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Former K&L Gates Lawyer Willie Dennis For Oct Trial May Get 4 Subpoenas But No More

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTROOM, Sept 12 – In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on November 19, 2021 a detention proceeding was held by Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang on a defending brought in from the Dominican Republic the night before.

Willie E. Dennis, formerly a lawyer at K&L Gates, was charged with cyber stalking. At first the US Attorney's Office was OK with his release, but them things switched. Inner City Press live tweeted it here:

Willie E. Davis is currently in FBI custody in 290 Broadway. He has been assigned a Federal Defender, who has spoken 3 or 4 times today with Dennis by phone.

Judge Wang: Why is this not in person? AUSA: He arrived from outside the US, we don't know his vax status.

 US says: "DENNIS, a U.S. citizen, was arrested this week in the Dominican Republic... He engaged in a campaign of harassment, intimidation, and threats against multiple individuals, including other partners, who worked at the [K&L Gate Law] Firm."

Dennis owns a multi-family building, and property in the Dominican Republic, but he has debts. He is being given a publicly-funded Federal Defender.

AUSA: He was arrested in the Dominican Republic on Nov 16 and arrested in the US yesterday. Judge Wang: You are charged with four counts of cyber-stalking.

Judge Wang took a break and returned, to rule: "I am accepting recommendation he be detained until fitted with a bracelet or co-signers can sign the bond."

Jump cut to August 15, 2022 when the case, reassigned to Judge Jed S. Rakoff, had on short notice a phone conference that pointed to an in-person one: "Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Jed S. Rakoff: Telephone Conference as to Willie Dennis held on 8/15/2022. Present were the defendant and his consulting counsel, Anthony Cecutti and Kastine Thiele, AUSA Rushmi Bhaskaran for the government and a court reporter. The Court sets a conference in courtroom 14B to consider the defendant's application to relieve consulting appointed counsel and substitute in new consulting assigned counsel."

But not so simply: Dennis has to pay: "ORDER as to Willie Dennis: The Court had originally scheduled an in-court conference for August 17, 2022, to consider various issues raised by pro se defendant Willie Dennis. Mr. Dennis expressly confirmed that he would attend the conference in person. However, on August 15, 2022, Mr. Dennis requested that, for personal reasons, the conference be moved to August 18, 2022 and that he be permitted to participate remotely. The Court agreed to his request and gave Mr. Dennis the option of appearing telephonically at the Court's expense or appearing by videoconference at his own expense. He elected the latter. Accordingly, the Finance Department of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York shall invoice defendant pro se for the cost of this videoconferencing. All other conference participants will attend in person at Courtroom 14-B, 500 Pearl St., New York, NY."

Inner City Press went and live tweeted it here:

OK- K&L Gates lawyer Willie Dennis charged with stalking is appearing before Judge Jed S. Rakoff by Zoom. He moves his laptop to show his mother lying down next to him. 

[For most of the Zoom, the camera was on Dennis' face, at an angle. But at the beginning and end he turned the camera down, to show his sick mother on a bed - or perhaps so that she could see the courtroom participants and gallery?

Dennis is reading a statement by shaky Zoom, attacking Judge Rakoff. "I have been unemployed two years." Trial in 6 weeks?

 Dennis: I face a judge who has reprimanded me...I want to show 1000s of K&L Gates emails before the jury. Judge: What do you seek?

Dennis: A sidebar with my CJA, to see if they are acceptable. Judge: No.

Dennis: Appointment accepted! Mr Dennis would like to subpoena the management community of K&L. Gates. Judge: Let's move trial to Oct 11. Dennis: How about earlier?

Dennis: My communications are not being received. I have a memo. Judge: You can file that. Convene a joint phone call.

Notes: Judge Rakoff will be issuing a written order granting Dennis his phone, over the Government's objection.

Judge Rakoff also dismissed the AUSA's request to test Dennis' competence, or have the now-fired stand-by lawyers testify about Dennis. The AUSA said these counsel had already provided the Government will some information. One expected Dennis to object by Zoom, but he did not. Yet.

Then this: "MEMORANDUM ORDER as to Willie Dennis. At the conference before this Court on August 18, 2022, the Court granted the pro se motion of defendant Willie Dennis for the return of his phone. The Court further indicated that it would issue a Memorandum setting forth the reasons for that ruling by no later than noon on August 22, 2022, following which the Government could seek modification or reconsideration by convening a joint telephone conference with defendant and the Court by no later than 5:00 PM on August 22, 2022. Here (a few days early) is that Memorandum. Mr. Dennis is accused of cyberstalking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2261A(2)(B) and 2. On November 16, 2021, the Government, pursuant to a lawfully executed search warrant, seized Mr. Dennis's phone. The Government extracted the contents of Mr. Dennis's phone on December 20, 2021, creating a "snapshot" of material that law enforcement agents could review. Letter from the United States of America to Judge Lorna G. Schofield, Dct. No. 62 (July 19, 2022), at 1. Although more than nine months have passed since the seizure, the Government represents that it has not completed its review of the phone's contents. While this seems a bit plodding, the Government further represents that it intends to use Mr. Dennis's phone as evidence during trial (which is now firmly scheduled to commence on October 11, 2022). The Court construes Mr. Dennis's pro se motion as having been made pursuant to Rule 41(g) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. In order to prevail on a Rule 41(g) motion, the moving party must show that "(1) he is entitled to lawful possession of the seized property; (2) the property is not contraband; and (3) either the seizure was illegal or the government's need for the property as evidence has ended." United States v. Pinto-Thomaz, 352 F. Supp. 3d 287, 311 (S.D.N.Y. 2018). The Government does not dispute that Mr. Dennis is entitled to "rightful ownership [of] or title" to the phone."

Then docketed on September 12, this: "ORDER as to Willie Dennis. This order concerns subpoenas that defendant pro se Willie Dennis seeks to serve on third-party witnesses. A defendant must seek leave of Court before attempting to serve a subpoena on a third-party witness. ("[A] defendant must seek leave of Court before issuing a subpoena for documents returnable before trial."); see also United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 695 (1974) (providing that a third-party subpoena must seek information that is (1) relevant, (2) admissible, and (3) specific); United States v. Tucker, 249 F.R.D. 58, 66, (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (forbidding third-party subpoenas that are "unreasonable or oppressive"). However, on August 2, 2022, Judge Schofield (to whom this case was previously assigned) ordered that Mr. Dennis "is entitled to have subpoenas for witnesses and documents necessary to his defense served without prior approval by the Court," ECF No. 67 (emphasis added). While it is unclear whether that order merely referenced the fact that, once the content of a subpoena had been approved by the Court, no further order was required for service to be effected, in any event it could not have meant that Mr. Dennis was being given carte blanche by Judge Schofield to propound any subpoenas he wished, for in the following weeks, Judge Schofield began to review Mr. Dennis's subpoena requests, three of which she then granted on August 11, 2022. ECF No. 73. In any event, after this case was reassigned to the undersigned, at a pretrial conference held on August 18, 2022, this Court told Mr. Dennis that he must submit any subpoenas to the Court for approval. Conference of Aug. 18, 2022, Tr. 19:21-21:9. Subsequently, the Court reviewed, approved, and personally signed eight of Mr. Dennis's subpoenas. However, after Mr. Dennis then submitted a subpoena that was improper on its face, on August 30, 2022, the Court issued an email order requiring Mr. Dennis to substantiate any further subpoenas with an explanation of why the information sought would be at least facially relevant, legally permissible, and not unduly burdensome to produce. On September 6, 2022, the Court approved four additional subpoenas requested by Mr. Dennis, even though their relevance appeared dim. Since the number of subpoenas approved for service had by then become very large, and their burdens disproportionate to their use, the Court, on September 6, 2022, further informed Mr. Dennis that any additional subpoenas must be submitted to the Court by 5:00 PM on Friday, September 9, 2022. That deadline has now passed. So, while the Court expects that it will, upon review, approve Mr. Dennis's four additional subpoena requests, now outstanding, no additional subpoena requests by Mr. Dennis shall be hereafter approved. (Signed by Judge Jed S. Rakoff on 9/9/2022)."

This case is US v. Dennis, 20-cr-623 (Rakoff)



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