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United States v. Woodley

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division

February 7, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JONATHAN WOODLEY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MARK S. DAVIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Jonathan Woodley ("Defendant"), requesting that the Court dismiss all counts of the indictment. Def.'s Mot. Dismiss 1, ECF No. 20. The indictment charges Defendant with conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h) (Count One), and five counts of concealment money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 (a) (1) (B) (i) and 2 (Counts Two through Six). ECF No. 13. Defendant argues that all counts should be dismissed because the alleged facts show that Defendant's conduct exposed the alleged money laundering and did nothing to conceal it. Def.'s Mot. Dismiss 1-2.

         I. Legal Standard

         At the motion to dismiss "stage of a criminal case, the indictment allegations are presumed to be true, and the motion should not ordinarily be used as a vehicle to test the sufficiency of the evidence behind the allegations." United States v. Treacy, No. 15-4742, 2017 WL 497674, at *3 (4th Cir. Feb. 7, 2017) (citing United States v. Stewart, 744 F.3d 17, 21 (1st Cir. 2014)). Thus, a district court may dismiss an indictment before trial based upon "an infirmity of law, " but not based upon a determination of facts that will be developed at trial. Id.

         Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 7(c) requires an indictment to "be a plain, concise, and definite written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged." Fed. R. Crim. P. 7(c)(1). Each count "must give the official or customary citation of the statute, rule, regulation, or other provision of law that the defendant is alleged to have violated." Id. "To pass constitutional muster, an indictment must (1) indicate the elements of the offense and fairly inform the defendant of the exact charges and (2) enable the defendant to plead double jeopardy in subsequent prosecutions of the same offense." United States v. Williams, 152 F.3d 294, 299 (4th Cir. 1998) (citing United States v. Sutton, 961 F.2d 476, 279 (4th Cir. 1992)).

         The Fourth Circuit applies "heightened scrutiny" when reviewing the sufficiency of an indictment challenged prior to the entry of a verdict. United States v. Darby, 3 7 F.3d 1059, 1063 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing United States v. Hooker, 841 F.2d 1225, 1229 (4th Cir. 1998) (en banc)). Nonetheless, " [i] t is generally sufficient that an indictment set forth the offense in the words of the statute itself, as long as those words of themselves fully, directly, and expressly, without any uncertainty or ambiguity, set forth all the elements necessary to constitute the offence intended to be punished." Hamling v. United States, 418 U.S. 87, 117 (1974) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). An element is necessary or essential if it is "one whose specification ... is necessary to establish the very illegality of the behavior and thus the court's jurisdiction." United States v. Hooker, 841 F.2d 1225, 1231 (4th Cir. 1988) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) (alteration in original). Where a charging document uses the language of the statute to generally describe the charged offense, "it must be accompanied with such a statement of the facts and circumstances as will inform the accused of the specific offence, coming under the general description, with which he is charged." Hamling, 418 U.S. at 117-18 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The statement of facts in a charging document need not include "detailed allegations, " however, because Rule 7(c) (1) contemplates only that the charging document have a "plain, concise, and definite written statement" of the essential facts. United States v. Resendiz-Ponce, 549 U.S. 102, 110 (2007).

         A court's review of a motion challenging the sufficiency of a charging document "is ordinarily limited to the allegations contained in the indictment." United States v. Engle, 676 F.3d 405, 415 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing United States v. Wills, 346 F.3d 476, 488 (4th Cir. 2003) (noting that "courts lack authority to review the sufficiency of evidence supporting an indictment"). A court should not consider "evidence beyond the face of the indictment" because it cannot dismiss an indictment "on a determination of facts that should have been developed at trial." Id. at 415 & n.6. Likewise, a defendant may not challenge the sufficiency of a charging document "on the ground that [it is] not supported by adequate or competent evidence." Costello v. United States, 350 U.S. 359, 364 (1956). Courts reviewing challenges to the sufficiency of an indictment must therefore treat the allegations in the indictment as true. Engle, 676 F.3d at 415. A defendant challenging the sufficiency of his indictment before trial must show that the allegations contained in the indictment, "even if true, " fail to state an offense. Engle, 676 F.3d at 415.

         A. Sufficiency in Charging Concealment Money Laundering

         Counts Two through Six charge Defendant with concealment money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1956 (a) (1) (B) (i). The Fourth Circuit has interpreted this statute to require:

(1) the defendant conducted or attempted to conduct a financial transaction having at least a de minimis effect on interstate commerce or involving the use of a financial institution which is engaged in, or the activities of which have at least a de minimis effect on, interstate commerce;
(2) the property that was the subject of the transaction involved the proceeds of specified unlawful activity;
(3) the defendant knew that the property involved represented the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity; and
(4) the defendant knew that the transaction was designed in whole or part, to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of the unlawful activity.

United States v. Kivanc, 714 F.3d 782, 796 (4th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). The Fourth Circuit has established that the fourth element requires a specific intent to conceal. UnitedStates v. Villarini, 238 ...


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