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United States v. Pena-Torres

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

October 29, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JUAN ANTONIO PENA-TORRES, Defendant

For Juan Antonio Pena-Torres, also known as C-Money, also known as Anthony, Defendant: Geremy C. Kamens, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of Federal Public Defender, Alexandria, VA; Gul Raza Gharbieh, Office of the Federal Public Defender (Alexandria), Alexandria, VA.

For USA, Plaintiff: Catherine Sun Ahn, Christopher Van Horne, LEAD ATTORNEYS, U.S. Attorney's Office (Alexandria-NA), Alexandria, VA; Kimberly Riley Pedersen, LEAD ATTORNEY, Michael Rich, United States Attorney's Office, Alexandria, VA.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

James C. Cacheris, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Juan Antonio Pena-Torres's (" Defendant's" ) Motion for Judgment of Acquittal pursuant to Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Previously, the Court granted the Defendant's motion as to Count Three, but reserved ruling as to Count Two, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). After hearing argument of counsel and in consideration of the case law, the Court will also grant the Defendant's motion as to Count Two. Thus, for the following reasons Count Two will be dismissed.

I. Background

The Defendant was charged in a superseding indictment with three counts: (1) distribution of cocaine, (2) possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and (3) possession of a firearm with an altered or obliterated serial number. All counts allegedly stem from an encounter with an undercover law enforcement officer on August 15, 2013 in Prince William County, Virginia. After the close of the Government's case in chief, the Defendant moved for judgment of acquittal pursuant to Rule 29 as to Counts Two and Three.

II. Legal Standard

Under Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, " [a]fter the government closes its evidence . . . the court on the defendant's motion must enter a judgment of acquittal of any offense for which the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction." The Court views " the evidence in a light most favorable to the

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prosecution, and inquire[s] whether a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt." United States v. Singh, 518 F.3d 236, 246 (4th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Any evidentiary and credibility conflicts must be left for the jury to decide. United States v. Beidler, 110 F.3d 1064, 1067 (4th Cir. 1997). But the charged offense will only remain if the Court finds there 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." United States v. Bonner, 648 F.3d 209, 213 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting United States v. Burgos, 94 F.3d 849, 862 (4th Cir. 1996) (en banc)).

III. Analysis

Count Two of the superseding indictment charges the Defendant with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of section 924(c)(1)(A) of Title 18 of the United States Code. In order to sustain its burden of proof as to Count Two, the Government must prove each of the following three essential elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) The Defendant committed the crime of distribution of a controlled substance, as charged in Count One of ...

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