United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi
ORDER ON MOTION TO SEVER
SHARION AYCOCK U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Ladarius E. Jackson requests a severance of the trial of this
matter from that of his co-defendant, Rickey Robertson, as
well as the severance of his alleged offenses from the
Indictment. The Government has responded, Jackson has
replied, and this issue is now ripe.
a motion to sever requires a court to undertake two distinct
inquiries: (1) whether initial joinder was proper under Rule
8(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure; and (2) if
initial joinder was proper, whether severance should be
granted under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 14(a).
See United States v. McRae, 702 F.3d 806, 820-22
(5th Cir. 2012).
Rule 8 Joinder
of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure permits the
charging document to charge a defendant in separate counts
with two or more offenses that 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.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(a). Rule
8(b) additionally allows defendants to be charged together
“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.” Fed.
R. Crim. P. 8(b).
case at bar, the four-count Indictment alleges in Count 1
that both Rickey Robertson and Ladarius E. Jackson conspired
to commit sex trafficking pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section
1591(a)(1) and (b)(1), by using force, threats of force,
fraud, and coercion to cause the Victims to engage in
commercial sex action. The “Manner and Means”
section outlines that both defendants targeted vulnerable
adult females in the Memphis, Tennessee area to engage in
commercial sex acts and provided money, food, and other
things of value to the Victims in exchange for their
performance of commercial sex acts. The Indictment alleges
that both Defendants “used violence and the threat of
violence to prevent Victim 1 and Victim 2 from escaping their
commercial sex operation.” The “Overt Acts”
section lists allegations that Rickey Robertson physically
assaulted Victim 1, put a gun to her head, and threatened to
kill her and her child if she attempted to leave. That
section further outlines actions alleged to have been taken
by Robertson and Jackson to further advertise the criminal
activity and to transport the Victims from Memphis,
Tennessee, to Oxford, Mississippi. Count 2 is alleged only
against Rickey Robertson for engaging in sex trafficking from
January 2015 until December 2015. Count 3 alleges that both
defendants transported Victims in interstate commerce to
engage in prostitution on December 14, 2015, and Count 4
alleges the same transportation to engage in prostitution for
December 31, 2015.
review of the Indictment in this case reveals joinder of the
Counts in the Indictment and joinder of the Co-Defendants was
appropriate in this case. Count 1 alleges a conspiracy to
commit sex trafficking, and the remaining three counts
constitute the “same act or transaction, or series of
acts or transactions, constituting an offense or
offenses.” Pursuant to Rule 8, the joinder of
Defendants and counts is appropriate.
Rule 14 Severance
further seeks relief under Rule 14. Defendant Jackson
contends that his inclusion on this Indictment is an attempt
by the Government to “overcharge” him, as he is
not alleged to have violated Sections 1591(b)(1), which
carries a statutory minimum penalty of fifteen years. He also
contends that because he has not been alleged to have
committed at least one of the overt acts, he could not
actually be guilty of conspiracy. Additionally, Jackson
contends he will be “hopelessly and irremediably
prejudiced by association if forced to stand trial alongside
the alleged perpetrator of Count Two and of the acts recited
in Count One's ‘manner and means, ' and
‘overt acts.'” Finally, Jackson claims that
if tried together with his co-defendant, he will be denied
valuable exculpatory testimony from his co-defendant.
If the joinder of offenses or defendants in an indictment, an
information, or a consolidation for trial appears to
prejudice a defendant or the government, the court may order
separate trials of counts, sever the defendants' trials,
or provide any other relief that justice requires.
this rule, “[t]here is a preference in the federal
system for joint trials of defendants who are indicted
together.” Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S.
534, 537, 113 S.Ct. 933, 122 L.Ed.2d 317 (1993); United
States v. Pettigrew, 77 F.3d 1500, 1517 (5th Cir. 1996).
Accordingly, “[i]t is the rule, . . . not the
exception, that persons indicted together should be tried
together, especially in conspiracy cases.”
McRae, 702 F.3d at 821 (internal quotation marks
omitted). In light of the general preference for a single
trial, “[t]o warrant severance under Rule 14, the
burden is upon the defendant to show clear prejudice.”
United States v. Welch, 656 F.2d 1039, 1053 (5th
Cir. 1981). This prejudice must outweigh the government's
interest in judicial economy, United States v.
Ballis, 28 F.3d 1399, 1408 (5th Cir. 1994), and must be
incurable through jury instructions or other means,
Welch, 656 F.2d at 1054.