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United States v. Rodriguez

October 5, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
DOMINGO RODRIGUEZ AND JORGE GARCIA-REYLOSO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Feuerstein, J.

OPINION & ORDER

I. Introduction

On September 28, 2006, defendants Domingo Rodriguez and Jorge Garcia-Reyloso were convicted by a jury of hostage taking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1203(a); transporting an alien not legally present in the United States for the purpose of commercial advantage in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324; and conspiracy to transport an illegal alien for commercial advantage.*fn1

Defendant Domingo Rodriguez ("Defendant") now moves for a judgment of acquittal pursuant to Rule 29(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, or in the alternative for a new trial pursuant to Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Defendant also requests the assignment of new counsel, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel.

For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motions are denied.

II. Procedural History

At the close of the government's case-in-chief, the defendants moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that the government failed to establish: (1) lack of consent on the part of the victim; and (2) that the defendants knew the victim was an illegal alien. (Transcript, "Tr." at 867). The Court denied the defendants' motion. Id. Defendants did not make another motion at the close of the defense case. Counsel for defendant Rodriguez requested to reserve his Rule 29 motion until after the verdict, stating "there could potentially be issues based upon the verdict and what the verdict would be that would affect the Rule 29 motions." (Tr. 1059). Following the rendering of the verdict, Defendants' moved for a judgment of acquittal on all counts of the conviction pursuant to Rule 29(c). Defendants were granted leave to file briefs in support of their motion. Accordingly, the Court reserved judgment.

III. Analysis

A. Rule 29 Motion Standard

A defendant challenging the sufficiency of the evidence under Rule 29 bears a "heavy burden." United States v. Thomas, 377 F.3d 232, 237 (2d Cir. 2004); United States v. Desena, 260 F .3d 150, 154 (2d Cir. 2001); United States v. Autuori, 212 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 2000). The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the government and all permissible inferences must be drawn in its favor. SeeUnited States v. Irving, 452 F.3d 110, 117 (2d Cir. 2006); United States v. Jones, 393 F.3d 107, 111 (2d Cir. 2004),

A jury verdict must be upheld if "any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." United States v. Guadagna, 183 F.3d 122, 130 (2d Cir. 1999) (emphasis, internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "In other words, the court may enter a judgment of acquittal only if the evidence that the defendant committed the crime is nonexistent or so meager that no reasonable jury could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

In assessing the proof at trial, the Court must analyze each piece of evidence "not in isolation but in conjunction," United States v. Matthews, 20 F.3d 538, 548 (2d Cir.1994), and must apply the sufficiency test "to the totality of the government's case and not to each element, as each fact may gain color from others." Guadagna, 183 F.3d at 130.

B. Insufficient Evidence

Defendant asserts that "the Court should grant the motion for acquittal as to all Counts of the conviction due to the insufficiency of the evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." However, the defendant's arguments only pertain to the insufficiency of Count Two (Hostage Taking). Insofar as Defendant moved to dismiss Counts Four (Conspiracy to Transport an Illegal Alien for Commercial Advantage or Private Financial Gain) and Five (Transporting an Illegal Alien for Commercial Advantage or ...


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