Man’s right to speedy trial not violated, 7th Circuit says

March 13, 2015

The speedy-trial clock did not begin to run upon the federal government’s filing of a complaint and detainer against an Indiana man, so the 16-month delay in filing the federal indictment did not violate his right to a speedy trial, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Thursday.

Jackie Richardson was in jail on state charges when a search of his home led to the discovery of a collection of guns and ammunition – things he was not allowed to have because of his previous conviction of illegal possession of a firearm by a felon. Four days after his arrest, the U.S. attorney filed a criminal complaint and affidavit of probable cause and a federal detainer in the jail where he was being held on the state charges.

But only an indictment or information can initiate a felony prosecution, Judge Richard Posner wrote in United States of America v. Jackie H. Richardson, 14-1901. Nearly 15 months after his arrest, Richardson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served. The day after he was sentenced the federal warrant for his arrest that had been issued immediately after his state arrest was executed, and he was jailed. The federal government chose to wait to serve it until after he was released since he was already incarcerated. A month later, Richardson was indicted in federal court. He decided to plead guilty, but changed his mind and filed a motion to dismiss the federal case on the ground that the government violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.

Richardson believed the clock began to tick when the federal complaint and detainer were filed, but the government claimed the clock did not start until the federal warrant for his arrest was executed. The 7th Circuit sided with the government and the District Court, which denied Richardson’s motion.

“Had the speedy-trial clock begun to run upon the filing of the complaint and detainer, the U.S. Attorney would have been under pressure to indict Richardson forthwith and proceed with all deliberate speed to trial – with the result that Richardson would have been fighting prosecution by two sovereign entities, the State of Indiana and the United States of America, at the same time,” Posner wrote. “And had the state and federal prosecutions proceeded simultaneously, Richardson might squawk at having to defend himself in two trials at the same time, while if one trial were delayed he would complain of a speedy-trial violation.”

Judge David Hamilton concurred in result, but disagreed with the majority on the idea that the combination of a federal complaint, arrest warrant and detainer does not trigger a speedy trial because it does not add up to an “official accusation” under United States v. MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1, 6 (1982).

He believed that a federal complaint and arrest warrant filed under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 3 and 4 add up to an “official accusation” of a crime that starts the speedy trial clock, at least where the suspect is in state custody and subject to a federal detainer.

“Richardson has not established a violation of his speedy trial right, but we should not foreclose the possibility that another defendant could,” Hamilton wrote.



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