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United States v. Cropper

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

April 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
VAUGHN ALEXANDER CROPPER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS United States District Judge

         This matter is set for trial beginning April 10, 2017. On April 6, 2017, the court held a hearing at the joint request (doc. 14) of counsel for the Government and counsel for the Defendant. Counsel for the Government was present, as was the Defendant, appearing in his self-styled “proper person” of Vaughn Alexander El. Also present was appointed counsel for the Defendant, Kevin Butler, the Public Defender for the Northern District of Alabama. Counsel for the Defendant stated that his client preferred to be addressed as Mr. El. Accordingly, at the hearing, the Court addressed the Defendant as “Mr. El”. The Court also has used the terms “the Defendant” and “Mr. El” interchangeably throughout this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

         I. The Faretta Issue

         A. Proceedings before Magistrate Judge Putnam

         Based upon a determination that the Defendant was entitled to appointed counsel (see Minute Entry dated 2/4/2017; see also Financial Affidavit (doc. 4 dated 2/4/2017) the Federal Public Defender (“FPD”) was appointed on February 4, 2017, to represent the Defendant on the single charge against him in the one-count indictment: felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). (See doc. 1, Indictment). On March 10, 2017, counsel for the Defendant filed a Motion for Hearing To Clarify Representation (doc. 11, filed 3/10/2017), based upon “communications from Mr. Cropper [to the FPD] indicating that he wishes to represent himself in this matter” necessitating “a Faretta inquiry ... to clarify whether Mr. Cropper wishes to waive his right to counsel in this matter and to determine whether Mr. Cropper is knowingly and voluntarily waiving that right.” (Doc. 11). In response to that Motion, a Faretta hearing was held on March 22, 2017, before Magistrate Judge T. Michael Putnam.[1] That same day, Judge Putnam entered an Order (Text Order, doc. 13) “granting 11 Motion for hearing to clarify representation as to Vaughn Alexander Cropper (1); defendant refused to waive right to counsel, FPD shall continue to represent defendant in all further proceedings.”

         B. Yesterday's Proceedings

         The day after the Faretta hearing and Judge Putnam's Order (doc. 13), the parties filed a “Joint Request for Status Conference” (doc. 23). The Joint Request is set out in full below.

         Comes now Vaughn A. Cropper, by and through Kevin L. Butler, and the United States, by and through Gregory Dimler, and jointly request a status conference in this matter. In support of this request the parties state:

1) Mr. Cropper is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). See Docket Sheet #1.
2) Trial is presently scheduled for April 3, 2017.
3) Though the parties have engaged in good faith negotiations, as of the filing of this pleading, a plea agreement has not been reached.
4) Mr. Cropper has also advised defense counsel that he wishes to represent himself. However, at a March 22, 2017 hearing to clarify the status of his representation no information was presented to the Court that would satisfy the requirements of Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975).[fn 1]. See Docket Sheet 11-13. Consequently, the Office of the Federal Public Defender was not relieved and stands ready to proceed forward.
FN 1. Based upon principles adopted by the “Sovereign Citizen Movement”, though Mr. Cropper appears to want to represent himself, he does not accept the Court's jurisdiction and would not waive his right to counsel (or any other rights).
5) Because of Mr. Cropper's unique views regarding the propriety of this proceedings and the fact his views may make the trial and future litigation in this matter unique, both parties believe a status conference will assist the court ...

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