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United States v. Whyte

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Danville Division

February 13, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
WILLIAM R. WHYTE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JACKSON L. KISER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant William R. Whyte was convicted by a jury on October 9, 2017, of nine counts of various forms of fraud and false claims. Following the verdict, Defendant moved to set aside the verdict, arguing among other things that the government improperly withheld Brady material. I reviewed the evidence and denied his motion. He has now filed a motion for reconsideration of that ruling, contending that I did not fully appreciate the evidence he cited. His motion will be denied.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Following the jury's verdict, Defendant moved to set aside the verdict, under Rule 29, or for a new trial, under Rule 33. In support of his motion, Defendant cited an email and letter, drafted by Frank Skinner[1] after the trial, as evidence that the government withheld evidence favorable to him that was material to his guilt, in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). I reviewed the letter in conjunction with Defendant's motion and found his argument to be without merit. At the time, I stated Defendant had failed to carry his burden to show that any material evidence had been actually withheld. His speculation that material evidence was withheld, I reasoned, was insufficient to show that it actually was. Accordingly, I denied his motion.

         Shortly thereafter, Defendant filed the present motion for reconsideration. In support of his motion, Defendant relies on the same evidence he cited originally. He contends that I overlooked, or failed to appropriately consider, evidence included in his supplemental motion; specifically, the letter from Frank Skinner to the government's attorneys. He briefed his argument, the government responded, and Defendant replied. I have considered all the evidence and argument, so the matter is now ripe for disposition.[2]

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Although motions for reconsideration are not expressly provided for in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, courts have long recognized their propriety in the criminal setting. See, e.g., United States v. Dieter, 429 U.S. 6, 8 n.3 (1976) (referring to treatment of motions to reconsider in criminal cases as a “traditional and virtually unquestioned practice”). In addressing such motions, the civil rules regarding motions to reconsider set the standards for consideration. See United States v. Dickerson, 971 F.Supp. 1023, 1024 (E.D. Va. 1997), rev'd on other grounds, 166 F.3d 667 (4th Cir. 1999), rev'd 530 U.S. 428 (2000). Because the decision Defendant asks me to reconsider is my ruling on his motion to set aside the jury's verdict, Civil Rule 59(e) regarding motions to alter or amend the judgment is the appropriate analog. Although that rule does not set forth specific grounds for altering or amending a final judgment, the Fourth Circuit recognizes three grounds for amending a judgment:

(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law;
(2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or
(3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.

Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1081 (4th Cir. 1993). “Where the motion [for reconsideration] is nothing more than a request that the district court change its mind, however, it is not authorized . . . .” United States v. Williams, 674 F.2d 310, 313 (4th Cir. 1982).

         III. DISCUSSION

         At the outset, Defendant's motion is nothing more “than a request that the district court change its mind, ” id., and is therefore improper. Moreover, Defendant has made no effort whatsoever to argue that his motion asserts any of the appropriate grounds for reconsideration. See Hutchinson, 994 F.2d at 1081. On either issue, his Motion is improperly before the Court. Nevertheless, even reaching the merits of his Motion, I see no reason to alter my original ruling.

         Defendant takes issue with my failure to discuss Frank Skinner's October 27, 2017, letter, [3] so I will endeavor to explain further why I believe the government has not violated its obligations under Brady. First and foremost, the Skinner letter was received by the government attorney on October 27, 2017, eighteen days after the jury returned its verdict. Although the government attorneys were not as prompt as possible in disclosing the letter, they nevertheless forwarded the letter to Defendant's counsel on December 4, 2017, in advance of the hearing on Defendant's Motion to Set Aside the Verdict. I fail to see, then, how the letter was actually withheld. See United States ...


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