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United States v. Molen

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

December 5, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
STEPHEN MOLEN, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

"Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman."[1] In the present case, it is unfortunate that the Assistant United States Attorney ("AUSA") responsible for this case has been reluctant to explain the basis for the decision to dismiss charges against the defendant. [ See Record No. 44; Transcript of 11/22/13 Re-Trial Conference.] And it is equally troubling that the AUSA now argues that this Court lacks authority to even question the government's rationale for its actions. [Record No. 45-1, pp. 5-7]

Although not proven, the charges in this case are quite serious and should be matters of great public concern. The indictment alleges that Defendant Stephen Molen, while performing duties as a deputy sheriff for Pulaski County, Kentucky, violated the civil rights of two unidentified citizen by assaulting them without justification. One assault allegedly occurred on October 2, 2009, while the second occurred approximately two years later. [Record No. 1; Indictment] There is no indication that any internal action was taken by Molen's employer to correct or punish this behavior. And based upon other evidence the government would seek to introduce at trial, it would appear that the defendant engaged in similar, alleged conduct over an extended period of time.

The matter was presented to a federal grand jury and that body determined that probable cause supported the two charges. Presumably, at the time the matter was presented for the grand jury's consideration, the government intended to prosecute the matter and considered the cost of doing so. The Court also assumes the United States evaluated the effect the prosecution would have on witnesses and victims of the alleged abusive conduct Two months later, a separate federal grand jury in the Western District of Kentucky returned a second indictment, charging Molen with a similar offense in that district.[2] Again, the Court assumes the prosecuting authorities evaluated those same factors and determined that the grand jury's action was warranted under the facts presented.

The pre-trial conference in this case was scheduled for November 22, 2013. However, three days before that conference, the parties jointly moved the Court to continue the matter. For the first time, the parties disclosed that they had entered into a plea agreement addressing the charges in both districts. Under this agreement, Molen would enter a guilty plea to the charge in the Western District of Kentucky. In exchange, the two charges in the Eastern District of Kentucky would be dismissed. Further, the penalty negotiated by the parties would be binding on the Court under Rule 11 (c)(1)(C) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Molen would be sentenced to a three-year term of probation and six months of"modified" home confinement[3] Although these terms had been negotiated by the time of the November 22, 2013, pre-trial conference, Ron Walker, the Assistant United States Attorney attending the hearing and responsible for prosecuting the case, was very not forthcoming when initially asked to explain the details of the parties' agreement or the government's rationale in dismissing the charges filed in the Eastern District of Kentucky.

After some questioning by the Court, the following exchange occurred with AUSA Walker:

THE COURT: Would the United States intend to file along with - if that happens, would the United States intend to file a memorandum explaining why dismissal would be in the best interest of the public in this case? This is a civil rights case.
MR. WALKER: It is a civil rights case. We would advise the Court that the basis of the dismissal in this is we would have accomplished our goal in addressing the issue with Mr. Molen's employment, his employment as a law enforcement officer. And those were the primary factors that needed to be considered in this matter.

[Record No. 44; Transcript of 11/22/13 Pre-Trial Conference at p. 5] In otherwords, the United States was willing to tell the public that, as a result of its actions, the government had managed to have the defendant terminated from his current employment. Period.

And after expressing some concern, the Court indicated that further explanation would be necessary if the government, in fact, moved to dismiss the indictment

THE COURT: Well, I guess what I'm trying to signal to you - I will just state it straight out If - if you do file a motion to dismiss, and if it's not - it doesn't explain your rationale, we'll have a hearing so that any alleged victims can come into court, and you can explain to me why dismissal is in the best interest of the public. So I'll leave that to you. If you file a motion to dismiss, you can either explain the rationale in writing, or we can have a hearing on it.

[ Id. at p. 7]

Several days later, the government obtained approval of the binding plea agreement from the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. It then filed with this Court on December 4, 2013, a pleading which was simply captioned "Motion." The relief identified and requested in the motion is ambiguous. However, it appears that the government seeks leave of Court to file a "Notice of Dismissal" under Rule 48(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.[4] And it apparently presumes that the filing of ...


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