USA v. Burford
Order on Motion to Strike
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF ALASKA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
HAL FREDERICK BURFORD,
ORDER FROM CHAMBERS
Motion at docket 38 ]
I. MOTION PRESENTED
At docket 38, plaintiff United States moved to strike the phrase “and 5 kilograms
or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectible amount of
methamphetamine” from Count 1 in the Indictment. The motion was not opposed by
defendant Burford. The magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation at docket
631 in which he recommends that the motion be granted. No objections were filed to the
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The district court may “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings
or recommendations made by the magistrate.”2 When reviewing a magistrate judge’s
report and recommendation in a case such as this one, the district court conducts de
A duplicate copy also appears at docket 64.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
novo review of all conclusions of law,3 and any findings of fact to which objections have
been made.4 Uncontested findings of fact are reviewed for clear error.5
The magistrate judge recommended that the motion be granted for one reason
only–that it had not been opposed. Although in the circumstances here, it is fairly
obvious why the motion was not opposed, this court is not content to accept that basis
for granting the motion without some explanation.
As originally filed, Count 1 of the indictment charged defendant with attempted
possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in violation of Sections 846
and 841(b)(1)(A) of Title 21 of the United States Code. Section 841(b)(1)(A) provides
for a minimum ten-year term of imprisonment and an increased maximum penalty when
the drug crime committed involves a quantity of controlled substance which exceeds
one of several different thresholds set out in the statute depending on the type of
controlled substance. Here, the United States is attempting to prove that defendant
possessed methamphetamine with intent to distribute in a quantity large enough to
constitute a violation of § 841(b)(1)(A). To do so, in Count 1 of the Indictment the
United States charged in the conjunctive that Burford “did knowingly and intentionally
attempt to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of actual
methamphetamine, and 5 kilograms or more of a mixture and substance containing a
detectable amount of methamphetamine, to wit on November 24, 2006, the defendant
accepted a package containing methamphetamine . . . .”6 Either 50 grams of actual
methamphetamine or 5 kilograms of a mixture and substance containing
methamphetamine is sufficient to violate § 841(b)(1)(A). Of course, the United States
Barilla v. Ervin, 886 F.2d 1514, 1518 (9th Cir. 1989), overruled on other grounds by
Simpson v. Lear Astronics Corp., 77 F.3d 1170, 1174 (9th Cir. 1996).
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
Taberer v. Armstrong World Industries, Inc., 954 F.2d 888, 906 (3d Cir. 1992).
Doc. 12 at p. 2.
may set out in the indictment more than one of the means by which the statute could
have been violated.7
In the motion at docket 38, the United States advises that the total net weight of
the controlled substance in the package turned out to be a bit less than 5 kilograms.
Thus, the United States has elected to proceed on the basis of the allegation that the
crime involved 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine. Striking the reference to
the 5 kilogram quantity simply removes one of the means by which Burford may have
violated the statute. It leaves the charge of violation by the alternative means in place
for resolution at trial. This is an appropriate course of action; indeed, the only
appropriate course of action where it is known before trial that one of the originally
charged means cannot be proved. Thus, the report from the magistrate judge, albeit
lacking in explanation, does recommend the correct result.
For the reasons set out above, the motion at docket 38 is GRANTED
DATED at Anchorage, Alaska this 21st day of February, 2007.
/s/ JOHN W. SEDWICK
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Fed. R. Crim. P. 7(c).
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