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United States v. Hunte

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

May 18, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
LESHANDA HUNTE, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Leshanda Hunte's (“Defendant”) Motion for New Trial Pursuant to Rule 33(b) [117] (“Motion”).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         On June 8, 2017, a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment [1] charging Raphael Menard and Defendant Hunte with conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Count 1) and theft of government money under 18 U.S.C. § 641 (Counts 2 through 6). On January 11, 2018, Mr. Menard pleaded guilty to conspiracy. See United States v. Raphael Menard, No. 1:17-cr-193-1 (N.D.Ga. January 11, 2018), Docket Nos. 55-56.

         On January 16, 2018, a federal grand jury returned a First Superseding Indictment [58.1] against Defendant Hunte. The First Superseding Indictment charges that, from September 5, 2012, until November 2, 2012, Defendant Hunte, her then fiancée Menard, and others conspired and stole government money in the form of federal tax refunds issued because of fraudulent federal tax returns. (Id.) As alleged, the conspirators caused the tax refunds to be deposited into two Chase Bank accounts (ending in 8063 and 2018) opened jointly by Hunte and Menard. (Id, ¶ 5, 6(a)-(b)). Count 1 of the First Superseding Indictment charges Hunte with conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. § 371. Counts 2 through 6 charge Hunte with theft of government money under 18 U.S.C. § 641 and aiding and abetting under 18 U.S.C. § 2.

COLUMN A

COLUMN B

COLUMN C

COLUMN D

COLUMN E

Count

Individual

Month/Year

Amount

Account Ending

2

MJ.

9/5/2Q12

$8, 504.00

8063

3

R.W.

9/25/2012

$8, 109.00

2018

4

AR.

9/26/2012

$8, 573.00

8063

5

I.F.

9/26/2012

$9, 140.00

2018

6

J A.

10/10/2012

$8, 573.00

2018

         On February 12, 2018, the case against Hunte went to trial. On February 16, 2018, the jury found Hunte guilty of Counts 1 through 6. ([93]).

         B. Defendant's Motion for New Trial

         Defendant filed her Motion for New Trial on May 6, 2018, two days before her originally scheduled sentencing. The Motion alleges that Defendant's discovery of new evidence that was not produced by the Government until May 4, 2018, warrants a new trial. The Court continued Defendant's sentencing hearing to May 23, 2018, and set a briefing schedule to resolve the Motion before sentencing.

         Defendant grounds her motion on the receipt of new evidence suppressed by the Government and produced four days before her originally scheduled sentencing hearing. The Government informed Defendant that Special Agent Mario Buford would be testifying at her sentencing hearing. Special Agent Buford did not testify at trial and during the course of his preparation for the sentencing hearing the Government learned of additional investigative memos made by him that had not been previously produced. On May 4, 2018, the Government produced those investigative memos totaling 58 pages of documents[1]. ([126.3] at SENTENCING000008 through SENTENCING000065 (the “Documents”)). The Government stated they would not use those memos at sentencing. ([117] at 9).

         The Documents reflect interviews with at least 23 different people[2]. Defendant's Motion, however, focuses on only two. First, Defendant claims that the interview of Sam Thornton contains exculpatory evidence. ([117] at 4-5). Defendant maintains that the Thornton interview could have been used to impeach Pier Mason[3] whose testimony the Court permitted as evidence of other related tax fraud acts under Fed.R.Evid. 404(b). Testimony from Pier Mason directly implicated Hunte in the filing of a fraudulent return that resulted in money being wired to an account owned by Hunte. (Tr., Vol. 3 at 554-66). Defendant argues:

The government during the trial and consistently in the reports of interviews that were turned over, refers to Signature Tax Specialist. This was alleged to be the tax company owned and operated by the defendant. The investigative reports indicate that the company had an office on Peachtree Road N.E. This court allowed the government to call as a witness Piers Moran [sic]. Ms. Moran [sic] was interviewed by S.A. Buford on March 13, 2013 and she specifically stated that she went to the office of “Hunte”, Shonda Johnson, at 3348 Peachtree Road N.E., suite 700, Atlanta, Ga. 30326 and spoke to someone there who stated that Shonda was not there.
The interview of Mr. Thornton, conducted by S.A. Buford, was conducted nine months after Moran's [sic] interview and S.A. Buford knew exactly what evidence he was trying to elicit from Thornton. He wanted Thornton to state that Signature Tax Specialist and Leshonda Hunte had rented office space at that location. Mr. Thornton states in the report, just turned over to defense, that he is the property manager of Parkway Properties, and that nowhere in his records could he find an office rented to Leshanda Hunte or Signature Tax Specialist. The report goes on to state that Mr. Thornton contacted the previous property manager who stated he had no information concerning a Signature Tax Specialist or Leshanda Hunte.

([117] at 4-5). Defendant argues that had she “known about this exculpatory evidence she could have called either S.A. Buford or Mr. Thornton which would have certainly contradicted the testimony of Piers Moran [sic] and any other evidence that the defendant was operating a tax business.” ([117] at 5).

         Second, Defendant contends that the suppression of Special Agent Buford's memorandum documenting his interview with Dwight ...


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