United States District Court, E.D. New York
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
KIYO A. MATSUMOTO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
October 22, 2019, a jury in the Eastern District of New York
found Devone Jefferys (“Mr. Jefferys”) guilty of
(1) conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, (2) attempted
Hobbs Act robbery, and (3) unlawful use or possession of a
firearm in connection with a crime of violence (specifically,
attempted Hobbs Act robbery) in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
924(c). Mr. Jefferys now moves for a judgment of acquittal on
Count Three pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure
29(c)(2). For the reasons set forth below, Mr. Jefferys'
motion is DENIED.
29(c)(2) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides
that a district court shall enter a judgment of acquittal of
any offense for which the evidence is insufficient to sustain
a conviction. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29. A defendant
challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support his
conviction “‘bears a heavy burden.'”
United States v. Velasquez, 271 F.3d 364, 370 (2d
Cir. 2001) (quoting United States v.
Finley, 245 F.3d 199, 202 (2d Cir. 2001)); see also
United States v. Tillem, 906 F.2d 814, 821 (2d Cir.
1990) (stating that motions to challenge sufficiency of
evidence “rarely carry the day”).
determining whether to grant a motion for judgment of
acquittal, the district court must view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the prosecution. United States v.
Temple, 447 F.3d 130, 136 (2d Cir. 2006). “All
permissible inferences must be drawn in the government's
favor.” United States v. Guadagna, 183 F.3d
122, 129 (2d Cir. 1999). The court must ask whether
“any rational trier of fact could have found
the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable
doubt.'” Temple, 447 F.3d at 136 (quoting
Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979)).
“Put another way, ‘[a] court may enter a judgment
of acquittal only if the evidence that the defendant
committed the crime alleged is nonexistent or so meager that
no reasonable jury could find guilt beyond a reasonable
doubt.'” Id. (quoting Guadagna,
183 F.3d at 130).
Second Circuit has “emphasized that courts must be
careful to avoid usurping the role of the jury when
confronted with a motion for acquittal.” United
States v. Jackson, 335 F.3d 170, 180 (2d Cir. 2003)
(citing Guadagna, 183 F.3d at 129 (“Rule 29(c)
does not provide the trial court with an opportunity to
substitute its own determination of . . . the weight of the
evidence and the reasonable inferences to be drawn for that
of the jury.”)). It is the jury's task, not the
Court's, to “choose among competing inferences that
can be drawn from the evidence.” Id. (citing
United States v. Martinez, 54 F.3d 1040, 1043 (2d
Cir. 1995)). “These principles apply whether the
evidence being reviewed is direct or circumstantial.”
United States v. Maldonado-Rivera, 922 F.2d 934, 978
(2d Cir. 1990); see also Jackson, 335 F.3d at 180
(“[Courts must] bear in mind that the jury's
verdict may rest entirely on circumstantial
evidence.”). “[I]f the court concludes that
either of the two results, a reasonable doubt or no
reasonable doubt, is fairly possible, [the court] must let
the jury decide the matter.” Guadagna, 183
F.3d at 129.
Jefferys challenges the sufficiency of the evidence regarding
his conviction for unlawful use or possession of a firearm in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Mr. Jefferys claims
that the evidence at trial did not show beyond a reasonable
doubt (1) that he knowingly and intentionally possessed a
firearm or (2) that the weapon he possessed satisfied the
legal definition of a firearm, as set forth in 18 U.S.C.
§ 921(a)(3). The Court finds that there was sufficient
evidence for a rational trier of fact to have found the
essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt
and, consequently, will deny Mr. Jefferys' motion for
Evidence that Mr. Jefferys Possessed a Firearm
Jefferys briefly argues that the Government failed to present
sufficient evidence that he knowingly and intentionally
possessed a firearm as charged in Count Three. But the
evidence presented at trial was sufficient for a reasonable
jury to conclude that Mr. Jefferys used or carried a firearm
during and in relation to the attempted Hobbs Act robbery, or
that he possessed a firearm in furtherance of the attempted
Hobbs Act robbery. See 18 U.S.C. §
trial, four witnesses - including Mr. Jefferys'
co-conspirator, Ronell Peterkin - testified that Mr. Jefferys
possessed a weapon during the attempted Hobbs Act robbery:
• Ronell Peterkin testified that he personally
handed Mr. Jefferys a firearm just before the pair entered
the victims' apartment. (Trial Transcript
(“Tr.”), at 509:4-10.) Mr. Peterkin also
testified that, once inside the apartment, Mr. Jefferys held
several victims at gunpoint in the living room. (Id.
• Jaime Arriaga testified that during the
robbery, the “thin” robber (i.e., Mr. Jefferys)
“had a gun” and “was threatening and
pointing it” at the victims. (Id. at
• Sheila Tavera testified that the
“skinny” robber “aim[ed] a gun at”
two victims (id. at 242:18-243:7) and, on more than
one occasion, held the gun in ...