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Criminal Defense, COVID-19 and Speedy Trial

Federal Criminal Defense attorneys, or basically all Eastern District of New York attorneys know that COVID-19 has greatly reduced the ability of the courts to hold trials and manage cases. In the case of United States v. Andrews, No. 20-CR-546 (GRB) (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 23, 2021), United States District Court Judge, Honorable Gary R. Brown, must evaluate what to do with was originally a Southern District of New York criminal case but was re-indicted in the Eastern District of New York (basically Staten Island to Montauk, New York)...

The Criminal Southern District of New York case started in 2019 and progressed accordingly until dismissal by the prosecutor. The Court noted, "Carefully balancing the public health emergency, the defendant's liberty interests, a required substitution of counsel and the ability of the Court to safely and fairly conduct a jury trial, Judge Engelmayer scheduled a retrial for September 21, 2020, and then, with the approval of the Board of Judges, adjourned that date to October 20, 2020. SDNY DE 383, 450." The case continued to be delayed and the Criminal Defense Motion to Dismiss on Speedy Trial grounds was filed:

Much of the delay here appears attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, an extraordinary, largely unprecedented phenomenon about which this Court has already written extensively. See, e.g., United States v. Cohn, 481 F. Supp. 3d 122 (E.D.N.Y. 2020). The question of characterizing delays attributable to the pandemic proves nettlesome.

The case progresses well into the pandemic and successive New York State executive orders. "The first four counts, charging sex trafficking offenses, violations of the Travel Act, and related conspiracies, largely track the charges from the SDNY." After the indictment in the Eastern District (EDNY), the SDNY charges were dismissed in the interests of justice. So from 2019 to 2020, the case progresses until "On December 7, defendant was arraigned on the EDNY indictment and held pursuant to a permanent order of detention." Because the Defendant was already jailed, he remained in jail from the initial set of charges throughout this process. The Speedy Trial motion was filed and not fully briefed until well over a year into pandemic (March 25, 2021) where Hon. USDJ Gary Brown states:

In this extraordinary situation, forcing defendant to face trial on charges that may well be subject to dismissal or delaying trial pending resolution of the motion constitutes serious prejudice to the defendant. Remedying this prejudice through severance outweighs the interests of the Government and the public in the efficiency of a joint trial of the charges. Moreover, by taking this step now, counsel for both the defendant and the Government will have adequate time to prepare for trial, the scope of which may have been altered by this Order.

The case is United States v. Andrews, No. 20-CR-546 (GRB) (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 23, 2021), and serves as an important note to the Federal Criminal Defense Attorney when pursuing speedy trial in the time of COVID-19 - no, not all counts were subject to speedy trial dismissal (yet or at all) but not all counts will be tried as the case is severed pursuant to the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure, Rule 14 and in accord with the Speedy Trial Rights of the Defendant.

Further, an appeal is not likely as "A trial court's decision concerning severance is considered `virtually unreviewable,' and the denial of such a motion `will not be reversed unless appellants establish that the trial court abused its discretion.'" United States v. Thompson, 2020 WL 6930621, at *8 (W.D.N.Y. Nov. 25, 2020) (quoting United States v. Cardascia, 951 F.2d 474, 482 (2d Cir. 1991)).

For any accusation, criminal defense, federal charges, call Cory H. Morris, Esq. New York and Florida, Injury, Addiction, Accident, Call the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris, 631-450-2515 (NYS) (954) 998-2918 (FLA).


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