The appellant, Henry A. Molt, Jr., appeals a judgment of sentence entered by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania following a conditional plea of guilty.
Molt has for a number of years owned and operated the Philadelphia Reptile Exchange in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. He has been a seller, trader, breeder and importer of wildlife, particularly reptiles. As to the trading in reptiles, the bulk of his business has been with zoos across the country. In the course of an extensive investigation of animal smuggling into the United States, Molt's activities came under scrutiny. As a result, the Government sought and obtained seven separate indictments against him in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, most of which contained numerous counts.
Molt attacked the indictments in the district court with five pretrial motions: (1) a motion to suppress tainted evidence; (2) a motion to dismiss certain counts because trial on those counts placed defendant in double jeopardy; (3) a motion to dismiss certain counts because the Lacey Act is unconstitutionally vague; (4) a motion to dismiss both indictments because the Government failed to comply with the Speedy Trial Act and denied defendant his sixth amendment right to a speedy trial; and (5) a motion to dismiss certain counts because Australian and Philippine customs regulations could not support Lacey Act convictions. The district court ultimately denied each of the pretrial motions. Molt entered a conditional plea of guilty to 16 counts in indictment Crim. No. 77-336 and 15 counts in indictment Crim. No. 77-341. The remaining counts in each of these indictments were dismissed upon motion of the Government.
The district court found the defendant guilty on the two indictments and imposed prison terms aggregating 14 months. The court also sentenced Molt to three years probation following the prison term.
Molt's primary contention on appeal which, with the other contentions raised by him, was briefed and argued orally, is that the district court erred in not dismissing the indictments because the Government failed to comply with the requirements of the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161-3174 (1976 & Supp. III 1979). If appellant is correct that the time between indictment and trial exceeded the amount allowed under the Act, and if the Act's sanction provision requiring dismissal was in force when Molt's Speedy Trial Act rights accrued on July 28, 1979,
Molt was indicted August 4, 1977. He and the Government agree that the Act requires that a person indicted on that date, during the second year of the Act's phasing-in, must be brought to trial within 120 days. See id. §§ 3161(g) & 3163(b). The Act, however, provides that certain periods may be excluded when determining whether the allowed time has elapsed. Id. § 3161(h). The Government maintains that when all proper exclusions are taken, less than 120 days will be found to have passed between indictment and trial. Molt strenuously disagrees.
The district court did not decide whether more than 120 days had elapsed, concluding rather from the legislative history of the Act and its subsequent amendment that the sanctions applied only to cases begun after July 1, 1979. The court on that basis denied Molt's motion on Speedy Trial Act grounds for dismissal of the indictment.
Because the record indicates under the applicable law that the 120 day period allowed was not exceeded, we affirm the denial of the motion on that ground and we do not reach the more difficult problem of construing the language of the pre-amendment sanction provision.
There are two substantial disagreements between Molt and the Government over the exclusion of periods from the total of time elapsed for Speedy Trial Act purposes. The source of these disputes is the complex nature of the case. The different indictments were tried before several judges and two judges made decisions on motions, decisions which the Government and Molt agreed were binding as to all the Molt indictments. Judge Ditter considered a motion to suppress evidence, United States v. Molt, 444 F.Supp. 491 (E.D.Pa.1978), aff'd, 589 F.2d 1247 (3d Cir. 1978), while Judge Fogel addressed a motion challenging the constitutionality of the Lacey Act, United States v. Molt, 452 F.Supp. 1200, aff'd in part and rev'd in part, 599 F.2d 1217 (3d Cir. 1979). It is the exclusion of periods when these two judges were considering the motions that is in dispute.
Molt agrees that all of the days on which each of the two judges heard argument on the motions must be excluded, but contends that only one 30 day period may be excluded as the period when a proceeding (the motion) "is actually under advisement." 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(1)(G) (1976). The appellant argues that to exclude 30 days for each of the motions would be the same as granting 60 days when a single judge heard both. The Government does not exclude twice those days during which both judges had the motions under advisement, but it does exclude more than 30 days.
Such a narrow construction is not required by the language of the Act, nor is it consistent with the Act's intent. It is unlikely that a complex case like this, with motions affecting the disposition of multiple indictments being heard separately by
Molt's second substantial disagreement with the Government over computation of elapsed time is the Government's exclusion under section 3161(h)(8)(A) of the period of a continuance during which Judge Ditter was considering the suppression motion. On December 15, 1977, Judge Ditter filed a "Report of Speedy Trial" stating that "trial in case cannot commence until 1/15/78 re: Motions Outstanding. The Court finds the ends of the justice served by granting continuance outweigh the best interest of the public and defendant in a speedy trial." Molt argues that Judge Ditter's continuance failed to satisfy the requirements of that section in that the judge did not set forth "in the record of the case," 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(8)(A) (1976), his reasons why the ends of justice were served by the continuance. Judge Ditter did set forth reasons, but only in the record of the disposition of the indictments directly before him. Molt claims that because those reasons were not included in the record of the disposition of the indictments before Judge Becker, they were not "in the record of the case" and so the exclusion of the period was improper.
Appellant's contention fails for several reasons. First, the wording of the provision is not so clear as to foreclose the conclusion that the provision was satisfied because the "case" is the same. Judge Ditter's matter involved the same defendant, Molt, and stemmed from the same broad scheme, as are involved in the indictments now before us. Further, Molt and the Government had previously agreed that Judge Ditter's decision was binding as to the issue of suppression on all other trial judges in the district court trying the various Molt indictments. As to the suppression issue, Judge Ditter had the only "case." Second, Molt admits that both the actual days when Judge Ditter heard argument on the motion and the period when the Government appealed his decision were properly excluded. His argument that a continuance granted in adjudication of the same motion cannot be excluded is inconsistent with those exclusions. Third, if the time is not excluded, the ends of judicial economy will not be served. Each judge would have to consider the same issue in order for each to make the time spent in consideration of the motion excludable. Fourth, we believe Congress in drafting this provision could only have required reasons for continuances so that those reasons could be reviewed. This court has those reasons in the record of the prosecution of the indictments before Judge Ditter. If the validity of the merits of the continuance, as opposed to the validity of the technical form, were challenged, those reasons would have been available for review. Thus the intent of the provision is satisfied. Therefore, we conclude that the Government was correct in excluding the period of Judge Ditter's continuance.
Because we have rejected Molt's computation of the number of days to be excluded where it conflicts with the computation of the Government, we must also reject his assertion that more than 120 non-excludable days have elapsed between indictment and trial. Accepting the Government's computations, we conclude that the time allowed under the Speedy Trial Act had not
We have also carefully considered each of the remaining contentions urged by the appellant and find them without merit:
Accordingly, the judgment of the district court will be affirmed.