Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Harris

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 31, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
EUGENIA HARRIS, Defendant.

          ORDER REDACTED MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before the Court is the Government's [62] Motion for Leave to File Under Seal the Government's Addendum to its Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing, The Government requests that the Court permit it to file under sea! its [62-2] Addendum to its Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing as well as the instant Memorandum Opinion and accompanying Order. Defendant consents to the Government's request to seal the Addendum.

         Upon consideration of the pending motion and accompanying documents, [1] the relevant authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court shall GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART the Government's motion. Specifically, the Court shall grant the Government's request to seal the Addendum and its motion to seal. The Court shall also seal portions of this Memorandum Opinion that discuss the underlying information in the Addendum and any legal analysis intertwined with these facts. However, the Court sees no reason to seal the entirety of this Memorandum Opinion or the accompanying Order which simply indicate that the Court is granting the Government's request to seal and provide the legal reasoning applied to the Government's request. As such, the Court shall issue a Redacted Memorandum Opinion on the public docket and shall place under seal an unredacted version of its Memorandum Opinion issued on this date.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 10, 2012, Defendant pled guilty to a three-count Information, charging Defendant with conspiracy to make a contribution in the name of another and to destroy, alter, and falsify records in a federal investigation in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1519, and 2 U.S.C. §§ 441f and 437g(d)(1)(D), fraud and false statements in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1), and conspiracy to make a contribution in the name of another person in violation of D.C. Code § 22-1805a and D.C. Code § 1-1131.01(e). See Information, ECF No. [1]. Defendant's charges center around a conspiracy to violate federal and local campaign finance laws through conduit contributions in relation to a campaign for a mayoral candidate. See generally Stmt, of Offense, ECF No. [9].

         Pursuant to the terms of the Plea Agreement, Defendant was required to cooperate in any criminal investigation or prosecution conducted by the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia ("U.S. Attorney's Office") or by any other prosecutors and, if the Departure Committee of the U.S. Attorney's Office determined that Defendant provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of others, then the Government would file a motion pursuant to United States Sentencing Guideline § 5K 1.1, requesting a downward departure from the Guidelines. Plea Agmt. at 5-6, ECF No. [8].

         The Government in its Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing has notified the Court that Defendant has complied with the terms of her Plea Agreement and, as such, the Government has moved the Court to apply a downward departure to reduce Defendant's offense level by 12 levels pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 in light of Defendant's substantial assistance in the investigation and prosecution of others. Govt's Mem. in Aid of Sent'g & Mot. for Downward Departure at 17, ECF No. [61]. Specifically, the Government recommends a sentence of three years of probation with six months of home confinement imposed at the beginning of that period. Id., at 13. In support of this sentencing recommendation, the Government filed an Addendum "discussing areas of the defendant's substantial assistance that did not result in public charges." Id. at 17 n.ll. The Government now requests that the Addendum be placed under seal.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The public right to access documents in criminal proceedings is grounded both in the First Amendment and the common law. The Court shall analyze the Government's request to seal its Addendum in light of both standards and shall discuss each in turn.

         A. First Amendment Qualified Right of Access

         When determining whether a First Amendment right to public access exists for a particular criminal proceeding or court document, the court must consider two factors, known commonly as the "experience" and "logic" test; "(1) whether the place and process have historically been open to the press and general public, and (2) whether 'public access plays a significant positive role in the functioning of the particular process in question.'" In re New York Times Co., 585 F.Supp.2d 83, 87 (D.D.C. 2008) (quoting Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1986)). "Even where such a right exists, however, this right is 'qualified' and is not absolute.'" Matter of the Application of WP Co. LLC, No. 16-mc-351 (BAH), 2016 WL 1604976, at * 1 (D.D.C. Apr. 1, 2016) (quoting In re New York Times, 585 F.Supp.2d at 90). "Thus, criminal proceedings or documents may remain under seal where the government meets its 'burden of showing that it has a compelling interest in keeping the materials secret.'" Id. (quoting Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court for Norfolk Ciy., 457 U.S. 596, 606 (1982)). Indeed, if a qualified First Amendment right attaches, "the presumption of public access to these materials may be overridden only if the government demonstrates that '(1) closure serves a compelling interest; (2) there is a substantial probability that, in the absence of closure, this compelling interest would be harmed; and (3) there are no alternatives to closure that would adequately protect the compelling interest.'" Id. at *2 (quoting Washington Post. v. Robinson, 935 F.2d 282, 290 (D.C. Cir. 1991)).

         Here, the Government seeks to seal its Addendum to its Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing which "discusses in detail areas of cooperation by the defendant that did not result in public. Charge.” Govt.'s Mot. at 4.

         In order to determine whether there is a First Amendment qualified right of access to the Addendum, the Court must first consider whether sentencing memoranda have historically been open to the press and the general public.[3] Generally, "there is an historic common law right of access to judicial records and documents that has been recognized in United States courts for well over a century." In re New York Times, 585 F.Supp.2d at 89 (citing Nixon v. Warner Communications, 435 U.S. 589, 597, n.7 (1978)). Moreover, other courts addressing the issue have held that sentencing memoranda are "judicial records" entitled to the common law presumption of access. United States v. Kravetz, 706 F.3d 47, 56-57 (1 st Cir. 2013); United States v. Dare, 568 F.Supp.2d 242, 244 (N.D.N.Y. 2008); c.f. United Slates v. Armstrong, __F.Supp.3d __, No. 11-cr-681, 2016 WL 2643041, at *2 (E.D.N.Y.May 9, 2016) (accepting for the purposes of its analysis that the First Amendment presumption of access applies to Government letters filed in connection with a defendant's sentencing); United States v. Cannon, No. 3:14-cr-00087-FDW, 2015 WL 3751781, at *4 (W.D. N.C. Jun. 16, 2015) (finding that there was a First Amendment and common law right to access portions of the defendant's sentencing memorandum that referenced information in the pre-sentence report); United States v. Chanthaboury, Na. 2:12-cr-00188-GEB, 2013 WL 6404989, at * 1 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 6, 2013) (recognizing a First Amendment right to access of sentencing memoranda). As such, the Court concludes that sentencing memoranda historically have been open to the press and general public. While the-Court reaches this holding, it notes that sentencing memoranda that include information regarding a defendant's cooperation are often filed under seal. Armstrong, 2016 WL 2643041, at *2.

         The Court next considers whether public access to sentencing memoranda plays a significant and positive role in the functioning of a particular process. As the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit recognized, public access to sentencing memoranda permits public oversight at sentencing and serves to "'check any temptation that might be felt by either the prosecutor or the court... to seek or impose an arbitrary or disproportionate sentence'; promote accurate fact-finding; and in general stimulate public confidence in the criminal justice system by permitting members of the public to observe that the defendant is justly sentenced." Kravetz, 706 F.3d at 57 (internal ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.