United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill, Chief Judge United States District Court.
Court has before it motions for acquittal filed by defendants
Sergio Chavez-Macias and Sergio Chavez-Verduzco. The motions
are fully briefed and at issue. For the reasons explained
below, the Court will deny both motions.
Superseding Indictment in this case charged three defendants
(Sergio Chavez-Macias, Sergio Chavez-Verduzco, and Armando
Orozco-Guillen) with conspiracy to distribute
methamphetamine. It also charged two of those defendants
(Chavez-Verduzco and Chavez-Macias) with four counts of
distributing methamphetamine and one count of operating a
continuing criminal enterprise (CCE). Prior to trial, the
Government dropped one of the four distribution counts, and
the case went to trial on the remaining five counts.
the Government rested, the three defendants made motions for
acquittal under Rule 29. The Court reserved ruling on the
motions until the jury verdict was rendered.
conclusion of the trial, the jury rendered a verdict
acquitting Orozco-Guillen on the conspiracy charge,
acquitting Chavez-Macias and Chavez-Verduzco on the three
remaining distribution charges, acquitting Chavez-Macias on
the CCE charge, but finding Chavez-Macias and Chavez-Verduzco
guilty of the conspiracy charge, and finding Chavez-Verduzco
guilty of the CCE charge.
and Chavez-Verduzco now seek through their motions to be
acquitted of the charges on which they were convicted. The
Court will resolve the motions after reviewing the governing
defendant may move for a judgment of acquittal, or renew such
a motion, within fourteen days after a guilty verdict. Fed.
R. Crim. P. 29(c). A motion for acquittal is reviewed for
sufficiency of the evidence. U.S. v. Stoddard, 150
F.3d 1140, 1144 (9th Cir. 1998). “Under that standard,
evidence supports a conviction, if, viewed in the light most
favorable to the government, it would allow any rational
trier of fact to find the essential elements of the crime
beyond a reasonable doubt.” U.S. v. Graf, 610
F.3d 1148, 1166 (9th Cir. 2010). “In ruling on a Rule
29(c) motion, a district court must bear in mind 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. U.S. v.
Rojas, 554 F.2d 938, 943 (9th Cir. 1977). The court may
reserve decision and decide the motion after a verdict of
guilty if it chooses. Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(b). If the court
reserves decision, it must decide the motion on the basis of
the evidence at the time the ruling was reserved.
Indictment charged Chavez-Macias and Chavez-Verduzco with
conspiring together (and with Armando Orozco-Guillen) to
distribute methamphetamine between November of 2012 and
continuing to March 1, 2016. To prove this conspiracy, the
Government had to prove more than just that Chavez-Macias and
Chavez-Verduzco sold drugs to someone else knowing that the
buyer would later sell to others; the Government had to show
an agreement with a buyer that the buyer would distribute the
drugs. U.S. v. Loveland, 825 F.3d 555
(9th Cir. 2016).
main evidence tying the two defendants to the conspiracy
charge came from witnesses Sgt. Kevin Louwsma and David
Wales. Wales testified that in the summer of 2015, he was
distributing methamphetamine to an individual named Jimmy
Peirsol on a weekly basis, and had been doing so for between
7 months ...