United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
WILLIAM M. SKRETNY United States District Judge.
before this Court are Motions for Judgment of Acquittal under
Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure made by
Defendants Ernest Green, Rodshaun Black, and Daniel Rodriguez
(collectively “Defendants”). This Court reserved
decision on Defendants' motions after they made them at
the close of the government's proof (Docket No. 711), at
the close of all proof (Docket Nos. 715, 725), and by way of
supplemental submissions (Docket Nos. 760-763). For the
following reasons, Defendants' motions are denied.
October 31, 2017, Defendants, together with Amilcar Ramos,
proceeded to trial on a 9-count superseding indictment.
(Docket Nos. 155, 625.) Counts 1 through 5 related to the
robbery, extortion, kidnapping, and murder of Jabril Harper
(“the Harper counts”). In Counts 1 and 2,
Defendants and Ramos were charged with Hobbs Act conspiracy
and Hobbs Act robbery and extortion, in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 1951 (a) and 2. In Count 3, Defendants
and Ramos were charged with kidnapping, in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 1201 (a)(1) and 2. In Count 4, Defendants
were charged with discharge of a firearm causing death, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924 (j)(1) and 2. And in
Count 5, Defendants and Ramos were charged with the use,
brandish, and discharge of a firearm, in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 924 (c)(1)(A)(i), (ii), (iii) and 2.
6 through 9 of the superseding indictment related to the
robbery, extortion, and kidnapping of Morris Singer, and
charged only Green and Black (“the Singer
counts”). In Counts 6 and 7, Green and Black were
charged with Hobbs Act conspiracy and Hobbs Act robbery and
extortion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1951 (a)
and 2. In Count 8, Green and Black were charged with
kidnapping, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1201
(a)(1) and 2. In Count 9, Green and Black were charged with
the possession and brandish of a firearm, in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 924 (c)(1)(A)(i), (ii) and 2.
January 17, 2018, after more than 11 weeks of trial, the jury
returned a partial verdict under Rule 31(b) of the Federal
Rules of Criminal Procedure, after deliberating for seven
days. (Docket Nos. 740, 743.) It acquitted Green and Black on
the Singer counts and acquitted Ramos on all counts against
him. (Id.) After further deliberations the following
day, the jury remained hung on the Harper counts against
Green, Black, and Rodriguez. (Docket No. 741.) This Court
therefore declared a mistrial without objection.
on February 8, 2018, this Court granted Green's motion to
dismiss the indictment on constitutional speedy-trial grounds
(joined by Black and Rodriguez), which Green had previously
filed on the eve of trial. (Docket Nos. 605, 607, 615, 780.)
In short, this Court found that Defendants' 68-month
pretrial detention, which was principally chargeable to the
government, severely prejudiced Defendants, particularly
because they spent their pretrial detention under oppressive
conditions and under threat of the death penalty, such that
their Sixth Amendment rights to a speedy trial were violated.
United States v. Green, 12-CR-83S (1)(2)(3), 2018 WL
786185 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 8, 2018). This Court therefore
dismissed the indictment with prejudice as required.
complete the record, this Court now resolves Defendants'
Motions for Judgment of Acquittal, which were made at various
times during and after trial. Defendants first made Rule 29
motions at the close of the government's proof. (Docket
No. 711.) They moved again at the close of all proof. (Docket
Nos. 715, 725.) Defendants then moved again through
supplemental submissions post-trial. (Docket Nos. 760-763.)
This Court reserved decision on each of Defendants'
motions. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(b).
Rule 29(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a
court must, upon a defendant's motion, “enter a
judgment of acquittal of any offense for which the evidence
is insufficient to sustain a conviction.” A defendant
may move for a judgment of acquittal after the government
closes its evidence, after the close of all evidence, or
after the jury has returned its verdict or has been
discharged. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a) and (c)(1). A
defendant may also renew a previously denied Rule 29 motion,
so long as renewal occurs within 14 days after the guilty
verdict or discharge of the jury, whichever is later.
See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(1).
making of a motion for a judgment of acquittal before the
court submits the case to the jury is not a prerequisite for
making such a motion after the jury is discharged.
See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(3). “[W]hen a
motion for judgment of acquittal made at the close of the
government's case-in-chief is denied and a defendant
presents a case, then the evidence put in by the defense will
also be considered in deciding a [Rule 29] motion made after
the trial ends.” United States v. Truman, 762
F.Supp.2d 437, 445 (N.D.N.Y. 2011).
defendant challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, as
Defendants do here, bears a heavy burden. United States
v. Hassan, 578 F.3d 108, 126 (2d Cir. 2008); United
States v. Finley, 245 F.3d 199, 202 (2d Cir. 2001).
“In evaluating whether the evidence was sufficient to
convict a defendant, [a reviewing court] consider[s] all of
the evidence, both direct and circumstantial, ‘in the
light most favorable to the government, crediting every
inference that the jury might have drawn in favor of the
government.'” United States v. Velasquez,
271 F.3d 364, 370 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting United States
v. Walker, 191 F.3d 326, 333 (2d Cir. 1999)).
considering the trial evidence, “the court must be
careful to avoid usurping the role of the jury.”
United States v. Jackson, 335 F.3d 170, 180 (2d Cir.
2003). The court may not “substitute its own
determination of . . . the weight of the evidence and the
reasonable inferences to be drawn for that of the
jury.” United States v. Guadagna, 183 F.3d
122, 130 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted). Determining the witnesses'
credibility falls strictly within the province of the jury.