United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Jeffrey Paulsen, Assistant United States Attorney, for
Shannon Elkins, Assistant Federal Defender, for Defendant.
FARANKLIN L. NOEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MATTER came before the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge on Defendant Terrell Bias' motion to
sever (ECF No. 136). For the reasons set forth below.
Defendant Terrell Bias' motion to sever (ECF No. 136) is
December 12, 2017, a United States Grand Jury returned an
Indictment charging Jimmie Lee McGowan, Jr., Steven Rena
Stone, Jr., Donte Camell Robinson, Eric Troy Ballard, Tekhola
Temar Lee Trapps, Terrell Bias, Lawrence Michael Crenshaw,
Calvin Markeith Berry, Ravel Drake, and Ronald Theodore Dietz
with conspiring to distribute cocaine and cocaine base
"crack" cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C
§§ 846, 841(b)(1)(B). See ECF No. 1. Count
17 of the Indictment charges Bias with knowingly and
intentionally possessing fourteen grams of cocaine with the
intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C). Id. The Indictment also
charges Defendants Ravel Drake and Eric Troy Ballard with
knowingly and intentionally possessing two grams, and
fourteen grams of cocaine, respectively, with the intent to
distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1)
and 841(b)(1)(C). See id.
November 9, 2017, law enforcement officers arrested Bias at
the Greyhound bus station in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
According to the Government, investigators knew from
intercepted communications that Bias would be taking a
Greyhound bus from Minneapolis to North Dakota. During a
search incident to arrest, officers found fourteen grams of
cocaine on Bias' person. The Government asserts that
intercepted calls confirm that the drugs found on Bias were
provided to him by Defendant Jimmie Lee McGowan, Bias'
half-brother. Also, that on December 1, 2017, agents
intercepted a series of calls between McGowan and Defendant
Ravel Drake, whereby Drake attempted to purchase 3.5 grams of
crack cocaine from McGowan.
CONCLUSION OF LAW
Bias asks the Court for severance arguing that he is not a
properly joined defendant under Rule 8(b) of the Federal
Rules of Criminal Procedure. ECF No. 136. Specifically, Bias
argues that his alleged possession of fourteen grams of
cocaine on November 9, 2017, is a singular incident,
unrelated to the overall conspiracy to distribute cocaine,
and that no jury will be able to afford Bias the presumption
of innocence if he is tried with the other defendants.
See ECF No. 322. The Government, in turn, argues
that the charge against Bias is part of the same common
scheme or plan alleged in the Indictment, and that joinder is
proper under Rule 8(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal
Procedure. See ECF No. 329.
8(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal procedure provides that
defendants may be j ointly charged "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." "Courts generally read same series of
acts or transactions to mean acts or transactions that are
pursuant to a common plan or common scheme, which is to say
(in the usual case) that the acts or transactions are part of
a single conspiracy." United States V. Jones,
880 F.2d 55, 61 (8th Cir. 1989) (quotations omitted).
severance may be granted where joinder of offenses or
defendants would prejudice a defendant. See Fed. R.
Crim. P. 14. However, there is a strong presumption against
severing properly joined defendants. United States v.
Delpit, 94 F.3d 1134, 1143 (8th Cir. 1996). Defendants
properly joined under Rule 8(b) must show that "there is
a serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a special
trial right of one of the defendants, or prevent the jury
from making a reliable judgment about guih or
innocence." Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S.
534, 539 (1993). Put differently, to warrant severance a
defendant must show "something more than the mere fact
that he would have had a better chance for acquittal had he
been tried separately." United States v. Oakie,
12 F.3d 1436, 1441 (8th Cir. 1993).
Indictment charges Bias and nine other defendants with
engaging in a common scheme or plan to distribute cocaine and
cocaine base "crack" in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ § 846, 841 (b)(1)(B). See ECF No. 1.
According to the Government, Defendant Jimmie Lee McGowan
obtained drugs from Defendants Steven Stone, Donte Robinson,
and Eric Ballard, and provided those drugs to Defendants
Bias, Calvin Berry, and Ravel Drake, who served as
sub-distributors. Id. Counts 17 and 20,
respectively, charge Defendants Bias and Drake with
possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute. The
Government represents that intercepted communications confirm
that the drugs Bias was arrested with were provided to him by
Defendant McGowan, and investigators intercepted
communications relating to drug activity between Drake and
McGowan. Based on these facts, and the fact that Bias has
failed to show that a joint trial with the remaining
defendants would subject him to any legally cognizable
prejudice, the Court finds that severance is not proper.
upon all of the files, records, and proceedings herein,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Bias' ...