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United States v. Jean

United States District Court, E.D. New York

January 7, 2020

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
SPENCER JEAN, a/k/a “CASH, ” Defendant.

          For the Government: Anthony Bagnuola, Esq. United States Attorney's Office Eastern District of New York

          For the Defendant: Joseph J. Ferrante, Esq. Keahon, Fleischer & Ferrante

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOANNA SEYBERT, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant Spencer Jean moves for (1) a judgment of acquittal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 29 and (2) alternatively, for a new trial on all counts pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33. (Mot., D.E. 110.) The Government opposes the motion in its entirety. (Opp., D.E. 111.) For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Familiarity with the record is presumed. The Court summarizes the facts and evidence only as necessary for resolution of Defendant's motion.

         On July 2, 2019, following a weeklong jury trial, Defendant was convicted of (1) Hobbs Act robbery of a drug dealer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); (2) discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (A)(iii); (3) possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); (4) conspiracy to obstruct justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(k); and (5) obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2). He was found not guilty[1] of Count Six, illegal possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2) and 3551 et seq. (Verdict Sheet, D.E. 98; Superseding Indictment, D.E. 50.)

         I. The Charged Crimes

         Briefly summarized, on March 20, 2018, Defendant went to Ryan Goetz's house in Middle Island, New York, purportedly to buy marijuana. At an earlier date, Goetz and Defendant had met in a halfway house.[2] (Tr. 88:5-22.) Goetz knew Defendant as “Cash” and did not know his real name. (Tr. 89:8-13.) Goetz identified Defendant as “Cash” at trial. (Tr. 87:14-25.) Goetz became aware that Defendant had experience selling drugs. (Tr. 94:25-95:11.) Goetz himself had been treated for drug use at the halfway house. (Tr. 86:9-23.) Based on that information, after both had left the halfway house, Goetz contacted Defendant on March 19, 2018 to offer to sell Defendant marijuana. (Tr. 96:2-25.) They arranged for a deal the next day, March 20, 2018. That night and the following morning, the two called and texted each other. (Tr. 102:7-106:16.) On the morning of March 20, while Goetz was in the bathroom, he heard his front door open. He left the bathroom and saw Defendant standing in his doorway. (Tr. 106:19-107:5.) The marijuana was on the kitchen table. Defendant stated “give me your shit now” and Goetz and Defendant physically struggled over the marijuana. (Tr. 107:22-108:10.) In the ensuing altercation, Defendant took out a gun, shot Goetz in the leg, and fled with the marijuana. (Tr. 108:17-24; 207:25-208:4.) Goetz called 911 and reported he had been shot. At trial, Goetz concluded his testimony by stating that there was no doubt in his mind that “Cash”--Defendant--had shot him on March 20, 2018. (Tr. 207:22-208:4.)

         Natasha McPherson had known Defendant since childhood and, like Goetz, knew him to go by “Cash.” They became romantically involved in 2015.[3] (Tr. 424:7-23.) During their relationship, Defendant sold marijuana. (Tr. 430:1-8.) On March 20, 2018, Defendant told her he was going to see “the kid from the halfway house” about some marijuana. She told him not to go. (Tr. 430:9-11, 19-25; 431:1-22.) Later that same day, Defendant called her and told her to get dressed so they could go out to eat. (Tr. 435:2-12.) He arrived at her home in West Babylon in a dark grey four-door BMW accompanied by his friend “Marv.” Defendant told her to drive with Marv and that Defendant would drive her car. (Tr. 435:14-436:11.) During the car ride, she spoke with Defendant via FaceTime, and he told her he “had no choice but to do it because the guy rushed him.” (Tr. 439:21-440:3.) Also during the car ride, Marv stated that Defendant “didn't have to shoot him.” (Tr. 439:16-20.)

         McPherson and Marv arrived at Marv's house and waited. Defendant arrived approximately 10 to 15 minutes later wearing different clothes. When Defendant opened the rear door of the BMW, McPherson saw white bags and smelled marijuana. She then observed Defendant use a white glove to remove a gun from the backseat of the car and hand it to Marv. McPherson and Defendant went to IHOP in Freeport. (Tr. 440:7-441:10.)

         Notably, much of the above was corroborated by cell phone records of conversations and messages and cell site records tracking Defendant's phone's location. The receipt from IHOP was also admitted at trial.

         At IHOP, Defendant first told McPherson he planned to use her as an alibi. (Tr. 441:11-13.) On April 8, 2019, Defendant filed a cursory Notice of Alibi (D.E. 17) stating his intent to establish at trial that he was traveling between Medford, New York and Freeport, New York with an intended stop at the time Goetz was robbed. On April 18, 2019, he filed a Supplemental Notice of Alibi (D.E. 23) “advis[ing] that at the place and approximate time of the alleged crime charged in the [I]ndictment, the [D]efendant was traveling from 3115 Horseblock Road, Medford, New York, towards Middle Island, New York, then changed course and traveled west and south to Freeport New York.” In support of his alibi, Defendant intended to call Natasha McPherson.

         Upon receiving the alibi information, the Government interviewed McPherson. She admitted that the alibi was false and that Defendant had asked her to testify falsely on his behalf. He contacted her numerous times via Google Voice because “it was secure.” (Tr. 444:8-446:15; see, e.g. Tr. 454:21-25.) Defendant's brother also reached out to her several times in an effort to get her to provide an alibi. (Tr. 456:3-458:7.) She testified to the same before a Grand Jury and at this trial.[4]

         II. Procedural History

         Defendant was initially indicted on March 7, 2019, on the charges related to the Goetz robbery. (Indictment, D.E. 1.) Attorney Richard A. Finkel was appointed to represent him. (CJA Appt., D.E. 12.) On April 20, 2019, after the matter was reassigned to the undersigned from Hon. Joseph F. Bianco, the Government filed a Superseding Indictment which included the additional charges related to the false alibi and obstruction with McPherson. (Superseding Indictment.) On May 3, 2019, Finkel moved to withdraw as Defendant's attorney and attorney Richard D. Haley was appointed. (Minute Entry, D.E. 42.)[5] After motion practice not relevant here, this Court set a trial date of June 17, 2019, in order to allow Mr. Haley adequate time to prepare. (Minute Entry, D.E. 62.) Jury selection took place on June 17, 2019 (Minute Entry, D.E. 76) and the trial commenced on June 24, 2019. Defendant was found guilty of five of six counts. On July 18, 2019, at Defendant's request, this Court appointed him a new attorney, Joseph J. Ferrante, for any post-trial motions. (CJA Appt., D.E. 103.)

         After being granted extensions, Defendant submitted this post-trial motion on October 28, 2019. The Government opposed on November 27, 2019, and Defendant replied on December 11, 2019 (Reply, D.E. 112).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Le ...


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