United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
RICHARD J. ARCARA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Domenico Anastasio was convicted, after a jury trial, of one
count of racketeering conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 1962(d) and two counts of murder in aid of
racketeering in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1959(a). The convictions were for conspiracy to
participate in organized criminal activities of a violent
street gang in Buffalo, New York, and for Defendant
Anastasio's accessorial role in the April 17, 2006
racketeering murders of Brandon MacDonald and Darinell Young.
Each of the two murder convictions carries a sentence of
mandatory life imprisonment. 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1).
Anastasio moves pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 29 for a
judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the jury's verdicts
based primarily upon his argument that there was insufficient
evidence for a rational jury to find him guilty as an
accessory to the two racketeering murders. He challenges two
special factors findings of murder made by the jury in
relation to the RICO conspiracy on the same grounds.
Anastasio moves in the alternative for a new trial pursuant
to Fed. R. Crim. P. 33 based upon arguments that he was, at
most, a mere knowing bystander during planning and
preparation for the murders. The Defendant maintains that he
did not intentionally aid the principals who committed the
murders while intending that the principals commit acts of
murder. The Defendant claims not only insufficient proof that
he is guilty; he claims he is innocent.
reasons stated below, the Court finds the jury's guilty
verdicts were supported by legally-sufficient evidence, and
were not a miscarriage of justice. Defendant Anastasio's
motions pursuant to Rule 29 for a judgment of acquittal and
pursuant to Rule 33 for a new trial are therefore denied.
a trial that last more than five weeks, evidence showed that
Defendant Anastasio and the two co-defendants who were tried
with him were associates and members of the 10th Street Gang,
a violent street gang that operated on the Lower West Side of
Buffalo. Members and associates of the Gang engaged in
criminal activities that supported the Gang, including
violence, threats of violence, and drug-trafficking. Members
and associates were involved in Gang-related distribution of
heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy.
to protect territory that the 10th Street Gang claimed
exclusively as its own for drug dealing, and to assert and
maintain its relative standing in a loose hierarchy of local
street gangs, members and associates of the Gang were
involved in murders, attempted murders, and assaults. Members
and associates of the Gang routinely possessed firearms
during their criminal activities, and evidence showed that
firearms were freely shared among Gang members.
territory of the 10th Street Gang was a neighborhood rife
with poverty and violence. The evidence at trial showed that,
like most street gangs, the Gang was, in the minds of its
members and associates, only partly about crime. The Gang was
for some more about social acceptance, support, excitement,
and structures that were lacking elsewhere. The Gang held
neighborhood parties. It offered a hierarchy of leadership
and a clear path to gain approval and respect. One could
“put in work” by fighting, committing crimes, or
by making sacrifices for Gang members or for the Gang, to
earn trust and to build a sense of belonging and higher
10th Street Gang was a rival of other street gangs, and it
had a longstanding violent rivalry with the 7th Street Gang,
a similar neighborhood criminal gang which operated nearby on
the Lower West Side of Buffalo. At times, deadly violence
erupted between the 10th Street Gang and the 7th Street Gang.
The murder victims in this case, Brandon MacDonald and
Darinell Young, were murdered in the early-morning hours on
April 17, 2006, because they were mistaken for associates of
the 7th Street Gang by members and associates of the 10th
Street Gang who were retaliating for an earlier
mistaken-identity shooting by a 7th Street Gang member.
during the trial established that Defendant Anastasio was a
longtime associate and member of the 10th Street Gang. He
conceded his life-long friendships with several admitted Gang
members, but he maintained during trial and post-trial
argument that the relationships were just friendships.
was testimony during the trial about Defendant Anastasio with
firearms on several occasions at the 10th Street Park, near
the intersection of 10th Street and Maryland Street, where
Gang members sold drugs. On April 16, 2006, the Defendant was
with a group of about 10 to 15 Gang members and associates
about a block away from the Park, near West Avenue and
Maryland Street, on their way to an afternoon barbecue. Among
the Gang members who were present was Douglas Harville, a
former member of the 7th Street Gang who had moved into 10th
Street Gang territory and been accepted into the Gang. Robert
Sanabria, a younger brother of Defendant Anastasio's
co-defendant and fellow 10th Street Gang member, Jonathan
Delgado, was also present; he was shot in the stomach and
seriously injured during a drive-by shooting.
Robert Sanabria was loaded into an ambulance, Defendant
Anastasio and others who had been at the shooting walked a
short distance to gather at the 10th Street Park. They were
afraid Sanabria might die. They were upset and angry about
Sanabria later identified 7th Street Gang member Luis Medina
as the person who shot him to the Buffalo Police Department.
Others who were present, including Douglas Harville,
immediately recognized Medina. The drive-by shooting of
Sanabria by Medina was a case of mistaken identity: Medina
meant to shoot a 10th Street Gang member who had recently
been involved in an altercation with 7th Street Gang members
outside a party. Sanabria had borrowed a New York Yankees
jacket from that 10th Street member. Medina believed he was
shooting the owner of the jacket in retaliation for the
earlier incident when he shot Sanabria.
shooting of Robert Sanabria was the first time in
long-running violence between the 7th Street Gang and the
10th Street Gang that 7th Street Gang members had crossed
Niagara Street into 10th Street Gang territory to shoot a
10th Street Gang associate or member. As a result, the
shooting had added significance as a challenge and an insult
to the 10th Street Gang.
those who gathered at the 10th Street Park in the immediate
aftermath of the shooting began to plan retaliation. Some