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United States v. Hugo Key & Son, Inc.

ELR Citation: 18 ELR 20272
Nos. No. 87-0214 P, 672 F. Supp. 656/(D.R.I., 10/29/1987) Civil proceeding stayed

Because of a pending federal criminal investigation, the court stays a previously initiated federal civil enforcement action for six months or, if an indictment is issued, until the conclusion of the criminal proceedings. The defendant had objected to the government's request for the stay. The court holds that the need for the stay clearly outweighs the harm to the defendant, since the only harm discernible to the defendant is a delay in the determination of his civil liability. If the civil action were allowed to go forward, the liberal discovery of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) available to the defendant would undermine the traditionally more narrow scope of discovery in a criminal action, and possibly expose the strategy for criminal prosecution. This could lead to the defendant's perjury, manufacturing of evidence, discovery of confidential informants, and intimidation of prospective witnesses. Moreover, the FRCP's liberal discovery would not be equally available to the government in a civil case should the defendant be criminally charged, since the defendant could assert his privilege against self-incrimination. The public interest in law enforcement also favors a stay of the civil action. Since the defendant should not be subjected to uncertainty indefinitely, the court sets six months as the time period within which an indictment must be brought, or the stay will expire.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Everett C. Sarmmartino, Ass't U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 1401, Providence RI 02901
(401) 528-5477

Counsel for Defendant
Mark Denehy
Coffrey, McGovern & Noel
20 Washington Place, Providence RI 02903
(401) 274-1144