The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court
On February 6, 2012, after a four-day trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict against Defendant John M. Ferger, on a one-count indictment, charging him with violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2) (felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition).
At the conclusion of the Government's case-in-chief, Defendant informed this Court of his intent to renew his motion for a judgment of acquittal. Presently before this Court is Defendant's post-trial motion for a judgment of acquittal, pursuant to Rule 29(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and denial of criminal forfeiture.*fn1 The Government opposes the motion. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion is denied.
The evidence at trial established that Defendant was convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year prior to June 14, 2010. On that date, at sometime after 8:00 p.m., Parole Officer Michelle Pietroboni accompanied by Parole Officer April Fuller visited Defendant's residence. Defendant emerged to meet the officers. When the officers entered, they discovered that Defendant was in the company of a female guest, Laurie Dieter. Pursuant to his parole conditions, Defendant was not allowed to have guests after 8:00 p.m. While inside Defendant's residence, Officer Fuller observed a bow and arrow from her position in the kitchen doorway. Officers handcuffed Defendant, and contacted State police to search for additional weapons. This search revealed several rounds of ammunition of varying types and calibers, and a Colteer 4-22 .22 caliber rifle.
Defendant was arrested for violating his parole. The case was then transferred to the United States Attorney's Office for federal prosecution.
Rule 29(a) provides, in pertinent part, that upon the defendant's motion, a court must "enter a judgment of acquittal of any offense for which the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction." The focus of a Rule 29 motion therefore falls on the sufficiency of the evidence presented in the government's case-in-chief. See United States v. Saneaux, No. 03 CR 781, 2005 WL 2875324, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 1, 2005).
A defendant challenging the sufficiency of the evidence bears a heavy burden. See United States v. Autuori, 212 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 2000); United States v. Walker, 142 F.3d 103, 112 (2d Cir.1998). A district court may enter a judgment of acquittal on the grounds of insufficient evidence only if "after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and drawing all reasonable inferences in the government's favor, it concludes no rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." United States v. Reyes, 302 F.3d 48, 52 (2d Cir. 2002); see also United States v. Jackson, 335 F.3d 170, 180 (2d Cir. 2003); United States v. Skinner, No. 03-CR-11, 2005 WL 782811, at *1 (W.D.N.Y. Apr. 6, 2005). Stated another way, "the court may enter a judgment of acquittal only if the evidence that the defendant committed the crime is non-existent or so meager that no reasonable jury could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." United States v. Guadagna, 183 F.3d 122, 130 (2d Cir. 1999) (citation and quotation omitted).
When considering the trial evidence, "the court must be careful to avoid usurping the role of the jury." See Reyes, 302 F.3d at 52. The court is not permitted to "substitute its own determination of the weight of the evidence and the reasonable inferences to be drawn for that of the jury." Guadagna, 183 F.3d at 130 (internal quotations and citations omitted). The court must give "full play" to the jury's credibility determinations, weighing of the evidence, and drawing of justifiable inferences of fact. See United States v. Spadoni, No. 00-CR-217, 2005 WL 2275938, at *3 (D. Conn. Sept. 15, 2005) (citing Guadagna, 183 F.3d at 129).
To sustain its burden at trial on the offense charged, felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, the Government had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant
(1) was convicted, in any court, of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, as charged, (2) did knowingly possess the firearm or ammunition as charged, and (3) that the ...