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United States v. Ruzicka

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 14, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JEROME C. RUZICKA and W. JEFFREY TAYLOR, Defendants.

          Erica H. MacDonald, United States Attorney, and Benjamin F. Langner and Surya Saxena, Assistant United States Attorneys, for plaintiff.

          John C. Conard, for defendant Jerome C. Ruzicka.

          Casey T. Rundquist and William J. Mauzy, for defendant W. Jeffrey Taylor.

          ORDER

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Defendant Jerome C. Ruzicka brings a Motion to Amend a previous Motion for a New Trial, highlighting newly discovered evidence.[1] Ruzicka was alleged to have engaged in a conspiracy to defraud hearing-aid companies Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (“Starkey”), and Sonion A.S, and was found guilty on several counts. He brought several motions seeking a new trial, which the Court has already ruled upon, and now seeks to amend one of his previous motions. Because Ruzicka has not shown that a new trial is warranted based on his newly discovered evidence, the Court will deny the Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This case has a long and complicated history. The Court previously summarized the factual allegations in its order on the parties' motions in limine. United States v. Ruzicka, No. 16-246, 2018 WL 385422, at *1-2 (D. Minn. Jan. 11, 2018). After a jury trial, Ruzicka was found guilty of four counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of making and subscribing a false tax return. (Verdict, Mar. 8, 2018, Docket No. 417.)

         After trial, Ruzicka filed several motions for, seeking a new trial for a variety of reasons. One of the most significant reasons, which was highlighted throughout the various motions, was the highly questionable testimony of William Austin, Starkey's CEO. For instance, Ruzicka sought a new trial based on an alleged miscarriage of justice. (Mot. for New Trial to Avoid a Miscarriage of Justice, Apr. 12, 2018, Docket No. 442.) He argued that his convictions should not stand because they were based largely on the “fundamentally incredible” testimony of William Austin. (Id. at 2.) The Court agreed that Austin's testimony was not credible. (Mem. Op. and Order Denying Post-Trial Motions (“Post-trial Order”) at 23, Sept. 7, 2018, Docket No. 542.) Nevertheless, the Court denied the motion because there was “sufficient other evidence” to support the verdict. (Id.)

         Ruzicka also requested a new trial based on alleged Brady violations by the United States. (Mot. for New Trial, June 13, 2018, Docket No. 489.) He claimed that the United States improperly withheld information related to (1) a prior FBI investigation into “stolen antiquities” that ended up with Starkey, and (2) one of Starkey's employees, Brandon Sawalich, telling the FBI that one of these items, a letter signed by General Ulysses S. Grant, was given to Ruzicka, who did not pay Starkey for it. (Id. at 3-4.) Ruzicka argued that these omissions were a violation of Brady's disclosure requirements because the letter constituted “non-traditional compensation” and whether Starkey had a practice of giving such compensation was important to Ruzicka's defense. (Id. at 4-5.) At trial, Austin explicitly testified that Starkey did not provide non-traditional compensation. (Trial Tr., Vol. XIII (“Tr.”) at 155-56, July 13, 2018, Docket No. 507.)

         In denying his motion, the Court first noted that Brady does not require disclosure of information “when the defendant otherwise has access to the source of the material or the material is cumulative of other evidence already available to the defendant.” (Post-trial Order at 53.) Because Ruzicka had personal knowledge that he had received the gift without paying for it, the information did not constitute Brady material. The Court further stated:

Moreover, the Court concludes that disclosure of the evidence would not have resulted in a different verdict. Ruzicka . . . questioned Austin extensively about Starkey's award of bonuses, loans, and other non-traditional forms of compensation, including Ruzicka's house. Ruzicka impeached Austin with various agreements he made with employees. The jury was provided with ample impeachment evidence about non-traditional forms of compensation provided to Starkey employees, including Ruzicka. And Austin's credibility more generally was repeatedly called into question. The Court concludes that Sawalich's statement about the Grant letter was cumulative of this evidence and does not create a “reasonable probability” of a different result such that confidence in the verdicts is undermined.

(Id. at 54 (transcript citations omitted).)

         II. ...


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