United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division
Zachary T. Lee, Assistant United States Attorney, Abingdon, Virginia, for United States.
Barry L. Proctor, Abingdon, Virginia, for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
James P. Jones, United States District Judge.
This case involves a federal inmate's procurement, through a prison employee's assistance, of articles as forbidden as they are coveted in the prison setting. Defendant Glenn Young is an inmate at the United States Penitentiary-Lee County (" USP-Lee" ) who found a lucrative business opportunity in the institution's ban on tobacco and cell phones. He paid a prison nurse, Kimberlee Crabtree, to smuggle this contraband into the prison and to look the other way when it came to reporting his illegal possession to other prison authorities. The defendant and Crabtree were eventually caught and prosecuted in this court. While Young pleaded guilty to possession of the contraband, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1791, he pleaded not guilty to bribing a public official in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(1)(A) and (C), as well as conspiracy to commit bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.
Following a two-day jury trial, the defendant was convicted of both charges. He now moves for judgment of acquittal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, or in the alternative, for a new trial. The defendant contends that the government's evidence presented at trial was insufficient to show that the defendant's bribe influenced an " official act," as defined bye statute. Further, he contends that the court erred in instructing the jury that it is immaterial under the bribery statute whether the defendant or the nurse initiated the illicit transactions.
I will deny the defendant's motion on the grounds that, even if the evidence presented at trial does not meet the definition of " official act" in § 201(b)(1)(A), the evidence fits squarely within § 201(b)(1)(C), a provision with which the defendant was also charged. Further, the defendant's argument that the government must prove that the defendant initiated the transaction is contrary to well-established case law and thus lacks merit.
On review of a motion for acquittal under Rule 29, the court " must sustain the verdict if there is substantial evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the Government, to uphold the jury's decision." Burks v. United States, 437 U.S. 1, 17, 98 S.Ct. 2141, 57 L.Ed.2d 1 (1978). " Substantial evidence" means " 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. Burgos, 94 F.3d 849, 862 (4th Cir. 1996). The court should consider " circumstantial as well as direct evidence, and allow the government the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the facts proven to those sought to be established." United States v. Tresvant, 677 F.2d 1018, 1021 (4th Cir. 1982). In this determination, the court will not weigh the evidence or assess the credibility of witnesses. Burks, 437 U.S. at 17.
The statute in question, 18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(1), proscribes the following:
(1) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to ...