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United States of America v. Gezo Goeong Edwards

August 24, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge


Defendant Henry Williams is charged by superseding indictment with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. Superseding Indictment, ECF No. 28, at 3. Williams and two co-Defendants, Gezo Edwards and William Bowman, are proceeding to trial.*fn1 Presently before the Court are Defendant Williams' [366] Motion for Additional Brady Materials, [367] Motion for Supplemental Expert Discovery, and [368] First Motion in Limine.*fn2 For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for Additional Brady Materials is GRANTED, Defendant's Motion for Supplemental Expert Discovery is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and Defendant's First Motion in Limine GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.


A.Motion for Additional Brady Materials In his first motion, the Defendant seeks "any statements made by any of his alleged co-conspirators in this case about Mr. Williams himself-such as that they do not know him, or that they never interacted with him,"-pursuant to the Government's Brady obligations. Def.'s Brady Mot. at 1-2. The Supreme Court held in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), that "the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution." Id. at 87. The Court has since held that disclosure is mandatory regardless of whether or not the defendant requests the information, and that impeachment evidence must also be disclosed to the defendant. United States v. Wilson, 605 F.3d 985, 1004-05 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). Here, the Defendant is specifically concerned that factual proffers for pleas agreed to by alleged co-conspirators "discuss, at least in general terms, how these defendants did not know all of the other co-defendants," but have not been disclosed to the defense. Def.'s Brady Mot. at 2. The Government contends that "[t]he defendant fails to cite any authority to support his claim that a coconspirator's lack of knowledge of the accused's participation in a conspiracy constitutes exculpatory or favorable material," and "and his claim that the information is favorable is both conclusory and speculative." Gov't Brady Opp'n ¶¶ 2,3. The Court disagrees.

Several days after the Defendant filed his motion, the D.C. Circuit reversed the conviction of Alvin Gaskins for conspiracy to distribute narcotics. United States v. Gaskins, No. 08-3011, 2012 WL 3289779 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 14, 2012). Gaskins was tried with three co-defendants on charges that the defendants were members of a nearly five-year narcotics distribution conspiracy in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Id. at *2. The jury convicted Gaskins of conspiracy to distribute between 100 grams and one kilogram of heroin. Id. at *5. In reversing Gaskins' conviction for insufficient evidence, the court found a complete lack of affirmative evidence that Gaskins "knowingly joined the narcotics conspiracy or had the specific intent to further its aims," and noted that "[n]one of the [eight] cooperating witnesses testified that Gaskins was involved in their drug trafficking operation." Id. at *6. The court emphasized that "given the scope of the government's investigation and the role its witnesses played in the conspiracy, any reasonable jury should have wondered why" the government was unable to produce affirmative evidence of (1) Gaskins' alleged involvement in the conspiracy; or (2) Gaskins' intent to further the alleged goals of the conspiracy. Id. at *7.

The Gaskins decision demonstrates that the information the Defendant seeks may support his defense by, among other things: (1) calling into question the Defendant's involvement in the charged conspiracy generally; and (2) undermining any evidence that the Defendant possessed the requisite knowledge and/or intent for the conspiracy offense charged. To the extent the Government has "affirmative evidence" of Williams' involvement in illicit activity with Bowman, the failure of one or more co-conspirators to identify Williams as a member of the conspiracy may or may not support a defense theory that Bowman and Williams were engaged in a separate relationship. Information that numerous and/or significant co-conspirators did not affirmatively identify Williams as a member of the charged conspiracy reasonably can be expected to raise questions in the minds of the jurors and aid Williams' defense. Id.; cf. United States v. Wilson, 160 F.3d 732, 738 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (noting that where several witnesses were offered testimony regarding a defendant's involvement in a conspiracy to commit murder, the absence of any testimony as to the defendant's knowledge and intent was "telling").

Furthermore, neither the Government nor the Court is in a position to conclusively determine at this stage of the proceedings that the purported failure of one or more co-conspirators to name Williams as a member of the conspiracy will not be favorable to the Defendant in preparing his defense. As the District of Columbia Court of Appeals explained,

It should by now be clear that in making judgments about whether to disclose potentially exculpatory information, the guiding principle must be that the critical task of evaluating the usefulness and exculpatory value of the information is a matter primarily for defense counsel, who has a different perspective and interest than the police or prosecutor. It is not for the prosecutor to decide not to disclose information that is on its face exculpatory based on an assessment of how that evidence might be explained away or discredited at trial, or ultimately rejected by the fact finder.

Zanders v. United States, 999 A.2d 149, 163-64 (D.C. 2010) (emphasis added). Denying the Defendant access to this information despite multiple grounds on which it might assist his defense would not comport with the notion of "elementary fairness" underpinning the Brady disclosure requirement. United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97, 111 (1976). The Court finds the Defendant has made a sufficient showing that the information sought may be favorable to his defense, and therefore must be produced pursuant to the Government's Brady obligations.

B.Motion for Supplemental Expert Discovery The Defendant's second motion seeks supplemental disclosures from two of the Government's Experts: Detective Joseph Abdalla and FBI Special Agent Scott Eicher. Pursuant to the Court's June 1, 2012 Minute Order and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(G), on July 20, 2012,*fn3 the Government filed a notice of its anticipated expert witnesses. The notice identified several witnesses-Detective Joseph Abdalla (narcotics expert), one or more Drug Enforcement Administration Forensic Chemists, Aimee Quilia (FBI fingerprint specialist), Arnold J. Esposito (firearms and toolmark examiner), and Special Agent Scott Eichert (cell site information expert)-and provided a "summary" of their qualifications and anticipated testimony. The Defendant contends that "[t]he Government's filing paints with a broad brush by largely describing only in general terms the subject areas these witnesses are expected to touch on," without providing sufficient insight as to the substance of each witness's testimony. Def.'s Expert Mot. at 2. On August 22, 2012, twelve days after the Defendant filed his pretrial motions, the Government provided a supplemental notice of expert witnesses, disclosing FBI Special Agent John Bevington, who may "supplement the anticipated expert testimony of Detective Joseph Abdalla." Gov't Suppl. Notice at 1. Given the timing of the Government's disclosure, the Defendant did not have an opportunity to address the description, but the Court shall address Agent Bevington's potential testimony in the context of the Defendant's objection to the Government previous expert disclosure.

The Defendant is correct that Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(G) requires more than just a summary of the topics an expert witness may address; the rule requires the Government to "describe the witness's opinions, the bases and reasons for those opinions, and the witness's qualifications." However, in light of the Government's opposition, it is clear that at least some of the Defendant's dissatisfaction with the Government's Notice arises from (understandable) confusion as to whether Detective Abdalla and Special Agent Eicher plan to testify regarding various topics generally, or provide opinions specific to the facts of this case. Based on the clarification provided by the Government, the Court finds the disclosure for Special Agent Eicher complies with the requirements of Rule 16(a)(1)(G), but additional detail is necessary for several topics to be addressed by Detective Abdalla, and potentially Special Agent Bevington.

1. Special Agent Scott Eicher

The Government's initial notice stated that it may call Special Agent Eicher as "an expert on information obtained pursuant to judicial orders authorizing the government to obtain cell site information and to authorize the monitoring of Global Positioning System ("GPS") information related to the defendant's cellular telephone." Gov't Notice at 6. The Government explained in its opposition that Special Agent Eicher will provide "[a]n understanding of what [cell site information] is, how it is gathered and how it is used by law enforcement." Gov't General Opp'n at 13. This information may be helpful to the jury in understanding the cell site information that will be referenced by other Government witnesses. From the notice and the Government's opposition, it would appear that Special Agent Eicher's testimony will not be specific to this case. To the extent Special Agent Eicher will testify generally about what cell site information is and how it is often used by law enforcement, the Government's initial notice provides a detailed overview of his testimony. Gov't Notice at 9-10. To the extent Special Agent Eicher ...

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