Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

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 of America v. Ramon Enrique Acosta

September 7, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robin S. Rosenbaum United States District Judge


This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Ramon Enrique Acosta's Motion for Severance [D.E. 162]. The Court has carefully reviewed Defendant's Motion, all supporting and opposing filings, and the record. After careful consideration, the Court now denies Defendant's Motion for the reasons set forth below.

I. Background

Defendant Ramon Acosta is charged by indictment along with six*fn1 others: Paul Cordoba, Marlon Cordoba, Antonio Cordoba, Francisco Gamero Medina, Cecilia Cordoba, and Manuel Rowinsky. The Superseding Indictment sets forth two cocaine-trafficking conspiracies, substantive cocaine-trafficking offenses, two money-laundering conspiracies, a substantive money-laundering offense, and a count of making a false statement relating to transporting a controlled substance by aircraft. See D.E. 96. Defendant Acosta is charged in each of the cocaine-trafficking conspiracies and with two substantive cocaine-trafficking counts. See id. at Counts 1, 2, 4, 6. He is not charged with money laundering or with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Previously, Defendants Cecilia Cordoba and Manuel Rowinsky, who are charged in one of the money-laundering conspiracies only, filed severance motions. See D.E. 68, D.E. 71. On May 3, 2012, the Honorable Federico A. Moreno denied Defendants Cecilia Cordoba and Manuel Rowinsky's severance motions. See D.E. 78, D.E. 79.

Defendant Acosta filed his Motion for Severance on August 20, 2012. See D.E. 162. In his Motion, Defendant Acosta notes that he is charged with drug-trafficking violations only and asserts that his trial should be severed from that of his Co-Defendants because "the 'spillover effect' from the evidence pertaining to the money laundering counts onto Acosta 'may be so prejudicial . . . as to mandate severance.'" D.E. 162 at 4 (citations omitted). As Defendant Acosta envisions trial, "the overwhelming amount of evidence submitted at trial will be directed at the other defendants, . . . and the spillover effect will be so great, that the court should exercise its discretion in [Acosta's] favor and grant him a trial separate from the co-defendants." Id. at 5. In addition, Acosta "adopts, as his own, the legal analysis set out in [Defendant Rowinsky's and Defendant Cecilia Cordoba's motions for severance]." Id. at 3 n.6. Among Defendant Rowinsky and Defendant Cecilia Cordoba's arguments, they contend that the risk of undue prejudice from a joint trial is high because "evidence will be admitted at trial against co-defendants that would be inadmissible against Ms. Cordoba if tried separately . . . ." See D.E. 68 at 3; D.E. 71 at 3. In addition, Defendant Cecilia Cordoba urges that "co-defendant's defenses are mutually antagonistic to and irreconcilable with the defendant's defense." D.E. 68 at 3. Acosta, however, does not set forth in his brief any facts to show how either of these arguments applies to him.

II. Discussion

A. Rule 8, Fed. R. Crim. P.

The Court begins its analysis by considering whether Counts 1, 2, 4, and 6 of the Superseding Indictment are properly joined with each other and with the other counts of the Superseding Indictment. Rule 8(a), Fed. R. Crim. P., governs joinder of offenses. It provides, in relevant part, "The indictment . . . may charge a defendant in separate counts with 2 or more offenses if the offenses charged . . . are of the same or similar character, or are based on the same act or transaction, or are connected with or constitute parts of a common scheme or plan." The word "transaction" "'may comprehend a series of many occurrences, depending not so much upon the immediateness of their connection as upon their logical relationship.'" United States v. Park, 531 F.2d 754, 761 (11th Cir. 1976) (quoting Moore v. N.Y. Cotton Exch., 270 U.S. 593, 610 (1926)). As for whether crimes are "connected" for purposes of Rule 8(a), charges satisfy this prong of Rule 8(a) if "the proof of one crime constitutes a substantial portion of the proof of the other." United States v. Montes-Cardenas, 746 F.2d 771, 776 (11th Cir. 1984) (citations omitted). When a court applies the standards articulated in Rule 8, the court "broadly construe[s] [Rule 8] in favor of the initial joinder.'" United States v. Dominguez, 226 F.3d 1235, 1238 (11th Cir. 2000) (quoting United States v. Weaver, 905 F.2d 1466, 1476-77 (11th Cir. 1990)).

Rule 8(b) sets for the requirements for joinder of defendants. It provides,

The indictment . . . may charge 2 or more defendants if they are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction, or in the same series of acts or transactions, constituting and offense or offenses. The defendants may be charged in one or more counts together or separately. All defendants need not be charged in each count.

Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(b). With regard to the propriety of joinder of offenses under Rule 8(b), an indictment may properly charge all of the defendants with conspiracy but only some of the defendants with substantive crimes arising out of that conspiracy. United States v. Weinrich, 586 F.2d 481, 495 (5th Cir. 1978);*fn2 United States v. DeLeon, 641 F.2d 330, 337 (5th Cir. Apr. 2, 1981). Moreover, where offenses are properly joined, a severance is not appropriate "merely to defuse the probative impact of evidence of one's own guilt." United States v. McGruder, 514 F.2d 1288, 1290 (5th Cir. 1975) (citation omitted).

Similarly, an indictment may properly charge multiple conspiracies that do not involve precisely the same participants, provided that all of the charged conspiracies are "part of the same series of acts or transactions." United States v. Hill, 643 F.3d 807, 829 (11th Cir. 2011) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, in Hill, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that three conspiracies involving different members were properly joined where the leader of the three conspiracies devised a "master scheme" involving a "common plan and design" but used a "different set of actors to perform the three acts of his play." Id.

In the instant matter, Defendant Paul Cordoba is charged in every count of the Superseding Indictment. During other hearings in this matter, the Government has described Defendant Paul Cordoba's role as, effectively, the leader or mastermind of a cocaine-trafficking business. Under the Government's theory, Counts 1 and 4 - the two cocaine-trafficking conspiracies - like the different conspiracies in Hill, are part of the same "master scheme" involving a "common plan and design" orchestrated ultimately by Defendant Paul Cordoba. And, the substantive ...

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.