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United States v. Jeffs

United States District Court, D. Utah

August 24, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
LYLE STEED JEFFS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SEVER COUNTS

          TED STEWART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Sever Counts. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 17, 2016, Defendant was charged with conspiracy to commit Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) benefits fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering (“Counts One and Two”). On June 9, 2016, Defendant was ordered released. Defendant's conditions of release required Defendant to appear in Court as ordered, submit to global position satellite (“GPS”) monitoring, and to participate in home detention at a residence in Salt Lake County.

         After being granted pretrial release, Defendant removed his GPS monitor and absconded from supervision. On August 17, 2016, the Court set an evidentiary hearing on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for September 6, 2016. The Court later continued the hearing to October 4, 2016. The Court ordered Defendants, including Mr. Jeffs, to appear at that hearing. Defendant failed to appear at that hearing.

         Defendant was arrested in South Dakota on June 14, 2017. A Superseding Indictment was issued on June 21, 2017, adding a charge of failure to appear (“Count Three”). Defendant now seeks to sever Count Three.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Defendant's Motion presents two arguments. First, Defendant argues that Count Three is improperly joined. Second, Defendant argues that the Court should exercise its discretion to sever Count Three.

         A. IMPROPER JOINDER

         Defendant first argues that Count Three is improperly joined. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8(a) states:

The indictment or information may charge a defendant in separate counts with 2 or more offenses if the offenses charged-whether felonies or misdemeanors or both-are of the same or similar character, or are based on the same act or transaction, or are connected with or constitute parts of a common scheme or plan.

         “Rule 8 is construed broadly to allow liberal joinder to enhance the efficiency of the judicial system.”[1] Courts have held that a failure to appear charge is connected with other charges when the charges are related in time, the motive for flight was the avoidance of prosecution, and the defendant's custody stemmed directly from the underlying offense.[2] Consideration of these factors shows that Count Three was properly joined here.

         First, the charges are related in time. The Superseding Indictment alleges that Defendant and his co-conspirators engaged in various acts in furtherance of their scheme to defraud between 2011 and 2016. Defendant's failure to appear occurred in October 2016 and was the direct result of his absconding from pretrial supervision, which occurred in June 2016. Second, it can reasonably be inferred that Defendant's motive for flight was the avoidance of prosecution. Defendant was on pretrial release for just a matter of days before he slipped his ankle monitor and fled. He then remained on the run for nearly a year before his arrest in South Dakota. Based upon these facts, this requirement is met. ...


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