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United States v. Robinson

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

June 29, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiffs,
v.
BRIAN ROBINSON, KIMBERLY SANTIAGO ROBINSON, CUC THI SCHAEFFER, JOHN ACOSTA, and ANTONIO BENITEZ GONZALEZ, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          LAURIE SMITH CAMP CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Findings and Recommendation (F&R), ECF No. 292, issued by Magistrate Judge Susan M. Bazis recommending that the Court grant the Motions to Change Venue to the Eastern District of California, filed by Defendants Kimberly Santiago Robinson, ECF No. 267; Brian Robinson, ECF No. 273; Cuc Thi Schaeffer, ECF No. 276; and Anito Benitez Gonzalez, ECF No. 278. The Government filed an Objection to the Findings and Recommendation, ECF No. 295, as allowed by 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) and NECrimR 59.2(a). Defendants K. Robinson and Schaeffer responded to the Objection. ECF Nos. 297, 298. For the reasons set forth below, the F&R will be adopted, the Objection will be overruled, and the Motions to Change Venue will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On November 19, 2015, Defendants were charged in a Second Superseding Indictment (Filing No. 70), with conspiracy to distribute marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count I) and conspiracy to launder money in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 (Count III). B. Robinson was also charged with interstate travel regarding a racketeering enterprise, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1952 (Count II). The Second Superseding Indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation against the $380, 050.00 in United States currency seized from B. Robinson during a traffic stop in Seward County, Nebraska, in April 2014.

         Defendants move to transfer venue to the Eastern District of California, arguing that transfer favors the convenience of the parties, the witnesses, and the interests of justice. The parties entered a joint stipulation of facts that may be considered true for purposes of the motion to transfer. ECF No. 268-2. The F&R contains a more detailed recitation of the stipulated facts. The Court includes a summary of the following stipulated facts as relevant to the Government's Objection:

         This case is the result of an investigation into B. Robinson and his alleged movement of marijuana from the area of Sacramento, California, to Pennsylvania, and his alleged movement of marijuana proceeds from Pennsylvania back to California. Those travels, at times, caused B. Robinson to travel through Nebraska. For purposes of this Motion, the parties stipulate that the transportation of money through Nebraska from east to west could constitute a sufficient overt act by a co-conspirator to permit venue in Nebraska under the Constitution.

         K. Robinson, Schaeffer, Gonzalez, and John Acosta are named in this case because of their alleged involvement in a marijuana distribution conspiracy with B. Robinson. K. Robinson is also charged due to her alleged involvement in a money laundering conspiracy with her husband, B. Robinson.

         All Defendants live in California. Other than their alleged association with B. Robinson in the marijuana conspiracy, Schaeffer, Acosta, and Gonzalez have no association with Nebraska. Likewise, other than her marriage to B. Robinson and her alleged association with B. Robinson in the marijuana and money laundering conspiracies, K. Robinson has no association with Nebraska.

         The parties agreed that the potential witnesses they identified in their stipulation would not limit any party's discretion to call witnesses at trial. Of the Government's law enforcement witnesses identified in the stipulation, three are Nebraska officers. Approximately ten officers live and work in California. K. Robinson identified several witnesses who live in California and who are not willing to travel to Nebraska voluntarily to testify.

         The parties stipulated they intend to call phone company and cell tower witnesses for trial. These witnesses are expected to testify to cell tower data obtained describing the use of a cell phone belonging to B. Robinson. The parties do not know where the witnesses reside or work. The Government identified a dog training expert who lives and works in El Paso, Texas.

         The parties also stipulated that they intend to call several chain-of-custody witnesses. The parties do not know where these witnesses reside or work. The parties identified United States Postal Services employees as witnesses. The relevant postal workers live and work in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California.

         Because of the allegations of financial crimes, the parties have identified potential witnesses who are financial records custodians, or otherwise employed by banks, credit unions, or other financial institutions. Of such institutions, at least three are in California. The others are headquartered in Delaware, Texas, and Missouri. None of the institutions or financial records witnesses identified is in Nebraska.

         Other than the traffic stop in Seward County, Nebraska, the relevant locations in this case are all in California and Pennsylvania. The parcels of real estate on which the marijuana was allegedly grown, and which are implicated in the Government's evidence, are in the Sacramento, California, area. Schaeffer, Acosta, and Gonzalez are included in the alleged marijuana conspiracy partly because of their association/involvement with these California properties.

         STANDARD ...


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