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United States v. Dean

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

December 3, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
LEVON DEAN, JR., Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON MOTION TO DISMISS

LEONARD T. STRAND UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Defendant Levon Dean, Jr., has filed a motion (Doc. No. 70) to dismiss Counts 1, 2 and 3 of the superseding indictment for lack of jurisdiction. Plaintiff (the Government) has filed a resistance (Doc. No. 71). Judge Bennett has referred the motion to me for preparation of a report and recommended disposition. While Levon[1]has requested oral argument, that request is denied as the motion has been well-briefed by both parties. See L.R. 7(c). The motion is fully submitted.

BACKGROUND

On October 24, 2013, the Grand Jury returned a nine-count superseding indictment (Doc. No. 41) against Levon and two co-defendants (Jamal Dean and Sarah Berg). Levon is named in all counts except Count 8. The counts relevant to Levon’s current motion are Count 1, conspiracy to commit robbery, and Counts 2 and 3, robbery. All three counts are brought pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (the Hobbs Act).

The Government summarizes the pertinent factual allegations as follows:

Sometime before April 15, 2013, Sarah Berg and others known and unknown to the grand jury, used methamphetamine J.R. provided and thus became aware that J.R. was a drug trafficker. At the time of the robbery J.R. was a drug trafficker whose drug trade affected commerce as commerce is defined in Title 18 United States Code Section 1951(b)(3). The robbery impeded J.R. from drug trafficking, and depleted his resources of methamphetamine and United States currency used to acquire methamphetamine.
Sometime before April 24, 2013, Jamal Dean, Levon Dean, and others known and unknown to the grand jury, used methamphetamine C.B. provided and thus became aware that C.B. was a drug trafficker. At the time of the robbery C.B. was a drug trafficker whose drug trade affected commerce as commerce is defined in Title 18 United States Code Section 1951(b)(3). The robbery impeded C.B. from drug trafficking and depleted his resources of methamphetamine and United States currency used to acquire methamphetamine.

Doc. No. 71-1 at 1-2.

THE ARGUMENTS

Levon argues that this court lacks jurisdiction over Counts 1, 2 and 3 because the Government cannot prove the alleged conduct had an actual impact on interstate commerce. He notes that the alleged victims, J.R. and C.B., are alleged to have been drug dealers, not business entities regularly engaged in interstate commerce. He cites cases holding that criminal acts directed solely at individuals do not have a substantial-enough effect on interstate commerce to provide federal jurisdiction under the Hobbs Act.

The Government argues that Counts 1 through 3 of the superseding indictment properly state offenses because those counts allege facts satisfying all of the essential elements of the charged offenses. The Government further contends that because the offense is properly stated, Levon’s motion is an inappropriate pretrial challenge to the sufficiency of the Government’s evidence.

ANALYSIS

I. Does This Court Have Subject Matter Jurisdiction Over Counts 1 Through 3?

“The district courts of the United States shall have original jurisdiction, exclusive of the courts of the States, of all offenses against the laws of the United States.” 18 U.S.C. § 3231. Here, the Grand Jury returned a superseding indictment against Levon that includes, inter alia, three counts based on alleged violations of the Hobbs Act, a federal criminal statute. See Superseding Indictment Counts 1-3. “Indictments are normally sufficient unless no reasonable construction can be said to charge the offense.” United States v. Peterson, 867 F.2d 1110, 1114 (8th Cir. 1989). An indictment states an offense where it contains all the essential elements of the offense charged. United States v. Steffen, 687 F.3d 1104, 1109 (8th Cir. 2012). In reviewing the sufficiency of an indictment, ...


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