United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are two motions filed by Defendant James
Morris Balagia: (1) Defendant Balagia's Motion to Sever
Alleged Offenses (Dkt. #376); and (2) Defendant Balagia's
Motion for Production of Witness or, in the Alternative,
Motion for Continuance (Dkt. #380). Having considered the
motions and the relevant pleadings, the Court finds that the
motions should be denied.
original Indictment in this case was returned on December 15,
2015. On February 9, 2017, a Superseding Indictment was
returned-the Superseding Indictment included charges against
Defendant Balagia. Defendant Balagia is an attorney licensed
in Texas (Dkt. #232). Under the operative, Fourth Superseding
Indictment returned on January 9, 2019, the Government
charges Defendant Balagia with five counts: (1) Conspiracy to
Commit Money Laundering; (2) Obstruction of Justice and
Aiding and Abetting; (3) Violation, Endeavor, and Attempt to
Violate the Kingpin Act; (4) Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343; and (5) Conspiracy to
Obstruct Justice (Dkt. #232).
charges stem from Defendant Balagia's representation of
Columbian citizens in drug-related, criminal matters (Dkt.
#232). The following excerpt from the Fourth Superseding
Indictment provides some context for the charges:
Balagia and others would solicit federal criminal defendants
(including Hermes Casanova Ordonez, Segundo Villota Segura,
and Aldemar Villota Segura) as clients under false pretenses.
Balagia and others claimed to the defendants that they had
contacts who had the power to affect their criminal charges
if the defendants would pay a large sum of money.
(Dkt. #232 at p. 10).
relevant here is a December 21, 2015, meeting between
Defendant Balagia, Charles Norman Morgan, Adriana Morgan,
Bibiana Correa Perea, and Segundo Villota-Segura
(“Segundo Segura”) at La Picota Prison in Bogota,
Colombia (Dkt. #232 at p. 13). At the meeting, it was
represented to Segundo Segura, a criminal defendant in a
drug-trafficking case pending in the United States District
Court for the Eastern District of Texas, that four people in
Washington, D.C. had been bribed to assist Segundo Segura
with the federal charges against him (Dkt. #232 at p.
Segundo Segura remains in Colombian custody and is awaiting
extradition to the United States (Dkt. #382 at p. 5).
pre-trial conference in this case was originally set for May
15, 2017, before United States District Judge Marcia Crone
(Dkt. #28). On February 25, 2019, Judge Crone transferred the
case to this Court (Dkt. #259). On April 24, 2019, the Court
entered a Pretrial Order specially setting the case for trial
on October 15, 2019 (Dkt. #287).
Court detailed in its prior order, multiple continuances have
been granted in this case (Dkt. #359). The case has been
specially set three times and continued six times (Dkt.
#381). The October 15, 2019, trial date is over
two-and-a-half years from the date of Defendant Balagia's
arrest (Dkt. #381). Defendant has hired multiple attorneys,
received multiple continuances, and has been granted
additional CJA Co-Counsel in Matthew Hamilton to assist
now-lead counsel, Gaylon Riddels (Dkt. #381).
September 30, 2019, Defendant Balagia filed his Motion to
Sever Alleged Offenses (Dkt. #376). The Government responded
on October 3, 2019 (Dkt. #383). On October 2, 2019, Defendant
Balagia filed his Motion for Production of Witness or, in the
Alternative, Motion for Continuance (Dkt. #380). The
Government responded on October 3, 2019 (Dkt. #382).
Joinder of Offenses
Rule of Criminal Procedure 8(a) and Rule 14(a) both address
joinder of offenses in an indictment. Rule 8(a) establishes
The indictment or information may charge a defendant in
separate counts with 2 or more offenses if the offenses
charged-whether felonies or misdemeanors or both-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.
Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(a). “Joinder of charges is the rule
rather than the exception, ” and “Rule 8 is
construed liberally in favor of initial joinder.”
United States v. Bullock, 71 F.3d 171, 174 (5th
Cir.1995) (citing United States v. Park, 531 F.2d
754, 761 (5th Cir. 1976)). Whether joinder is proper under
Rule 8(a) is “determined by the initial allegations of
the indictment, which are accepted as true absent arguments
of prosecutorial misconduct.” United States v.
Harrelson, 754 F.2d 1153, 1176 (5th Cir. 1985)
(citations omitted). Once the Court determines that joinder
is proper under Rule 8, the ...