United States District Court, E.D. New York
the Government: KELLY T. CURRIE Acting United States Attorney
Eastern District of New York by CELIA A. COHEN SOUMYA
DAYANANDA ROBERT T. POLEMENI Assistant United States
Defendant Christian John: EPHRAIM SAVITT NATASHA D. MAROSI.
Defendant Marvin Johnson: JOHN F. KALEY, Doar Rieck &
Mack, RICHARD JASPER, YING STAFFORD.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
FREDERIC BLOCK, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
17-day jury trial, Christian John was convicted of
racketeering; racketeering conspiracy; drug distribution
conspiracy; robbery; robbery conspiracy; murder-for-hire
conspiracy; charges relating to the murder of five
individuals, the attempted murder of a sixth and an assault
on a seventh; and possession and use of a firearm in
connection with various other crimes. His co-defendant,
Marvin Johnson, was acquitted of the racketeering and
racketeering conspiracy charges, but convicted of
participation in the drug distribution conspiracy, robbery
conspiracy, use of a firearm in connection with those
conspiracies, and participation in one of the murders.
defendants now move for judgments of acquittal pursuant to
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 and, in the
alternative, new trials pursuant to Rule 33. For the
following reasons, the motions are denied.
Judgment of Acquittal
Rule 29 motion should be granted only if the district court
concludes there is ‘no evidence upon which a reasonable
mind might fairly conclude guilt beyond a reasonable
doubt.'” United States v. Irving, 452 F.3d
110, 117 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting United States v.
Taylor, 464 F.2d 240, 243 (2d Cir. 1972)). The defendant
“carries a heavy burden, and must show that when
viewing the evidence in its totality, in a light most
favorable to the government, and drawing all inferences in
favor of the prosecution, no rational trier of fact could
have found him guilty.” Id. (citing
Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979)).
challenge to the verdict centers on the alleged enterprise,
the “Hull Street Crew.” He argues that the
government failed to prove (1) that the enterprise existed,
(2) that it engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity, or
(3) that any of the murders and other violent crimes he was
convicted of were committed to maintain or increase a
position in it.
Existence of the Enterprise
“enterprise” is “ a group of persons
associated together for a common purpose of engaging in a
course of conduct.” United States v. Turkette,
452 U.S. 576, 583 (1981). Its existence is proven “by
evidence of an ongoing organization, formal or informal, and
by evidence that the various associates function as a
continuing unit.” Id. Although an enterprise
must have a structure, it need not be a “business-like
entity” with a hierarchical chain-of-command or fixed
roles for its members. See Boyle v. United States,
556 U.S. 938, 945, 948 (2009).
undisputed that the Court's jury instructions correctly
defined “enterprise.” There was, moreover, ample
evidence to support the jury's conclusion that the
“Hull Street Crew” fit that definition. Several
witnesses testified that John recruited others and gave them
orders to sell marijuana and cocaine. He also planned and
directed others to assault and murder those whom he perceived
as rivals or threats to his ventures. His confederates obeyed
these orders. This structure persisted over a number of
objects that the gang was nothing more than a collection of
“independent street operators, ” John's Mem.
of Law 17, most of whom had spent their lives engaged in
criminal activity, and some of whom did not work with John
until many years after the enterprise was allegedly created.
He also notes that they committed crimes against each other
as often as they worked together; for example, John was
convicted of planning to murder Johnson and of beating up
another alleged member of the enterprise, Michael Farmer.
concedes, however, that the group “at times banded
together i n a c o m m o n venture.” Id.
Neither independent side projects nor shifting loyalties are
mutually exclusive with the existence of an enterprise. The
Second Circuit has been clear that an enterprise “may
continue to exist even though it undergoes changes in
membership, ” United States v. Eppolito, 543
F.3d 25, 49 (2d Cir. 2008), and that a “period of
quiescence in an ...