Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States of America v. William Joseph Little


November 9, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Saundra Brown Armstrong United States District Judge


Defendants William Joseph Little, Jr. ("Little") and Keith Aaron Vann ("Vann") are 15 charged in an eleven count Indictment with: Conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, 18 16 U.S.C. § 1349; mail fraud, id. § 1341; wire fraud, id. § 1343; money laundering-promotion, 17 id. § 1956(a)(1)(A)(i); and money laundering-expenditure, id. § 1957(a). 18

The parties are presently before the Court on Vann's pro se motion to dismiss, Dkt. 156, and Vann and Little's motions to sever, Dkt. 156, 173. Having read and considered 20 the papers submitted and being fully informed, the Court DENIES all motions. 21



Defendants Vann, Little and Joseph Lawrence Williams ("Williams")*fn1 allegedly 24 engaged in a fraudulent scheme involving the creation of Global Missions Incorporated 25 ("Global Missions"). Specifically, Defendants falsely represented that Global Missions 26 was a non-profit organization and that donations to such organization would be recognized 27

by the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") as tax-deductible. In 2003, Defendants allegedly 2 made a series of false statements to two siblings ("Victims") in order to convince them to 3 donate a commercial building in Alaska left to them by their father's estate. The Victims 4 transferred title of the building to Global Missions on June 2, 2003. 5

6 of Alaska to wire proceeds from the sale in the amount of $3,377,089.64 to Williams' bank 7 account at Wells Fargo Bank in Dublin, California. Approximately one week later on June 8 10, 2003, Williams deposited $2,700,000 into a Wells Fargo account held in the name of 9

Thereafter, Global Missions sold the building and directed the First National Bank

Bishop of the Faith Vision Noble House ("Bishop of the Faith") for which Vann had sole 10 signature authority. On June 17, 2003, Vann opened another Wells Fargo account in the 11 name of Bishop of the Sovereign Knights of the Noble House ("Bishop of the Sovereign 12 Knights") and transferred $2,000,000 from Bishop of the Faith account to the Bishop of the 13 Sovereign Knights account. 14

15 the IRS did not recognize Global Missions as a non-profit organization and were unable to 16 obtain a charitable tax deduction for their donation. When the Victims requested the return 17 of their donation from Defendants, they were contacted by mail, e-mail, and telephone by 18

"James Preston," who was nothing more than fictitious persona created by Defendants to 19 defend the retention of the Victims' donation. 20

23 the conspiracy to commit wire fraud, among other charges.*fn2 The conspiracy count contains 24 overt acts committed by the Defendants in furtherance of the conspiracy. Vann's 25 participation in the conspiracy includes the following charged acts: Accepting a check 26

Following the transfer of the building to Global Missions, the Victims learned that


1.The Indictment

On April 16, 2008, the Grand Jury returned an Indictment charging Defendants with

written on the Global Missions Wells Fargo Bank account on June 10, 2003 in the amount 2 of $2,700,000 from Williams, Indictment ¶ 4r; withdrawing $300,000 from the bank 3 account the following day, id. ¶4s); thereafter withdrawing funds regularly from the 4 account, id. ¶ 4t; opening a bank account on June 17, 2003 and transferring $2,000,000 into 5 the new account, id. ¶ 4u, v; and, in November 2003, falsely representing himself to be 6

James Preston when speaking to one of the Victims over the telephone, id. ¶4aa. 7

8 incorporating Global Missions on July 19, 2002, and naming Williams as the "Ambassador 9 of Global" and himself as Williams' successor, id. ¶ 4a; on July 1, 2003, sending a letter 10 bearing the signature block of "James Preston" through e-mail to Williams with a copy sent 11 to Vann, id. ¶ 4w; in August 2003, speaking over the telephone to a victim about the return 12 of the donated funds, id. ¶ 4z; and speaking to a victim in January 2004 again about the 13 return of the donated funds, id. ¶ 4cc. 14

Little's role in the conspiracy as detailed in the Indictment includes the following:

2.Prior Proceedings and Pending Motions

After the Indictment was filed in April 2008, the action was assigned to the Honorable D. Lowell Jensen. While Judge Jensen was presiding over the action, Vann's 17 then counsel, Hugh Levine, filed a Motion for Severance and Separate Trial. Dkt. 100. 18

Dkt. 142, 156.*fn3 Vann later filed two identical pro se motions styled as "Motion for 19

Dismissal Charges; Reservation of My Rights UCC 1-308" on July 14, 2011 and on 20

September 2, 2011. Dkt. 142, 156. Little also filed a Motion to Sever. Dkt. 103, 104. 21

Judge Jensen did not rule on any of these motions. After the matter was reassigned to this 22

Court, Little refiled his motion to sever, which he noticed for hearing on October 31, 2011. 23

Dkt. 173. On October 28, 2011, the Court continued Little's motion to November 14, 2011 24

to be heard with Vann's pro se motion to dismiss. Dkt. 156. The Court now addresses 2 these motions, as well as the motion to sever filed by Vann's previous counsel. 3



6 basis of the motion is unclear.*fn4 Vann cites Uniform Commercial Code ("UCC") 1-308*fn5 and 7 claims to "reserve" his rights thereunder "not to be compelled to perform under any 8 contract or commercial agreement that [he] did not enter knowingly, voluntarily and 9 intentionally." Dkt. 156 at 2. To the extent that Vann is claiming that he is shielded from 10 criminal prosecution under the UCC, such an argument is without merit. See United States 11 v. Sykes, 614 F.3d 303, 306 n.2 (7th Cir. 2010) (characterizing defendant's claim that the 12 UCC relieved him of criminal liability as "bizarre"). In any event, the Indictment 13 adequately alleges the elements of the offenses charged and "fairly informs" him of the 14 charges against which he must defend, and otherwise "enables him to plead an acquittal or 15 conviction in bar of future prosecutions for the same offense." See United States v. 16

Lazarenko, 564 F.3d 1026, 1033 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citations 17 omitted). The Court therefore DENIES Vann's motion to dismiss the Indictment. 18

Vann has filed a two-page pro se motion to dismiss the Indictment. Dkt. 156. The


The "general rule is that persons jointly indicted should be jointly tried." United States v. Smith, 893 F.2d 1573, 1581 (9th Cir. 1990); Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(b). There is a 21 preference for joint trials of jointly indicted defendants because they promote judicial 22 efficiency and consistency. Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S. 534, 537 (1993). Where a 23

24 in Support of Appearance Brief in the Nature of Judicial Notice." Dkt. 174. This filing consists of various attachments-such as the "Mission Statement of In the Kingdom of the 25

conspiracy is charged, as in this case, a joint trial is "particularly appropriate." United 2 States v. Freeman, 6 F.3d 586, 598 (9th Cir. 1993). Under Rule 14, however, a court may 3 sever a defendant for separate trial-but "only if there is a serious risk that a joint trial 4 would compromise a specific trial right of one of the defendants, or prevent the jury from 5 making a reliable judgment about guilt or innocence." Zafiro, 506 U.S. at 539. 6

8 defenses are mutually antagonistic. As a general matter, "[m]utually antagonistic defenses 9 are not prejudicial per se," and do not automatically require severance. Id. at 538-39. 10

1.Antagonistic Defenses

Vann contends that his trial should be severed from Little's on the ground that their

Severance is not justified merely because both defendants proclaim their innocence and 11 accuse the other of having committed the crime. Id. at 539-40. Rather, "[t]o be entitled to 12 severance on the basis of mutually antagonistic defenses, a defendant must show that the 13 core of the co-defendant's defense is so irreconcilable with the core of his own defense that 14 the acceptance of the co-defendant's theory by the jury precludes acquittal of the 15 defendant." United States v. Throckmorton, 87 F.3d 1069, 1072 (9th Cir. 1996) (emphasis 16 added); United States v. Sherlock, 962 F.2d 1349, 1363 (9th Cir. 1989) (stating that the 17 level of antagonism which must exist for a severance is that defenses are "irreconcilable 18 and mutually exclusive"). This is a difficult standard to satisfy. United States v. Vasquez-19

Velasco, 15 F.3d 833, 845 (9th Cir. 1994), overruled on other grounds by United States v. 20 Jimenez-Ortega, 472 F.3d 1102, 1102-04 (9th Cir. 2007). 21

Here, Vann contends that Little will be prejudiced by a joint trial because, at trial, he (Vann) will attempt to inculpate Little and Williams as the masterminds behind the 23 fraudulent scheme, while portraying himself as a person of "good moral character" who 24 was uninvolved in their conspiracy. Dkt. 100 at 5-11. Setting aside the issue of whether 25

Vann has standing to assert the alleged prejudice of another defendant as the basis for a 26 severance request, the law is clear that severance is not justified merely because both 27 defendants proclaim their innocence and accuse the other of having committed the crime. 28

See Zafiro, 506 U.S. at 539-40; United States v. Arias Villanueva, 998 F.2d 1491, 1507 (9th Cir. 1993) ("the desire of one to exculpate [herself] by inculpating the other does not 2 generate the kind of prejudice that requires severance.") (internal quotation marks and 3 citations omitted). Moreover, Vann has made no showing that his acquittal is dependent 4 upon a guilty verdict against Little-or vice-versa. As such, the Court finds that severance 5 is not warranted on the basis of antagonistic defenses. 6


Next, both Vann and Little contend that a severance is necessary based on the Supreme Court's application of the Confrontation Clause in Bruton v. United States, 391 9 U.S. 123 (1968). See Dkt. 100 at 11-17; Dkt. 173 at 2-4. In Bruton, the Court "held that a 10 defendant is deprived of his Sixth Amendment right of confrontation when the facially 11 incriminating confession of a non-testifying co-defendant is introduced at their joint trial, 12 even if the jury is instructed to consider the confession only against the co-defendant." 13

Richardson v. March, 481 U.S. 200, 210 (1987). 14

15 joint trial, he will have no ability to cross-examine Vann regarding those statements should 16 he exercise his right not to testify. Dkt. 173 at 2-3. Likewise, Vann complains that he may 17 be prejudiced by an unspecified statement allegedly made by Little on November 13, 2007. 18

Dkt. 100 at 11. However, the Government has indicated that it will redact any statement by 19

Vann to avoid any reference to Little. Dkt. 105 at 9. As for statements by Little, the 20

Government has represented that it will avoid eliciting any reference to Vann from any 21 testifying witnesses. Id. This approach is sufficient to avoid the concerns articulated in 22

Bruton. See Richardson, 481 U.S. at 211 ("the Confrontation Clause is not violated by the 23 admission of a non-testifying co-defendant's confession with a proper limiting instruction 24 when, as here, the confession is redacted to eliminate not only the defendant's name, but 25 any reference to his or her existence."). 26

28 over" effect resulting from evidence that will be presented against Little as well as Little's

Little argues that Vann has made statements inculpating both of them, and, that in a

3.Spill-Over Effect

Finally, Vann asserts that absent a severance, he will be prejudiced by the "spill-

criminal history. Dkt. 100 at 4. "In assessing the prejudice to defendant from the 2

'spillover' of incriminating evidence, the primary consideration is whether the 'jury can 3 reasonably be expected to compartmentalize the evidence as it relates to separate 4 defendants, in view of its volume and limited admissibility of some of the evidence.'" 5

United States v. Cuozzo, 962 F.2d 945, 950 (9th Cir. 1992) (quoting United States v. 6 Escalante, 637 F.2d 1197, 1201 (9th Cir. 1980)). Proper jury instructions are generally 7 sufficient to minimize any prejudice from the spillover effect. Id. Thus, to obtain a 8 severance, the defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that limiting instructions are 9 "insufficient for the jury to compartmentalize the evidence against each defendant." See 10 United States v. Candoli, 870 F.2d 496, 510 (9th Cir. 1989). 11

Here, Vann offers no argument why any prejudice resulting from evidence of Little's culpability cannot be accommodated by appropriate limiting instructions. He also 13 has failed to make a "particularized" showing of prejudice that would likely result from a 14 joint trial with Little. See United State v. Jenkins, 785 F.2d 1387, 1394 (9th Cir. 1986) 15

(rejecting spillover claim where defendant made "no particularized showing of prejudice 16 beyond an assertion, disputed by the government, that he was a minor player in the 17 scheme"). 18

19 of prejudice to warrant separate trials, and therefore, DENIES their respective motions for 20 severance. 21

In sum, the Court finds that Vann and Little have failed to make a sufficient showing


For the reasons stated above,


1. Vann's Motion for Dismissal is DENIED.

2. Vann's Motion for Severance and Separate Trial is DENIED.

3. Little's Motion to Sever is DENIED.

4. The motion hearing scheduled for November 14, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. is VACATED. The parties shall instead appear before this Court for a status/trial setting 3 conference on November 14, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. 4

5. This Order terminates Docket 100, 156 and 173.




Case Number: CR08-00244 SBA


I, the undersigned, hereby certify that I am an employee in the Office of the Clerk, U.S. District 12 Court, Northern District of California.

That on November 9, 2011, I SERVED a true and correct copy(ies) of the attached, by placing said copy(ies) in a postage paid envelope addressed to the person(s) hereinafter listed, by depositing 14 said envelope in the U.S. Mail, or by placing said copy(ies) into an inter-office delivery receptacle located in the Clerk's office.

Keith Aaron Vann 18 c/o 35 Shadow Mountain Street Oakland, CA 94605

Dated: November 9, 2011

Richard W. Wieking, Clerk

By: LISA R CLARK, Deputy Clerk

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.