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United States v. Beier

United States District Court, D. Idaho

December 12, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
RAFAEL L. BEIER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          EDWARD J. LODGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court in the above-entitled matter is Defendant Rafael Beier's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal and/or New Trial. The parties have filed their responsive briefing and the matter is ripe for the Court's consideration. The facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this Motion will be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Fourth Superseding Indictment charged the Defendant with one count of Conspiracy to Dispense a Controlled Substance, sixty-six counts of Distribution of a Controlled Substance, and four counts of Distribution of a Controlled Substance to a Person Under the Age of Twenty-One. (Dkt. 73.) A seven-day jury trial was held and on May 17, 2016 the Jury returned a verdict of guilty on all of the charges presented to it. (Dkt. 112, 116.)[1] Following the verdict, the Court allowed Defendant's trial counsel to withdraw from the case. (Dkt. 127.) Newly retained defense counsel then appeared and filed the instant Motion which the Court takes up in this Order. (Dkt. 128, 139.)

         STANDARDS OF LAW

         1. Motion for Judgment of Acquittal - Rule 29

         Motions for a judgment of acquittal are governed by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(c), which allows the court to set aside the verdict and enter a judgment of acquittal where, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the court finds there is insufficient evidence upon which any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. United States v. Yossunthorn, 167 F.3d 1267 (9th Cir. 1999). The “evidence is insufficient to support a verdict where mere speculation, rather than reasonable inference, supports the government's case.” United States v. Nevils, 598 F.3d 1158, 1167 (9th Cir. 2010) (en banc). The “critical inquiry” is “whether the record evidence could reasonably support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318 (1979).

         When making this inquiry, the Court is mindful that “it is the exclusive function of the jury to determine the credibility of witnesses, resolve evidentiary conflicts, and draw reasonable inferences from proven facts.” United States v. Alarcon-Simi, 300 F.3d 1172, 1176 (9th Cir. 2002). “Circumstantial evidence and inferences drawn from it may be sufficient to sustain a conviction.” United States v. Reyes-Alvarado, 963 F.2d 1184, 1188 (9th Cir. 1992).

         2. Motion for New Trial - Rule 33

         Motions for a New Trial are governed by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33, which allows a court to grant a new trial “if the interests of justice so require.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a). “A district court's power to grant a motion for a new trial is much broader than its power to grant a motion for judgment of acquittal.” United States v. Alston, 974 F.2d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 1992). “A motion for a new trial is directed to the discretion of the district judge. It should be granted only in exceptional cases in which the evidence preponderates heavily against the verdict.” United States v. Pimentel, 654 F.2d 538, 545 (9th Cir. 1981) (internal citations removed). The defendant has the burden to justify the need for a new trial. United States v. Shaffer, 789 F.2d 682, 687 (9th Cir. 1986).

         DISCUSSION

         1. Wharton's Rule

         Defendant argues the conspiracy charged in Count One should be vacated under Wharton's Rule. (Dkt. 140.) The Government counters that Wharton's Rule does not apply here. (Dkt. 145.) Defendant maintains the application of Wharton's Rule depends on the specific allegations and facts of ...


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