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United States v. Black.

No. 20-3199.  D.Kan. Judge Bacharach. Speedy Trial Act—Fed. R. Crim. Proc. 20—Case Transfer Between Districts—Determining District Where Case is Pending—Computing Excludable Days—Failure to Raise Issue Below.

January 31, 2022


Defendant was a suspect in three robberies, two in Kansas and one in Missouri. He was arrested in Missouri and indicted for robbery in both the Western District of Missouri and the District of Kansas. While in custody, defendant expressed a desire to plead guilty and asked the District of Kansas to transfer the charges to the Western District of Missouri under Fed. R. Crim. Proc. 20. The request was granted. The District of Kansas marked the case and pending charges as terminated on the docket sheet. However, defendant pleaded not guilty to the Kansas charges at his arraignment on April 30, 2018, in the Western District of Missouri. Defendant’s not guilty plea triggered Rule 20(c), which required the transferee court to “return the papers to the court where the prosecution began” and the original court to “restore the proceeding to its docket.” On November 15, 2018, the Western District of Missouri notified the District of Kansas that it was transferring the case back to Kansas and transmitted the docket sheet and court papers. The Western District of Missouri then marked its case as terminated, but defendant remained in custody in Missouri for sentencing on the Missouri charges.

The Western District of Missouri accepted defendant’s guilty plea on the Missouri charges on December 18, 2018. The sentencing took place on March 6, 2019. When defendant appeared in the District of Kansas 16 days later, he invoked the Speedy Trial Act (Act) and moved to dismiss the indictment based on the Kansas robberies. The district court denied the motion. Defendant and the government thereafter reached a conditional plea agreement under which he pleaded guilty to the Kansas charges but preserved his objection under the Act. The District of Kansas entered a judgment of conviction.

On appeal, defendant argued that the charges were pending in the Western District of Missouri, so the speedy trial clock began on April 30, 2018. The government contended that the charges were pending in the District of Kansas and the clock did not start until about 11 months later, when defendant first appeared there. Under the Act, the speedy trial clock starts when the defendant appears in the court where the charges are pending. Because defendant pleaded not guilty, the Act required the trial to start within 70 days of his appearance before a judge where the charges were pending. When defendant was arrested, Rule 20 authorized transfer of his prosecution to the Western District of Missouri. With that transfer, the file was sent to the Western District of Missouri, which then obtained the authority to act. The Tenth Circuit concluded that the charges were no longer pending in the District of Kansas once the case was transferred. Thus, when defendant was arraigned, the charges for the Kansas robberies were pending in the Western District of Missouri, and the speedy trial clock began on April 30, 2018.

The government argued that even if defendant’s appearance in the Western District of Missouri started the speedy trial clock, the Act would have required exclusion of enough time to satisfy the 70-day period. The Act requires exclusion of some time periods when calculating the 70-day deadline. The parties agreed that the clock ran at least 54 days after defendant’s first appearance in the District of Kansas. The Tenth Circuit concluded that more than 16 additional, non-excludable delays elapsed between defendant’s arraignment in the Western District of Missouri and his first appearance in the District of Kansas. Thus, the trial did not start within the 70-day period.

The denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment was reversed and the case was remanded for the district court to decide whether the charges should be dismissed with or without prejudice.

Official US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit proceedings can be found at the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit website.

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