United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION & ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT HAROLD LASHAWN
NERO'S MOTION FOR BILL OF PARTICULARS (DKT. 217)
A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge.
criminal case involves multiple defendants, all of whom were
indicted by a grand jury on charges stemming from their
alleged roles in a large human trafficking and drug
distribution conspiracy at the Victory Inn Hotel on Michigan
Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. Defendant Harold Lashawn Nero
has filed a motion for a bill of particulars (Dkt. 217),
which the Government has filed a response in opposition to
the motion (Dkt. 221). No. reply brief was filed. For the
reasons stated below, the Court denies the motion.
the Court has previously described the factual and procedural
background of this case in greater detail in other opinions,
it need not do so again for purposes of the present motion.
See, e.g., 7/15/2019 Op. & Order (Dkt. 306)
(denying Defendant Ford's motion for bond).
STANDARD OF DECISION
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 7(c), an indictment must
include a “plain, concise, and definite written
statement of the essential facts constituting the offense
charged.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 7(c)(1). It is well known
that an indictment is legally insufficient unless “it,
first, contains the elements of the offense charged and
fairly informs a defendant of the charge against which he
must defend, and, second, enables him to plead an acquittal
or conviction in bar of future prosecutions for the same
offense.” Hamling v. United States, 418 U.S.
87, 117 (1974); see also United States v. Schaffer,
586 F.3d 414, 422 (6th Cir. 2009) (“[T]he indictment
must: (1) ‘set out all of the elements of the charged
offense and must give notice to the defendant of the charges
he faces,' and (2) ‘be sufficiently specific to
enable the defendant to plead double jeopardy in a subsequent
proceeding, if charged with the same crime based on the same
facts.'” (quoting United States v.
Douglas, 398 F.3d 407, 411 (6th Cir. 2005))); United
States v. Chichy, 1 F.3d 1501, 1504 n.3 (6th Cir. 1993)
(“An indictment as drafted is presumed sufficient if it
tracks the statutory language, cites the elements of the
crimes charged, and provides approximate dates and
times.” (collecting cases)).
an indictment may be legally sufficient for purposes of Rule
7(c) and Hamling, it may nonetheless fail to provide
enough detail to enable a defendant to meaningfully prepare
for trial. Accordingly, Rule 7(f) states that the Court
“may direct the government to file a bill of
particulars.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 7(f); see also
1 Charles Alan Wright, et al., Federal Practice and
Procedure § 130 (4th ed.) (“A bill of
particulars is a formal written statement by the prosecutor
providing details of the charges against the
defendant.”). A bill of particulars is meant to serve
the following purposes:
(1) to inform the defendant of the nature of the charge
against him with sufficient precision to enable him to
prepare for trial; (2) to avoid or minimize the danger of
surprise at the time of trial; and (3) to enable him to plead
his acquittal or conviction in bar of another prosecution for
the same offense where the indictment itself is too vague,
and indefinite for such purposes.
United States v. Birmley, 529 F.2d 103, 108 (6th
Cir. 1976); see also United States v. Salisbury, 983
F.2d 1369, 1375 (6th Cir. 1993) (“A bill of particulars
is meant to be used as a tool to minimize surprise and assist
defendant in obtaining the information needed to prepare a
defense and to preclude a second prosecution for the same
crimes.”). According to the Sixth Circuit, “the
test in ruling on a motion for a bill of particulars is
whether providing such details is necessary to the
preparation of the defense and avoidance of prejudicial
surprise.” United States v. Musick, 291
Fed.Appx. 706, 724 (6th Cir. 2008); see also United
States v. Kogan, 283 F.Supp. 3D 127, 132 (S.D.N.Y. 2017)
(“[T]he proper inquiry on a motion to compel a bill of
particulars is whether the information sought is necessary,
not whether it is helpful.”).
a bill of particulars “is not meant as a tool for the
defense to obtain detailed disclosure of all evidence held by
the government before trial.” Salisbury, 983
F.2d at 1375; see also United States v.
Smith, 776 F.2d 1104, 1111 (3d Cir. 1985) (holding that
a bill of particulars “is intended to give the
defendant only that minimum amount of information necessary
to permit the defendant to conduct his own
investigation.”); United States v. Martin, 822
F.2d 1089, at *3 (6th Cir. 1987) (Table) (per curiam)
(“[A] bill of particulars is not to be used as a
general discovery device. . . . This is particularly so in a
conspiracy case where the Government is not required to
disclose all overt acts alleged to have occurred in
furtherance of the conspiracy.”). For example, a
“defendant is not entitled to a bill of particulars if
the purpose of the bill is to obtain a list of the
Government's witnesses or to discover all of the overt
acts that might be proven at trial.” Musick,
291 Fed.Appx. at 724. Nor is a bill of particulars meant to
allow the defendant a preview of the Government's legal
theory of the case. Kogan, 283 F.Supp.3d at 132.
jury indicted Nero and eight co-defendants for their alleged
roles in a conspiracy at the Victory Inn. Nero is charged in
nine of the nineteen counts-each time with co-conspirators.
The parties agree that each count tracks the relevant
statutory language. Nero Mot. at 6-7; Gov't Resp. at 6.
Nero argues, however, that merely alleging the elements of a
conspiracy without any facts or overt acts showing Nero
participated in an alleged conspiracy spanning more than two
years is constitutionally deficient. Nero Mot. at 6-7. He
asserts that to prepare for trial, he needs information to
narrow the time frame of his alleged involvement.
Specifically, he seeks the following:
1. The approximate dates and locations of any meetings or
conversations in which each defendant allegedly participated;
2. The approximate dates when each defendant allegedly aided
and abetted, participated, or aided in the ...