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United States of America v. Kiond Jones

September 22, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
KIOND JONES, ALSO KNOWN AS "KIOND HING," AND "KION," ANTHONY PRADDY, ALSO KNOWN
AS "BIRDMAN", AND TORRELL WHYTE, ALSO KNOWN AS "TERROR", DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Block, Senior District Judge:

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

On October 14, 2010, a jury found defendant Anthony Praddy guilty of racketeering activity (Count One), racketeering conspiracy (Count Two), marijuana distribution conspiracy (Count Four), four courts of marijuana distribution (Counts Five through Eight), and use of a firearm in connection with a drug crime (Count Fourteen). The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining counts, which charged murder in aid of racketeering (Count Three), murder in connection with a drug crime (Count Eleven), and use of a firearm in connection with a crime of violence (Count Twelve). Accordingly, the Court declared a mistrial on those counts. Count Eleven was later dismissed on the government's motion. Following a retrial, a jury found Praddy not guilty on Counts Three and Twelve.

Following the first trial, Praddy moved for a judgment of acquittal on Counts One, Two, Four and Fourteen. The Court reserved and held further argument on September 14, 2011. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

I

On a motion for a judgment of acquittal, the Court must determine whether "the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction," Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a), that is, whether "a rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." United States v. Jackson, 335 F.3d 170, 180 (2d Cir. 2003). It must make that determination "with the evidence against a particular defendant viewed in a light that is most favorable to the government, and with all reasonable inferences resolved in favor of the government." United States v. Eppolito, 543 F.3d 25, 45 (2d Cir. 2008) (citation, internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). "The jury may reach its verdict based upon inferences drawn from circumstantial evidence, and the evidence must be viewed in conjunction, not in isolation." Id. (citation, internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).

A. Counts One, Two and Four

With respect to Counts One, Two and Four, Praddy argues that the evidence was insufficient to connect his individual marijuana sales (four of which he admitted at trial) to a larger conspiracy or RICO enterprise. Although the Government offers much evidence of the existence of a conspiracy/enterprise, the evidence of Praddy's membership comes down to the testimony of two cooperating witnesses:

* Raymond "Bobby" Dowdie, the ostensible head of the "Raleigh Place Crew," was asked, "[W]ho were some of the other people you worked with in selling marijuana [around Raleigh Place]?" He responded, "Garfield, Josh, and Jay, Joe. Kiond, for a time. 'Bird' for a period of time. Lindsay. Other individuals." Trial Tr. 327. "Birdman" or "Bird" was Praddy's nickname.

* Hayden McQuilken, one of the crew's customers, testified that various people he bought drugs from worked as "a team." When asked what individuals roles were on that team, he stated that Dowdie was "the head man," and that "Birdman" was a "worker." Trial Tr. 709-10.

The jury could have could reasonably inferred from that testimony that Praddy sold marijuana as a member of the Raleigh Place Crew.

Praddy argues, however, that the Court should ignore the usual rule that all reasonable inferences are to be drawn in the government's favor because of what he alternately calls "jury confusion" and a "compromise verdict." Def.'s Mem. of Law 2. The essence of the argument, however denominated, is that Dowdie and McQuilken also testified as to Praddy's involvement in the murder, as well as other violent crimes charged as predicate acts.*fn1 Since-Praddy argues-the jury could not reach a verdict as to the murder charges and found the other violent acts not proven, it necessarily rejected all of the cooperators' testimony, including the testimony tying him to the Raleigh Place Crew. The jury nevertheless convicted Praddy, even though the violent predicate acts were, in Praddy's view, the "catalyst of the racketeering changes." Def.'s Mem. of Law 4.

Praddy's argument is unpersuasive. First, there is no rule requiring the jury to accept or reject all of a witness's testimony. Indeed, the Court explicitly (and correctly) charged the jury that it was for them to decide "how much, if any, of the testimony [of cooperating witnesses] to believe." Thus, as part of the Court's duty to view the evidence to support the verdict, if at all possible, the Court must assume the opposite of Praddy's premise-that the jury followed its instruction and chose to credit Dowdie and McQuilken with respect to Praddy's membership in the crew, but not with respect to his involvement in the murder or other violent crimes.*fn2

Second, there is no requirement that a defendant commit any violent predicate act to be guilty of racketeering or conspiracy. One of the alleged purposes of the Raleigh Place Crew was drug trafficking, and the government was not required to prove that Praddy was involved in all of the crew's activities (including the use of violence to protect their turf). As the Court instructed the jury, the government was required to prove, with respect to racketeering, only that "the defendant . . . played some part in the operation or management of the enterprise." With respect to conspiracy, the jury was told that "the defendant need not have joined in all of the conspiracy's unlawful objectives." Thus, it was entirely proper for the jury to ...


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