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United States v. Burris

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 5, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on the Government's Motion for Inquiry into Potential for Conflict of Interest [Doc. 61]. The motion raises concerns about a potential conflict in attorney Beau Brindley's representation of Defendant Roy Burris. The Court held a hearing and the Government and Defendant appeared and argued their respective positions. In addition, Mr. Brindley provided information about his relationship with Defendant, as well as Michael Grady, who was, at the time of the hearing, Defendant's co-defendant.[1]


         The Government charged Defendant with a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine). In the initial indictment, Defendant had two co-defendants, Oscar Dillon and Michael Grady. Defendants Grady and Dillon are also co-defendants, along with a number of other individuals, including Derrick Terry, in a different criminal case pending in the Eastern District of Missouri, United States v. Velasquez, No. 4:15CR00404.

         In the Velasquez matter, Mr. Brindley entered his appearance on behalf of Mr. Terry. The Government sought an inquiry into a potential conflict posed by Mr. Brindley's representation of Mr. Terry as a result of an alleged prior business relationship between Mr. Terry's co-defendant Mr. Grady and Mr. Brindley. The court held a hearing and concluded that because “Grady may have been involved in Terry's decision to retain Brindley, the court finds that there is a serious potential for conflict in this matter that requires substitution of counsel for Brindley on behalf of Defendant Derrick Terry.” In a subsequent related order, the court found that “Brindley has had a professional relationship with Grady for a number of years, ” and Mr. Grady, “who represents that he is a paralegal, has referred clients to Brindley and they have worked together on those cases with Grady performing investigative services.” The court concluded that “there is a significant risk that Brindley's long-term pecuniary interests lie with Grady, with whom he has a long-standing, continuing professional relationship.” Finally, the court determined that “a waiver would not adequately protect Defendant's interests, the ‘integrity of the judicial proceeding, ' and ‘public confidence in the legal profession'….” In Velasquez, Mr. Terry declined to execute a waiver of conflict.


         The Government asserts that the concerns identified in Velasquez with respect to the prior financial relationship between Mr. Grady and Mr. Brindley are present in this case and that the “Court should exercise its discretion to refuse a waiver of conflict, should Defendant Burris waive any conflict in this matter.” To support its position, the Government relies on the Court's determination in the Velasquez matter as well as jail recordings of Mr. Burris that were created while Defendant was incarcerated in California.

         Defense counsel asserts that the conflict at issue in this case is different than in Velasquez because the Government has dismissed Mr. Grady from this case and therefore the conflict is “speculative and theoretical.” Moreover, counsel argues that Defendant has been advised of the conflict and has waived the conflict in writing.

         The jail tape recordings

         In November 2016, Defendant, a female acquaintance and Mr. Grady were recorded on a three-way conversation referencing Mr. Brindley. In December 2016, Defendant stated in a recorded conversation that he “got in contact with Beau was (sic) through Grady.” Other December conversations between Defendant and the female acquaintance suggest that Defendant provided Mr. Grady money to pay Mr. Brindley. Yet another conversation, between Defendant and his mother, substantiates that Mr. Grady was supposed to pay Mr. Brindley money on Defendant's behalf.

         Mr. Brindley's statements

         Mr. Brindley acknowledged at the hearing that he has a relationship with Defendant Grady. He described his relationship as follows: “…basically amounted to Mr. Grady referring a handful of cases, four to five cases. I would estimate….” Mr. Brindley stated that Mr. Grady never worked for him and Mr. Brindley never paid Mr. Grady. However, Mr. Grady worked for some of Mr. Brindley's clients, including, Mr. Terry, the Velasquez defendant.

         With respect to Defendant, Mr. Brindley stated that “Mr. Burris retained me to represent him here in the Eastern District of Missouri without any involvement of Mr. Grady.” At the time Defendant retained Mr. Brindley for this case, Mr. Brindley “had been representing Mr. Burris for a significant period of time on multiple issues.” Mr. Brindley has not denied that Mr. Grady connected Defendant and Mr. Brindley: “No one has ever stated that Mr. Grady did not recommend the undersigned to Defendant at some point.”

         Existence ...

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