United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
C. CHAMBERS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for
Judgment of Acquittal. ECF No. 150. For the reasons specified
herein, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.
of a Superseding Indictment filed on February 14, 2017,
Defendant was charged with three counts of drug-related
offenses. ECF No. 42. Though Defendant pled guilty to Counts
2 and 3, ECF No. 118, Defendant denied his guilt as to Count
1, which alleged that Defendant conspired to distribute a
quantity of 100 grams or more of heroin. Accordingly, the
Court held a jury trial from January 23 to January 25, 2018
to resolve the charge of criminal conspiracy. On January 25,
2018, the jury returned a verdict of guilty as to Count 1 of
the Superseding Indictment. ECF No. 145.
now asks this Court to set aside the jury's guilty
verdict and enter a judgment of acquittal in his favor. ECF
No. 150. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 provides that
“[a] defendant may move for a judgment of acquittal, or
renew such a motion, within 14 days after a guilty verdict or
after the court discharges the jury, whichever is
later.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(1). The Rule also
provides that, pursuant to such a motion, the Court may set
aside a guilty verdict and enter an acquittal. Fed. R. Crim.
considering a motion for acquittal made after the return of a
jury verdict, the Court “must affirm the verdict if it
is supported by substantial evidence, viewed in the light
most favorable to the government.” United States v.
Palomino-Coronado, 805 F.3d 127, 130 (4th Cir. 2015).
“Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable
finder of fact could accept as adequate and sufficient to
support a conclusion of a defendant's guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt.” Id. (internal quotation and
citation omitted). A guilty verdict that is supported by
substantial evidence may not be overturned merely because the
Court determines that “another, reasonable verdict
would be preferable.” Id. This standard
creates a “heavy burden” for a defendant to
trial, the government produced the following witnesses: Brian
Porter, Victoria Bolden, Tara Curd, William Paul Johnston,
Tonya Thompson, Detective Jake Bailey, and Detective Matt
Siebel. Defendant argues that Mr. Porter, Ms. Bolden, Ms.
Curd, Mr. Johnston, and Ms. Thompson each admitted to having
been addicted to heroin during the relevant time period and
that they all had agreements with the government that limited
their exposure to criminal liability for their own illegal
activity in exchange for their assistance in Defendant's
prosecution. ECF No. 150. As a result of their addictions and
their deals, Defendant argues, “[n]one of the witnesses
provided testimony from which a reasonable jury could find
that [Defendant] conspired with one or more persons to
distribute 100 grams or more of heroin.” ECF No. 150.
arguments focus on the credibility of the witnesses that the
government presented at trial. ECF No. 150. The Court,
however, is not permitted to review the credibility of
witnesses in its consideration of a motion for acquittal.
United States v. Myers, 2011 WL 13192691, at *1
(S.D.W.Va. Mar. 21, 2011) (unpublished opinion) (citing
United States v. Wilson, 115 F.3d 1185, 1190 (4th
Cir. 1997)) (“The Court does not review the credibility
of witnesses when ascertaining whether sufficient evidence
existed to support a conviction.”) The Court must
simply “consider the evidence viewed in a light most
favorable to the government and determine whether any
rational jury could have found each essential element of the
crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt.” Id.
case, Defendant was found guilty of violating 21 U.S.C.
§ 846, conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of
heroin. ECF No. 145. The elements of this crime are as
follows: (1) there was a conspiracy to knowingly and
intentionally distribute 100 grams or more of a controlled
substance; (2) the conspiracy was entered into by two or more
persons; and (3) at some time during the conspiracy, the
defendant knew the purpose of the conspiracy, and then
deliberately joined the conspiracy.
the trial, witnesses Mr. Porter, Ms. Bolden, Ms. Curd, Mr.
Johnston, and Ms. Thompson each offered testimony regarding
Defendant's distribution of heroin in Huntington, West
Virginia. Some testified that Defendant had solicited them to
sell heroin on his behalf while others testified that they
had purchased heroin directly from Defendant at regular
intervals over the relevant time period. Collectively, and
some even individually, these witnesses testified to having
sold for and/or purchased from Defendant over 100 grams of
heroin. Further, Detectives Bailey and Siebel testified as to
the investigation into Defendant's local heroin sales and
explained to the jury that Defendant was arrested after Mr.
Porter, who at some point became a confidential informant for
the police, conducted a controlled purchase of heroin from
Defendant in 2016.
reviewing the credibility of these witnesses and construing
the evidence in a light most favorable to the government, the
Court finds that there was enough evidence for a rational
jury to find each essential element of the crime charged
beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the Court finds that
the jury's verdict in this case is supported by
substantial evidence and therefore must stand. Thus, the
Court DENIES Defendant's Motion, ECF No.
150, and the jury's verdict of guilty remains.
Court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of
this Order to counsel and the defendant, the United States
Attorney's Office, the United States Probation ...