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United States v. Benedict

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

September 6, 2013

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Derek Edward Benedict (01), Defendant.

Surya Saxena, United States Attorney's Office, on behalf of Plaintiff.

Thomas G. Dunnwald, Dunnwald & Peterson, on behalf of Defendant Derek Edward Benedict.



This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge on Defendant Derek Edward Benedict's Appeal of the Magistrate Judge's Order Denying Severance of Defendants & Disparate Conspiracies for Trial [Doc. No. 204]. Finding the matter fully briefed, the Court has considered the appeal on the papers. (Docket Text Entry Denying Request for Evidentiary Hearing [Doc. No. 235].) For the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's appeal is denied.


Benedict moves to sever the trial on his case from the trials of the other defendants and also moves to sever Counts One and Two of the Indictment, arguing that they are separate and distinct allegations. Benedict appeals Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel's Order of July 24, 2013 [Doc. No. 187] denying his pretrial severance motions.

A district court's review of a magistrate judge's order on a nondispositive matter is "extremely deferential." Reko v. Creative Promotions, Inc. , 70 F.Supp.2d 1005, 1007 (D. Minn. 1999); see also United States v. Raddatz , 447 U.S. 667, 673 (1980). "A motion to sever is a nondispositive motion." United States v. Morris, 12-CR-26(6) (JRT/JSM), 2012 WL 6194402, at *5 (D. Minn. Dec. 12, 2012) (citing United States v. Ortiz, No. 08-CR-231 , 2011 WL 1344213, at *1 (E.D. Wis. Apr. 8, 2011)). The Court will reverse such an order only if it is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(a); D. Minn. LR 72.2(a). This Court's ruling on Defendant's motions to sever would be the same even under a de novo standard of review.

The Indictment charges Defendant and seven others with two conspiracy counts and other underlying offenses. (Indictment [Doc. No. 1].) The Government charges Benedict in Count One with conspiracy to commit bank robbery and bank larceny. (Id. ¶¶1-4.) This charge involves a conspiracy to steal money inside Automated Teller Machines ("ATMs"), including ATMs located at several Walgreens stores. (Id.) Benedict is further charged in Count Two with conspiracy to steal controlled substances - specifically, the theft of controlled substances at a Walgreens store and another pharmacy. (Id. ¶¶ 5-8.) While he is charged with additional offenses in other counts of the Indictment, [1] he seeks to sever Counts One and Two, arguing that because they "remain separate and distinct allegations, " a defendant "faced with trial for both of these charges together cannot reasonably expect to receive a fair trial of either conspiracy." (Def.'s Mot. for Severance of Counts at 1 [Doc. No. 152].) Benedict argues on appeal that the two conspiracies are so intertwined that "it will appear to the jury that the only legitimate defense to one conspiracy is a denial of both." (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Appeal at 3 [Doc. No. 220].) In addition, he moves to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants, arguing that his right to a fair trial will be prejudiced if he is tried jointly. (Id. at 2.)


The propriety of joinder, pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 8, is determined on the face of the indictment. United States v. Bledsoe , 674 F.2d 647, 655 (8th Cir. 1982); United States v. Sanders , 563 F.2d 379, 382 (8th Cir. 1977). Rules 8(a) and 8(b) are to be liberally construed in favor of joinder. United States v. Darden , 70 F.3d 1507, 1526 (8th Cir.1995); Bledsoe , 674 F.2d at 655. Rule 8(a) provides:

Joinder of Offenses. 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.

Rule 8(b) provides:

Joinder of Defendants. The indictment or information 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 an 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.

Courts have concluded that Rule 8(a) applies only to single defendants challenging joinder of offenses in a single trial or when multiple defendants, who are all charged with the same offenses, challenge the joinder of offenses. United States v. Southwest Bus Sales, Inc. , 20 F.3d 1449, 1453-54 (8th Cir.1994) (internal citations omitted). In cases involving multiple defendants who are not all charged with each offense, the analysis of the joinder of offenses is governed by Rule 8(b). Id .; United States v. Jones , 880 F.2d 55, 61 (8th Cir.1989); Williams v. United States , 416 F.2d 1064, 1068 (8th Cir. 1969); United States v. Finn , 919 F.Supp. 1305, 1323 (D. Minn. 1995); see also 1A Charles Alan Wright, Federal ...

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