United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Zachary T. Lee, Assistant United States Attorney, Abingdon, Virginia, for United States.
David S. Saliba, Saliba & Company PC, Wytheville, Virginia, for Defendant Ricky David Robinson and Brian J. Beck, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Abingdon, Virginia, for Defendant Cynthia Lee Robinson.
OPINION AND ORDER
JAMES P. JONES, District Judge.
In this criminal case, I consider the defendants' post-trial Joint Motion for Judgment of Acquittal or New Trial.
The defendants, Ricky David Robinson and Cynthia Lee Robinson, husband and wife, were jointly charged in an Indictment with harboring a fugitive (Count One) and conspiracy to harbor a fugitive (Count Two). They were tried by a jury and found guilty on both counts.
The defendants have filed a timely Joint Motion for Judgment of Acquittal or New Trial pursuant to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 29 and 33. They first contend that the evidence presented at their trial was insufficient to convict them of either charge. Second, they submit that they are entitled to a new trial, arguing that two items of evidence were improperly admitted at their trial. The government opposes this motion, which has been fully briefed and is ripe for decision.
After careful consideration of the record and the arguments made by counsel, I will deny the motion.
The defendants argue that the government failed to carry its burden of proving their guilt. The government maintains the guilty verdicts are supported by sufficient evidence of each element of the charged crimes.
In considering the evidence, I must keep in mind that " it is ‘ [t]he jury, not the reviewing court, [which] weighs the credibility of the evidence ... and if the evidence supports different, reasonable interpretations, the jury decides which interpretation to believe.’ " United States v. Castillo-Pena, 674 F.3d 318, 321 (4th Cir.2012) (quoting United States v. Burgos, 94 F.3d 849, 862 (4th Cir.1996)). In this process, I view the evidence and all reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the government. United States v. Perry, 335 F.3d 316, 320 (4th Cir.2003) (citing Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 80, 62 S.Ct. 457, 86 L.Ed. 680 (1942)). The question is whether the convictions are supported by substantial evidence, which is defined as " 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." United States v. Young, 609 F.3d 348, 355 (4th Cir.2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Count One of the Indictment charged the defendants with harboring a fugitive, namely, their son Chad Robinson, in violation of 18 U.S.C.A. § 1071 (West Supp.2012). To prove a violation of this statute, the government is required to demonstrate that " (1) a federal warrant has been issued for the fugitive's arrest, (2) the harborer had knowledge that a warrant had been issued for the fugitive's arrest, (3) the defendant actually harbored or concealed the fugitive, and (4) the defendant intended to prevent the fugitive's discovery or arrest." United States v. Mitchell, 177 F.3d 236, 238 (4th Cir.1999) (citing United States v. Silva, 745 F.2d 840, 848 (4th Cir.1984)). The actual harboring or concealment element requires " some affirmative, physical action by the defendant[s]." Mitchell, 177 F.3d at 239 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). " Generally, the Government must prove a physical act of providing assistance, including food, shelter, and other assistance to aid the [fugitive] in avoiding detection and apprehension." Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Count Two of the Indictment charged the defendants with conspiracy to harbor a fugitive in violation of 18 U.S.C.A. § 371 (West 2000). In order to sustain a conspiracy conviction under this provision, the government must prove: " (1) an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime, and (2) an overt act in ...