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23-month negligent delay from indictment to arrest was not a Speedy Trial violation

David Lazaro Oliva’s appeal dealt mainly with a Speedy Trial issue. After an investigation into two large scale burglaries that took place in October and November of 2011, revealed the burglaries were committed by Oliva and Rafael Uranga, they were indicted in November 2013 with conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property. They were not arrested until October 2015, some twenty-three months later. They moved to dismiss their indictment based on a Sixth Amendment speedy trial violation. The United States Magistrate found that the delay between the indictment and the arrest was the result of the Government’s gross negligence but ultimately recommended that the motions be denied. The District Court agreed and both plead guilty. In their appeal they raised the Speedy Trial issue.

The case was investigated by Michael Donnelly, a Gwinnett County Police Department officer serving as an FBI Task Force Officer assigned as the sole investigator in the case. After the indictment Donnelly was responsible for locating and arresting the two but he mistakenly believed the United States Marshals Service had this responsibility. In January of 2014 after no arrests happened he asked another task force officer to communicate with the Marshals. That officer found out that the Marshals do not handle the arrests, but he failed to communicate this to Donnelly. Donnelly still failed to ask about the FBI procedure or whether the Marshals would begin locating the defendants. Donnelly still did not know it was his responsibility and failed to communicate with the U.S. Attorney’s office about the issue during the two year period.

Finally, in September of 2015 his supervisor informed him that he and not the Marshal service was responsible for locating ant arresting the defendants. They were arrested one month later.

The court of appeals outlined the four-factor test that is used in assessing a speedy trial claim:

  • the length of the delay,
  • the reason for the delay,
  • the defendant’s assertion of his speedy trial right, and
  • actual prejudice to the defendant.

In his appeal Oliva argued that because the first and third factors weighed heavily against the Government the district court should have dismissed. Oliva also argued that the Government’s attempt to arrest him was so minimal that it cannot be characterized as diligent or performed in good faith and should be a factor against the Government.

The court of appeals disagreed. It found that the Government’s negligence in light of the delay was not so great as to weigh heavily against it. The 23-month post indictment delay was not so egregious to weigh heavily against the Government. It found the delay was the result of a convergence of several factors including a federal crime bring investigated by a state law enforcement officer who was unfamiliar with federal indictment and arrest procedure and who was serving as a solo investigator for the very first time in a case where the prosecutor who secured the indictment left the U.S. Attorney’s office and was not replaced on the case for more than one year. Even though the negligence in making the federal criminal arrest caused the court concern, there was no prejudice to the defendants and no dismissal.