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United States v. Felton

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 26, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
T. HERBERT FELTON, JR., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL (DKT. 83)

          TERRENCE G. BERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Defendant T. Herbert Felton, Jr. was convicted after a five-day jury trial of Interstate Transportation of Minor to Engage in Criminal Sexual Activity (Count 1 - 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a)); Use of Facility of Interstate Commerce to Entice a Minor (Count 2 - 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b)); three counts of Manufacturing Child Pornography (Counts 5, 7 & 9 - 18 U.S.C. § 2251); three counts of Receipt of Child Pornography (Counts 6, 8 & 10 - 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(2), 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(1)); and one count of Possession of Child Pornography (Count 11 - 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B), 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(2)). The guilty verdict was filed by the Clerk on June 23, 2017.

         On November 15, 2017, Defendant filed a motion for a new trial (Dkt. 79).[1] The main argument presented in Defendant's motion is that the Government improperly withheld certain potentially exculpatory evidence. Defendant also argues that cumulative errors deprived him of a fair trial.

         The Government filed a response to Defendant's motion (Dkt. 89), and the Court held a hearing on February 23, 2018. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for a new trial is DENIED.

         II. Background

         The following facts were established at trial. On May 7, 2014, P.W., then a 14-year-old boy living in Tilton, Illinois was reported missing (Dkt. 1, Compl. ¶ 1). Video from a nearby bus station showed him boarding a bus sometime after 11:45 a.m. Id. P.W.'s father obtained his son's cell-phone records, and noticed that they contained calls with an unfamiliar out-of-state number with an “810” area code. Id. ¶ 2. On May 8, 2014, P.W.'s father travelled to Michigan, and met with a police detective. Id. The detective was able to trace the unknown 810 telephone number to Defendant, who was living in Flint, Michigan. Id. Around midnight that same day, police arrived at Defendant's home, and located both Defendant and P.W. Id. Defendant was arrested, and P.W. was interviewed by local police. This interview was summarized in written notes. The next day, May 9, 2014, P.W. was interviewed at the Genesee County Sheriff's Office. This interview was video-taped. Defendant was also interviewed by the police, and made a number of admissions.

         Subsequent investigation revealed illicit images of P.W. on Defendant's cell-phone. This discovery led to additional charges in a superseding indictment for manufacturing, receipt, and possession of child pornography (Dkt. 53). This case was tried before a jury, beginning on June 16, 2017. At trial, eleven witnesses testified. These witnesses included P.W.'s father, two officers from the Gen-esee County Sheriff's Department (who interviewed Defendant and P.W.), a nurse from Hurley Hospital (who examined P.W. shortly after he was located), P.W. himself, two lab technicians from the Michigan State Police (who testified, among other things, about DNA evidence that suggested sexual contact between Defendant and P.W.), FBI Special Agent Henrik Impola, and a Michigan State Police forensic examiner (who testified about the electronic data recovered from Defendant's cell phone). P.W. testified that he met Defendant online and over a period of time sent Defendant a number of sexually explicit images of himself and that the two of them engaged in “phone sex.” Eventually, P.W. testified, Defendant traveled to P.W.'s town in Illinois, met him and took him by bus and train to Defendant's home in Flint, Michigan, where Defendant then provided P.W. with alcohol and marijuana and they engaged in sexual intercourse. Defendant was convicted on all counts.

         In his motion for a new trial, Defendant argues that “[a]fter the [Presentence Report] PSR was generated, the Defense discovered it contained information, previously unknown to the Defense, that P.W. used ‘Naughtymeetings.com' to initially communicate with Mr. Felton.” (R. 83: Defendant's Brief at p. 8). The Government correctly points out, however, that this information was initially disclosed on June 5, 2014, in the affidavit filed with the criminal complaint. Paragraph 7 of the affidavit provides in part that “the chat rooms PW and Felton communicated in were rooms associated with sexual encounters, i.e. ‘naughtymeetings.com'” (Dkt. 1: Complaint).

         Defendant next complains that he should have received a copy of “police reports” prepared by FBI Special Agent India Jones.[2] He claims that the reports contain newly discovered evidence including: (1) details of dating websites (naughtymeetings.com, discussed above); (2) a statement by P.W. that he lost his phone in Illinois, (which contradicted P.W.'s trial testimony that Defendant threw P.W.'s phone off of a train in Michigan); and, (3) that P.W. sent sexually explicit messages and child pornography to another individual. Finally, Defendant contends that certain other “cumulative” errors deprived him of a fair trial.

         III. Standard of Review

         Defendant's motion for a new trial is brought under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33. That rule provides:

(a) Defendant's Motion. Upon the defendant's motion, the court may vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires. If the case was tried without a jury, the court may ...

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