United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO CONTINUE
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Justin Andrew
Wilke's (“Wilke”) motion to continue trial
currently set for January 14, 2020. Dkt. 75. The Court has
considered the pleadings filed in support of and in
opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and
hereby grants the motion for the reasons stated herein.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
August 28, 2019, Wilke was charged by indictment with eight
counts relating to his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to
unlawfully remove and sell valuable maple trees obtained in
the Olympic National Forest between April and August 2018.
Dkt. 1. One of those charges, using fire in furtherance of a
felony (count eight), carries a mandatory 10-year sentence.
original trial date was December 3, 2019. In November 2019,
the Government moved to continue trial in anticipation of the
transfer of Wilke's co-defendant, Shawn Williams
(“Williams”) into federal custody. The Court
continued Wilke's trial to December 5, 2019 over
Wilke's objection. Dkt. 20.
Court set Williams's trial for January 14, 2020. The
Government then filed a motion to continue Wilke's trial
to the same date. Dkt. 26. Wilke initially indicated he would
oppose the motion, but on the day his response was due, he
withdrew his opposition. Dkt. 39. Accordingly, the Court
granted the motion and set Wilke's case for trial with
Williams's case on January 14, 2020. Dkt. 45.
December 18, 2019, the grand jury returned a second
superseding indictment that made no changes to Wilke's
charges but added charges against Williams. Dkt. 51. On
December 27, 2019, Williams entered into a plea agreement and
pled guilty to two of those charges. Dkts. 62, 63. In the
statement of facts within his plea agreement, Williams
admitted that a member of a group consisting of Williams,
Wilke, and uncharged co-conspirator/witness Lucas Chapman
(“Chapman”) started a large forest fire known as
the “Maple Fire” while attempting to fell a tree
containing a bee's nest as part of the tree poaching
operation. Dkt. 62, ¶ 8(i)-(j). Williams did not enter
into a formal cooperation agreement with the Government or
agree to testify against Wilke as part of his plea agreement.
Williams's sentencing date is March 23, 2020.
to recent changes in the local criminal rules, the Government
filed its trial materials fourteen days in advance of
Wilke's trial, on December 31, 2019. Dkts. 68-72.
January 3, 2020, the day Wilke's trial materials were
due, he filed a motion to continue trial. Dkt. 75. On January
5, 2020, the Government responded. Dkt. 80.
January 6, 2020, the Court held a pretrial conference. Dkt.
83. At the pretrial conference, the Court issued a
preliminary ruling indicating it anticipated denying the
motion to continue because Wilke had failed to establish that
a continuance was needed, and the Government had provided
sufficient information that a continuance would prejudice it.
However, the Court indicated it would accept Wilke's
reply to the motion before issuing a final written ruling.
January 7, 2020, Wilke replied. Dkt. 85. Also on January 7,
2020, the Government filed a status report updating the Court
on evidentiary issues and representations made by Wilke's
counsel at the pretrial conference. Dkt. 86.
posture has been to proceed to trial throughout this case.
However, his counsel now asserts that the Government has
disclosed voluminous discovery since mid-December, and that a
pre-planned vacation of his defense investigator and
foreseeable scheduling conflicts of co-counsel prevent him
from adequately following up on this discovery in advance of
trial. Counsel further asserts that his inability to review
and investigate potential exculpatory information presented
by this discovery will prevent him from functioning
competently as required by the Sixth Amendment at trial. In
response, the Government demonstrates a great deal of
prejudice to its case supporting the denial of the motion.
Nevertheless, the Court concludes that on balance the
relevant factors weigh in favor of continuing trial.
Therefore, the Court grants the motion.