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U.S. v. MOHAMMED

April 5, 2001

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF,
V.
TAJ MOHAMMED, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kahn, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM — DECISION AND ORDER

Presently before the court is Defendant Taj Mohammed's motion for a judgment of acquittal, pursuant to Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. For the following reasons his motion is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

Defendant was indicted on July 21, 2000 for three violations of federal law for his alleged role in a drug conspiracy. At the close of the Government's presentation of evidence, he moved for a judgment of acquittal. The Court reserved its decision on that motion and addresses it now.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Judgment of Acquittal Pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 29

When deciding upon a motion for a judgment of acquittal, a trial judge must determine whether, upon the evidence presented and giving full play to the right of the jury to determine credibility, a reasonable mind might fairly conclude guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. United States v. Autuori, 212 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 2000). The Court must be careful to avoid "usurping the role of the jury." United States v. Guadagna, 183 F.3d 122, 129 (2d Cir. 1999). As such, all evidence must be viewed, whether direct or circumstantial, in the light most favorable to the government and if the Court concludes that it is "fairly possible" for either reasonable doubt or no reasonable doubt to exist, the matter must be submitted to the jury to decide the matter. Autuori, 212 F.3d at 114.

B. Counts 1 and 2 of the Indictment

Count 1 of the Indictment charges the Defendant with violating 21 U.S.C. § 952 and 963 while Count 2 charges him with violating 21 U.S.C. § 841 and 846. The first charge alleges that the Defendant knowingly and intentionally conspired with individuals known and unknown to import heroin into this country. The second charge alleges that the Defendant knowingly and intentionally conspired with individuals to possess heroin with the intent to distribute.

Because a conspiracy is "by its very nature a secretive operation," United States v. Provenzano, 615 F.2d 37, 45 (2d Cir. 1980), the government "need not present evidence of an explicit agreement; proof of a tacit understanding will suffice." United States v. Gordon, 987 F.2d 902, 906 (2d Cir. 1993) (quoting United States v. Skowronski, 968 F.2d 242, 247 (2d Cir. 1992)). Thus, the government may prove the elements of a conspiracy, including defendant's knowledge of it and membership in it, entirely by circumstantial evidence. See United States v. Tutino, 883 F.2d 1125, 1134 (2d Cir. 1989). Circumstantial evidence indicating a conspiracy may "include acts that exhibit a consciousness of guilt, such as false exculpatory statements . . . and attempts to influence the testimony of a witness." Gordon, 987 F.2d at 907 (citations omitted).

In support of the conspiracy charges against Defendant, the Government introduced evidence indicating that a package addressed to "Debora Swilliams"*fn1 was sent from Pakistan to Defendant's residence in Amsterdam, New York on July 15, 2000 and delivered there by law enforcement officials posing as DHL workers on July 21, 2000. Defendant's mother-in-law testified for the Government that she signed for the package in the first floor entrance hallway to her second floor apartment and brought it upstairs because she thought it contained books that she had ordered.

After placing it on a table in the apartment, she realized that the return address on the package was from an address in Pakistan that she did not recognize. She, along with her daughter's friend and daughter, examined the package further and concluded that it was not the books that were ordered. During this time Defendant was asleep.

At some point over the following hour, he awoke and saw them examining the package. He confirmed that the return address was from an unknown source in Pakistan. He proceeded to carry the package back to the first floor entrance-way and placed it underneath a table near the front door without opening it. When his wife asked Defendant about its contents, he replied by telling her that "you women are nosy."

Approximately one hour later, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant on the apartment and opened the package. Inside were seventeen dresses sewn with plastic tubing filled with 1,353.6 grams of heroin. When confronted with this evidence, Defendant allegedly made a series of contradictory statements, including a denial that he ever touched the box. Later, he allegedly stated that the "kilo" it contained was not his. Particularly relevant to the Government's case regarding Defendant's knowledge and participation in the alleged conspiracy ...


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