CAMDEN — Alleged members and associates of one of Atlantic City’s most violent gangs are set to go to trial in October — 19 months after an FBI-led investigation charged 34 people.
But lawyers for 11 men argued in federal court Friday that it was unfair that these “innocent until proven guilty men are being warehoused in Philadelphia” while the case moves along.
District Judge Joseph Irenas said he didn’t understand why there have not been indictments on all the defendants and gave the government three weeks to get that done. He also gave them 60 days — until June 25 — to get all of the evidence to the various defense attorneys.
The hearing was held so a decision could be made on whether the case could be deemed “complex,” which then waives the Speedy Trial Act. Several defense attorneys opposed the motion.
But their problem wasn’t with labeling complex the case that includes thousands of texts, wiretap conversations and other information gleaned from months of investigation. Instead, they say the federal facility where their clients are being held is not conducive to helping prepare a defense, including going over the voluminous evidence.
In March 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the sweep that included the earlier arrest of alleged leader Mykal Derry and his brother, Malik, on murder charges.
Eleven defendants, including the Derry brothers, sat together in the jury box Friday, dressed in matching olive colored jumpsuits, their cuffed hands shackled at their waists.
They appeared comfortable, and laughed several times as the judge cracked jokes.
The judge told Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Danilewitz that the government may have to put more than two attorneys on the case to make sure it moves along in time.
“Let Mr. Fishman come down here, I’m sure he’s not busy,” Irenas said of U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
Irenas said he’s deeply familiar with the case, since he signed off on the wiretaps and other investigative methods used in the six-month investigation.
The government has really had two years, one defense lawyer argued, since there were about six months of investigation that led to clearance for the operation that included intercepting text messages between members of the alleged drug-trafficking conspiracy.
Irenas scheduled a status conference for July 2, to make sure the government complies with the June 25th discovery deadline and that the indictments are complete.
“I don’t want any surprises,” he said.
The judge also said the defense attorneys could have 30 days to renew bail applications. That was not a cutoff time, he said, but just letting them know that he would be open to hearing arguments for conditional release.
Motions in the case are due by July 31, and a hearing will be held Sept. 5. Trial is now set for Oct. 6.
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