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United States v. Zuniga

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 30, 2019



          HON. BRIAN R. MARTINOTTI, United States District Judge.

         Before this Court is Defendant Daniel Zuniga’s (“Zuniga”) Motion to Dismiss Indictment for Violation of Speedy Trial. (ECF No. 54.) The United States opposes the motion. Having reviewed the parties’ submissions (ECF Nos. 49 & 50) filed in connection with this matter and having heard oral argument on September 23, 2019, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(a) (ECF No. 58), for the reasons set forth below and for good cause having been shown, Zuniga’s motion is DENIED.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         When, as here, a “defendant claims a violation of the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3161, the dates of the proceedings are critical to evaluating defendant’s” claim. United States v. Miles, 290 F.3d 1341, 1345 n.1 (3d Cir. 2002); see also United States v. Parker, 508 F.3d 434, 436 (7th Cir. 2007) (“Certain pretrial dates and events are important to our resolution of [a defendant’s] Speedy Trial Act claim.”); United States v. Nixon, 634 F.2d 306, 307 (5th Cir. 1981) (“In order to understand the speedy trial issue, the dates upon which certain events transpired are important.”).

         On March 23, 2018, Zuniga was arrested pursuant to a warrant, waived a preliminary hearing, and was ordered detained pending trial. (ECF Nos. 7 & 8.) By consent of the parties, the Court continued the case and tolled the Speedy Trial Act time period from March 27, 2018 to September 30, 2018. (ECF Nos. 10, 16 & 18.)

         On August 3, 2018, Zuniga moved for release from pretrial detention. (ECF No. 19.) Following a hearing on August 20, 2018, the Court denied the motion the next day. (ECF Nos. 20 & 21.)

         On September 21, 2018, Zuniga moved for a hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), and for other assorted relief. (ECF No. 22.) The parties traded letters concerning whether the Franks motion was procedurally appropriate. (ECF Nos. 23, 24, & 25.)

         On October 31, 2018 the grand jury returned a seven-count superseding indictment against Zuniga and co-defendant Luis Vega (“Co-Defendant”).1 (ECF No. 28.) The Court arraigned Zuniga on these charges on November 11, 2018. (ECF Nos. 28 & 31.) The United States suggested that this indictment mooted Zuniga’s Franks motion. (ECF No. 40.) The Court agreed and denied the Franks motion as moot on March 18, 2019. (ECF No. 42.)

         In addition to the proceedings involving Zuniga, the Court handled a host of litigation involving Co-Defendant. For instance, the United States moved on December 17, 2018-before the Court ruled on Zuniga’s Franks motion-to disqualify Co-Defendant’s counsel. (ECF No. 33.) The Court granted the United States’ motion and ordered Co-Defendant’s counsel removed from the case on January 22, 2019. (ECF Nos. 36 & 37.)

         The next day, Co-Defendant’s now-disqualified counsel asked the Court to be appointed as CJA counsel. (ECF No. 35.) On March 4, 2019, before the Court could appoint counsel, Co-1 Only four of those counts charge Zuniga. (ECF No. 28.) Although labeled a “superseding” indictment, this is the first indictment to charge Zuniga. An earlier indictment charged only Co-Defendant. (ECF No. 16.) Defendant filed a pro se discovery motion. (ECF No. 41.) The Court appointed CJA counsel for Co-Defendant the next day. (ECF No. 39.) On March 26, 2019, Co-Defendant’s new counsel consented to a continuance and tolling of the Speedy Trial Act between March 20, 2019 and June 30, 2019. (ECF No. 47.)

         Zuniga moved on June 7, 2019 to dismiss the superseding indictment due to a violation of the Speedy Trial Act. (ECF No. 54.) The Court heard oral argument on September 23, 2019. (ECF No. 58.)

         II. Decision

         Zuniga argues that the time for trial under the Speedy Trial Act has expired. All parties agree on the amount of real time that has passed since this case began, but the United States argues that only one day of that time-March 19, 2019-counts towards the Speedy Trial Act time limitations. Zuniga has three arguments in response.

         The Speedy Trial Act requires that a defendant’s trial begin “within seventy days from the filing date (and making public) of the information or indictment, or from the date the defendant has appeared before a judicial officer of the court in which such charge is pending, whichever date last occurs.” 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(1). However, the statute excludes numerous time periods from this 70-day period. See Id . § 3161(h). The relevant exclusions here include “delay resulting from any pretrial motion, from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of, such motion, ” as well as “delay resulting from a continuance granted . . . at the request of the defendant or his counsel or at the request of the attorney for the ...

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