United States District Court, D. Nebraska
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
R. Zwart United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the court on Defendant Patricia
Salvador-Magana's Motion to Sever her trial from the
trial of codefendant Steven Adams. (Filing No. 29).
For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.
Salvador-Magana (“Salvador-Magana”) and Steven
Adams (“Adams”) were jointly indicted on a charge
of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and the embezzlement
of government funds, and on an additional charge of
embezzling funds from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
(Filing No. 1).
argues the government intends to offer statements made by
Adams that “would unavoidably implicate her and deny
her Sixth Amendment rights to confront and cross examine any
witness against her.” (Filing No. at 30 CM/ECF p.
1). She asks for severance to remedy the
“prejudicial joinder” of Defendants' trials.
is a presumption that defendants “charged in a
conspiracy or jointly indicted on similar evidence from the
same related events” should be jointly tried. U.S.
v. Lewis, 557 F.3d 601, 609 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting
United States v. Adkins, 842 F.2d 210, 211 (8th
Cir.1988)). However, a judge may order severance if joinder
at trial will prejudice a defendant. Id; see
also Fed. R. Crim. P. 14.
burden is on the defendant seeking severance to prove that
any prejudice resulting from joinder would be “severe
or compelling.” United States v. Crumley, 528
F.3d 1053, 1063 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing United States v.
Flores, 362 F.3d 1030, 1039 (8th Cir. 2004)).
“Severe prejudice occurs when a defendant is deprived
of an appreciable chance for an acquittal, a chance that [the
defendant] would have had in a severed trial.”
United States v. Mann, 685 F.3d 714, 718 (8th Cir.
2012) (internal quotation omitted).
argues that Adams made statements to law enforcement that
“explicitly implicate[ ]” her in the charged
crimes. (Filing No. 30 at CM/ECF p. 3). She further
contends that introduction of those statements at a joint
trial would violate her constitutional right to confrontation
as discussed in Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S.
123 (1968), and that this constitutional violation supports a
finding of sufficient prejudice to require severing the
trials. (Filing No. 30 at CM/ECF p. 3).
Bruton and its progeny, a defendant's Sixth
Amendment right to confrontation is violated by
“admission of a non-testifying defendant's
statement that incriminate[s] a co-defendant.”
United States v. Avila Vargas, 570 F.3d 1004, 1008 (8th
Cir. 2009) (citing Bruton, 391 U.S. at
135-36). This is true even if the jury is instructed
to consider that statement only as to the codefendant who
makes it. Bruton, 391 U.S. at 135. However,
“Bruton does not apply at all when a
codefendant's statements do not incriminate [another]
defendant either on their face or when considered with other
evidence.” United States v. Ali, 799 F.3d 1008,
1025 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting United States v.
Melina, 101 F.3d 567, 570 (8th Cir.1996), overruled
on other grounds by Jones v. United States, 529 U.S. 848
Salvador-Magana has not specifically identified which
statements, or portions of statements, made by Adams are
allegedly prejudicial, the court will rely of the
government's representations (see (Filing No.
36) in ruling on the pending motion to sever. The
government's brief states that in his statements to law
enforcement, Adams has consistently claimed he is innocent.
(Filing No. 36 at CM/ECF pp. 3-4). Adams told law
enforcement several times that he loved Salvador-Magana at
the time of their marriage, and he believed the marriage was
valid. (Id.). Adams states he may have been
“duped” into marriage, and he speculates about
Salvador-Magana's true motives-a statement of
questionable admissibility. (Id.). But Adams makes
no statements regarding anything Salvador-Magana specifically
did or said that supports the elements of the pending
such, the court determines that Adams' June 22, 2017
discussion with law enforcement did not produce the kind of
incriminating statements to which Bruton would
apply. Moreover, “[t]he mere fact that one defendant
tries to shift blame to another defendant does not mandate
separate trials.” United States v. Johnson,
944 F.2d 396, 403 (8th Cir. 1991); see also
United States v. Mickelson, 378 F.3d 810, 818 (8th
Cir. 2004) (stating that “[s]everance is not required
merely because evidence that is admissible only against some
defendants may be damaging to others”).
on the foregoing, the court finds that Salvador-Magana has
failed show any basis for severance under Bruton, or
that she will experience severe and compelling ...