996). Specifically, the Special Division noted "He [IC Smaltz] has identified evidence allegedly showing a pattern of conduct involving payments or gifts to Espy and his close associates in return for favorable treatment by the Department of Agriculture." Id.

 On April 22, 1997, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned a three-count indictment against defendant Ronald Henderson Blackley, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy. Specifically, it is alleged that Charles Fuller, a longtime friend and business associate of Mr. Blackley, caused to be made payments in the amount of $ 21,025 to Mr. Blackley and his wife Sharon Blackley between the dates of January 5, 1993 and December 15, 1993. Also, on or about May 22, 1993, Charles ("Buddy") Cochran, the owner and operator of a farming operation known as "Coco Planting Company" gave defendant Blackley and/or Sharon Blackley a check for $ 1,000 payable to Ron Blackley Jr., which was later deposited into the joint checking account of Ronald and Sharon Blackley. Both Fuller and Cochran sought and received monetary subsidies from the Department of Agriculture ("USDA") in 1993, the former receiving $ 63,000, and the latter $ 284,000.

 In the first count of the indictment, the grand jury charged Blackley with knowingly and willfully making false, fictitious and fraudulent statements and representations for his failure to report the receipt of the $ 22,025 on his Public Financial Disclosure Report for 1993 ("Form SF 278"), in violation of the Ethics in Government Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1001. In the second count, it is alleged that Mr. Blackley signed a sworn declaration as part of the Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General's ("USDA-OIG") investigation of him that contained a false statement concerning his alleged receipt of aforementioned payments, also in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. In the third count, Mr. Blackley is again charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 for a false statement regarding his alleged receipt of the aforementioned payments in a sworn declaration taken as part of a United States Agency for International Development Office of Inspector General ("US AID-OIG") investigation as to whether he should retain his Top Secret security clearance.

 B. The Motion to Dismiss

 Mr. Blackley asks this court to dismiss the indictment, contending that the Independent Counsel is without jurisdiction to prosecute the aforementioned charges. He asserts that his prosecution is not about illegal gifts to Mike Espy, nor about improper intervention into the application, approval or review of Department of Agriculture subsidies. Therefore it does not charge misconduct cognizable under "the limited prosecutorial authority granted to the Independent Counsel." Supplemental Memorandum in Support of the Motion to Dismiss Based on Lack of Jurisdiction ("Supplemental Memorandum") at 2. He contends that the charges against him involve nothing more than the completeness of his 1993 financial disclosure statement, a matter he claims to be completely outside of the purview of the ...


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