United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the court on the Motion for Relief from
Prejudicial Joinder [DE 188] filed by the defendant,
Demetrius Brinkley, on January 14, 2019, and the Motion for
Severance [DE 193] filed by the defendant, Paronica Bonds, on
January 17, 2019. For the following reasons, the Motion for
Relief from Prejudicial Joinder [DE 188] is
GRANTED, and the Motion for Severance [DE
193] is GRANTED.
superseding indictment was returned on May 16, 2019. The
defendants, Demetrius Brinkley and Paronica Bonds, along with
six other codefendants, are charged in Count 1 with
conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to
distribute crack cocaine and heroin, in violation of 21
U.S.C. § 846. Brinkley and Bonds were arraigned on June
3, 2019, and they both entered pleas of not guilty.
fifteen count superseding indictment, Brinkley and Bonds only
are charged in the general conspiracy alleged in Count 1 to
distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled
substances. They are not charged in the other fourteen counts
which allege distribution of crack cocaine and heroin (Counts
2-8, 10, 11); possession of a firearm by a felon (Count 9);
murder while engaged in a narcotics conspiracy (Counts 12,
13); and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a
drug-trafficking crime (Counts 14, 15).
court found this case to be complex in issuing the case
management deadlines because of the volume of discovery. The
majority of the charges in the superseding indictment are
against codefendants, Teddia Caldwell, Devonte Hodge,
Devontae Martin, and Taquan Clarke. The charges against
Caldwell, Hodge, Martin, and Clarke carry the potential death
penalty. The Government filed a Notice of Intent Not to Seek
the Death Penalty against Defendants Devonte Hodge, Devontae
Martin, and Taquan Clarke on July 19, 2019. [DE 300].
However, the Department of Justice has not yet determined
whether it intends to seek the death penalty against
and Bonds have filed motions under Federal Rule of Criminal
Procedure 14(a) requesting that their trials be severed from
the remaining codefendants. The Government filed a response
in opposition on February 4, 2019. Brinkley and Bonds did not
file a reply.
Rule of Criminal Procedure 8(b) provides that an
indictment may charge “2 or more defendants if they are
alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction,
or in the same series of acts or transactions, constituting
an offense or offenses.” “[T]here is a
presumption that participants in a conspiracy or other
criminal schemes should be tried together, not only to
economize on judicial and prosecutorial resources but also to
give the jury a fuller picture of the scheme.”
United States v. Cardena, 842 F.3d 959, 980-81 (7th
Cir. 2016) (quoting United States v. Phillips, 239
F.3d 829, 838 (7th Cir. 2001)).
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 14(a)
recognizes that “[i]f the joinder of offenses or
defendants in an indictment, an information, or a
consolidation for trial appears to prejudice the defendant or
the government, the court may . . . sever the defendants'
trials.” The Supreme Court has held that, although the
issue is committed to the sound discretion of the trial
court, severance is generally appropriate “only if
there is a serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a
specific trial right of one of the defendants, or prevent the
jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or
innocence.” Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S.
534, 539 (1993).
judges have “wide discretion in determining when the
prejudice of joinder outweighs the benefits of a single
trial.” United States v. Carrillo, 435 F.3d
767, 778 (7th Cir. 2006). “When many defendants are
tried together in a complex case and they have markedly
different degrees of culpability, [the] risk of prejudice is
heightened.” Zafiro, 506 U.S. at 539; see
also United States v. Jett, 908 F.3d 252, 276 (7th Cir.
2018) (“The risk of prejudice is heightened when a
defendant is distinctly less culpable than his
codefendants.”). Furthermore, severance also may be
appropriate in cases where there are large disparities in the
amount of evidence being offered against each defendant.
See Zafiro, 506 U.S. at 539 (recognizing that a risk
of prejudice “might occur when evidence that the jury
should not consider against a defendant and that would not be
admissible if a defendant were tried alone is admitted
against a codefendant”); see also United States v.
Moya-Gomez, 860 F.2d 706, 765 (7th Cir. 1988)
(“Denial of a motion for severance may be an abuse of
discretion if there is a great disparity of evidence between
the moving defendant and his co-defendants.”).
the facts and circumstances of this case, severance is
warranted. Brinkley and Bonds are charged in a single count
of conspiracy. If tried jointly with the other codefendants,
it presents a substantial risk of guilt simply by
association, especially considering that the charges against
codefendants Caldwell, Hodge, Martin, and Clarke involve
murder. See Zafiro, 506 U.S. at 539 (“For
example, evidence of a codefendant's wrongdoing in some
circumstances erroneously could lead a jury to conclude that
a defendant was guilty.”). The potential disparity of
evidence against Brinkley and Bonds relative to the other
codefendants may be so significant that to try them together
would present a strong risk of prejudice to Brinkley and
Bonds. However, judicial economy weighs in favor of trying
Brinkley and Bonds with the other remaining codefendant,
Victor Young, who also is charged only in Counts 1 and 6 of
the superseding indictment.
on the foregoing reasons, the Motion for Relief from
Prejudicial Joinder [DE 188] is GRANTED, and
the Motion for Severance [DE 193] is
GRANTED. The defendants Demetrius Brinkley,
Paronica Bonds, and Victor Young are SEVERED
from codefendants Teddia Caldwell, Devonte Hodge, Devontae
Martin, and Taquan Clarke.
court REAFFIRMS the Final Pretrial
Conference set for September 13, 2019 at 1:30
p.m., before Magistrate Judge Andrew P. Rodovich,
and the Jury Trial for October 7, 2019 at 9:00
a.m., before Chief Judge Theresa L. Springmann as to
Demetrius Brinkley, Paronica Bonds, and Victor Young. The
court VACATES the Final Pretrial Conference