United States District Court, S.D. Georgia
LTSA GODBEY WOOD, JUDGE
an independent and de novo review of the entire
record, the undersigned concurs with the Magistrate
Judge's Report and Recommendation. Dkt. No. 83. Defendant
objects to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that the
Court should deny Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Count
Three of the Indictment, dkt. no. 44. Dkt. No. 87. However,
for the following reasons, the Court
OVERRULES Defendant's Objections.
Accordingly, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate
Judge's Report and Recommendation, as supplemented
herein, as the opinion of the Court, and
DENIES Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
Count Three of the Indictment, dkt. no. 44. Additionally, the
Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's
Report and. Recommendation and FINDS
Defendant's statements were voluntary, dkt. no. 4 9, a
conclusion to which Defendant did not object.
Objections, Defendant reiterates the arguments made in his
original Motion to Dismiss Count Three of the Indictment
based on Burrage v. United States, 571 U.S. 204
(2014). Defendant contends the decision in Burrage
requires an indictment seeking a sentencing enhancement under
21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C) to specifically charge that the
distributed controlled substance was the but-for cause of
death. Dkt. No. 87, pp. 1, 2. The indictment in this case
utilizes the phrase "death resulted from," which is
drawn from the language of the statute but does not include
the term "but-for" causation. Dkt. No. 21, p. 4.
Magistrate Judge addressed at length the holding of
Burrage and decisions by other Circuit Courts of
Appeals interpreting the sufficiency of convictions utilizing
the language of § 841(b)(1)(C) in light of
Burrage. Dkt. No. 83, pp. 8-11. The Court does not
find it necessary to repeat that analysis but notes the
Eleventh Circuit has not directly addressed this issue.
Several other Circuits have found, as the Magistrate Judge
concluded, that an indictment utilizing the statutory
language of § 841(b)(1)(C) is not rendered invalid by
Burrage. Id. As stated by the Magistrate
Judge, "Burrage held that a jury charge that
expressly instructs the jury on a lower standard of causation
(i.e., "contributing cause") is erroneous but did
not go so far as to conclude that a jury charge must
include express instructions on but-for causation."
Id. at p. 10. The Magistrate Judge correctly
concluded that the same reasoning applies to required
language for an indictment, and, therefore, "the
indictment in this case adequately pleads the sentencing
enhancement of § 841(b)(1)(C)." Id. at p.
Objections, Defendant cites additional authority from the
Eleventh Circuit holding that indictments were invalid even
where they utilize statutory language. Dkt. No. 87, pp. 3, 4.
However, none of these cases suggest that the Magistrate
Judge's conclusion is incorrect and that Burrage
requires but-for causation language in an indictment. In
three of the four cases Defendant cites, the Eleventh Circuit
invalidated indictments for failing to allege sufficient
factual details to support various charges, such that the
indictments failed to provide adequate notice to the
defendants in those cases of the charges against them or
prevented the appellate court from being able to discern the
basis for the charge. See United States v. McGarity,
669 F.3d 1218, 1238 (11th Cir. 2012) (invalidating an
obstruction indictment that did not identify which official
proceeding was obstructed); United States v.
Schmitz, 634 F.3d 1247, 1261 (11th Cir. 2011)
(invalidating a fraud indictment that did not provide any
"factual detail regarding the scheme to defraud . .
."); United States v. Bobo, 344 F.3d 1076, 1084
(11th Cir. 2003) (invalidating a fraud indictment that
"does not set forth the manner and means by which the
scheme and artifice to defraud operated . . ."). Unlike
the indictments in those cases, Defendant here does not
allege the indictment is lacking factual support. Defendant
instead contends that the "death results from"
language in the indictment, which tracks the language of
§ 841(b)(1)(C), is insufficient to imply the but-for
causation required to sustain a conviction under the statute.
Dkt. No. 87, p. 3. In other words, Defendant challenges the
indictment's articulation of the governing causation
standard as insufficient, not its factual specificity. Thus,
McGarity, Schmitz, and Bobo are
also relies on United States v. Martinez, 800 F.3d
1293, 1294 (11th Cir. 2015). In Martinez, the
Eleventh Circuit concluded that an indictment charging a
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c) (for transmitting an
email that contained a threat to injure the person of
another) was insufficient to sustain the defendant's
conviction. The indictment was deficient because it failed to
allege an essential element of the offense-the
defendant's mens rea-even though the indictment otherwise
tracked the statutory language. Martinez, 800 F.3d
at 1294. The Eleventh Circuit came to this conclusion based
on the Supreme Court's then-recent opinion in Elonis
v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2001, 2012 (2015), which
confirmed that subjective intent is an essential element of a
§ 875(c) offense.
does not address the issue in this case. In
Martinez, the indictment failed to "'allege
[the defendant's] mens rea or facts from which her intent
[could] be inferred . . . ." Martinez, 800 F.3d
at 1294. Indeed, the Martinez indictment was silent
on defendant's mental intent regarding whether the email
was threatening. In contrast, the indictment in this case
alleges Defendant is subject to the sentencing enhancement in
§ 841(b)(1)(C) because death "resulted from"
the victim's use of drugs provided by Defendant. The
Supreme Court explained in Burrage that the plain
meaning of "results from" in § 841(b)(1)(C)
(and, consequently, the plain meaning of "resulted
from" in the indictment) is but-for causation.
Therefore, the indictment in this case expressly alleges the
required element of causation by including the "results
from" language, while the indictment in
Martinez was completely silent as to mens rea.
conclusion, the authority Defendant cites does not undermine
or contradict the Magistrate Judge's analysis. As
recognized by other Circuits, an indictment alleging a
violation of § 841(b)(1)(C) that utilizes the
"results from" language of the statute is
sufficient under Burrage. Accordingly, the Court
OVERRULES Defendant's Objections, dkt.
no. 87, ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's
Report and Recommendation, as supplemented herein, as the
opinion of the Court, dkt. no. 83, and
DENIES Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
Count Three of the Indictment, dkt. no. 44. The Court
additionally ADOPTS the Magistrate
Judge's Report and Recommendation and
FINDS Defendant's statements were
voluntary, dkt. no. 49.