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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Newnan Division

March 16, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TONIA WILLIAMS, Defendant.

          ORDER

          TIMOTHY C. BATTEN, SR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case comes before the Court on Magistrate Judge Russell G. Vineyard's Final Report and Recommendation (the “R&R”) [455], which grants in part and denies in part Defendant Tonia Williams' motion for a bill of particulars, [278], denies her motion to reveal confidential informants, [279], recommends denying her motion to dismiss counts 19, 21, and 23, and her motion to dismiss the prosecution against her, [276 & 295], and defers her alternative request to allow an entrapment defense to the district judge. Williams has filed objections to the R&R [507].

         I. Legal Standard on Review of a Magistrate Judge's R&R

         A district judge has a duty to conduct a “careful and complete” review of a magistrate judge's R&R. Williams v. Wainwright, 681 F.2d 732, 732 (11th Cir. 1982) (per curiam) (quoting Nettles v. Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404, 408 (5th Cir. Unit B 1982)).[1] Where a party objects to an R&R, a district judge “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The district judge must “give fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objection has been made by a party.” Jeffrey S. v. State Bd. of Educ., 896 F.2d 507, 512 (11th Cir. 1990). Those portions of the R&R to which no objection is made need only be reviewed for clear error. Macort v. Prem, Inc., 208 F. App'x 781, 784 (11th Cir. 2006).[2]

         “Parties filing objections must specifically identify those findings objected to. Frivolous, conclusive or general objections need not be considered by the district court.” Nettles, 677 F.2d at 410 n.8. “This rule facilitates the opportunity for district judges to spend more time on matters actually contested and produces a result compatible with the purposes of the Magistrates Act.” Id. at 410.

         After conducting a complete and careful review of the R&R, the district judge may accept, reject or modify the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Williams, 681 F.2d at 732. The district judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The district judge also has discretion to decline to consider arguments that were not raised before the magistrate judge. Williams v. McNeil, 557 F.3d 1287, 1292 (11th Cir. 2009). Indeed, a contrary rule “would effectively nullify the magistrate judge's consideration of the matter and would not help to relieve the workload of the district court.” Id. (quoting United States v. Howell, 231 F.3d 615, 622 (9th Cir. 2000)).

         II. Analysis

         On January 6, 2016, a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Georgia returned a seventy-five count indictment against twenty-five defendants, all but one of whom were correctional officers employed by the Georgia Department of Corrections (“GDOC”). The indictment followed an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) in which defendants allegedly accepted thousands of dollars in bribe payments from a purported drug trafficker, who actually was an undercover FBI confidential informant, in return for their assistance, while wearing their GDOC uniforms, with and protection of the delivery of multiple kilograms of sham cocaine and methamphetamine.

         The indictment alleges that on or about February 26, 2015, March 6, 2015, and March 13, 2015, Tonia Williams, one of the correctional officers, and other co-Defendants named in the indictment “believed that they were providing protection to a high-level drug trafficker who was transporting multiple grams of cocaine and methamphetamine in the Locust Grove area, in the Northern District of Georgia, and elsewhere . . . .” [1] at ¶¶ 10-11, 11-14. The indictment further charges that Williams and the co-Defendants, “in exchange for payment, agreed to wear their GDOC uniforms, or carry indicia of their statuses as GDOC officers, and accompany the purported drug trafficker while he delivered purported narcotics to other purported drug traffickers, or personally transport the narcotics themselves.” Id. at ¶¶ 33-38.

         It is further alleged that Williams, along with the other co-Defendants, “believed their uniformed presence would assist the drug trafficker with his transport of narcotics by” providing protection all while in their GDOC uniforms or while carrying indicia of their statuses as GDOC officers. Id. at ¶¶ 12-13. The indictment also charges that Williams and her co-Defendants accepted “thousands of dollars in bribe payments from the purported drug trafficker” in return for their actions. Id. at ¶ 14.

         Defendant Williams is charged with three counts of attempted Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a), and three counts of attempted distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine. [1] at ¶ 12-14. She filed a motion to dismiss the attempted Hobbs Act extortion charges, [276], and a motion to dismiss the indictment based on outrageous government conduct and, in the alternative, to allow an entrapment defense, [295], as well as a motion for a bill of particulars, [278], and a motion to reveal confidential informants, [279].

         On October 19, 2016, Judge Vineyard issued an R&R. [455]. It granted in part and denied in part Williams's motion for a bill of particulars [278], denied her motion to reveal confidential informants [279], recommended denying her motion to dismiss counts 19, 21, and 23 [276], denied her motion to dismiss prosecution on grounds of outrageous conduct [295], and deferred her alternative request to allow an entrapment defense to the district judge. [295].

         A. William's Motion to Dismiss the Hobbs Act Counts in the Indictment

         Williams first objects to the magistrate judge's recommendation to deny her motion to dismiss counts 19, 21, and 23 of the indictment. These counts charge her with attempted Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a). The R&R determined that the allegations of the indictment track the language of the statute, covering every essential element of attempted Hobbs Act extortion, and include a statement of facts that clearly provides Williams with adequate notice of the charges that she must defend against. [455] at ...


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