United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
Michael F. Urbanski United States District Judge.
December 22, 2015, a jury found defendants Felix Adriano
Chujoy and Carolyn J. Edlind guilty of conspiracy to engage
in witness tampering under 18 U.S.C. § 1512(k) (Count
One), witness tampering under 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(1)
(Count Two), and obstruction of justice under 18 U.S.C.
§ 1503 (Count Three). The jury also found Edlind guilty
of perjury under 18 U.S.C. § 1623 (Count Four), and a
second count of obstruction (Count Five).
the court is defendants' joint motion for new trial, ECF
No. 127.Because the motion is untimely and
defendants fail to show excusable neglect for the filing
delay, the motion is DENIED.
in this case began on December 16, 2015. At the close of the
government's evidence, defendants jointly moved for a
judgment of acquittal pursuant to Rule 29 of the Federal
Rules of Criminal Procedure. The court reserved decision, and
the trial continued. The defendants renewed their Rule 29
motion at the close of all the evidence. The court granted
the motion in part and submitted the remaining case to the
jury. The jury returned a guilty verdict on December 22,
the jury returned its verdict, defendants again renewed their
Rule 29 motion. The court ordered them to submit written
briefs, and set a deadline thirty days after filing of the
trial transcript. Defendants timely filed a joint brief in
support of their Rule 29 motion, and the court heard oral
argument on May 11, 2016.
the May 11 argument, several issues were raised regarding
Count Four, and the court ordered the government and Edlind
to file supplemental briefs addressing the following issues:
(1) whether the "literal truth" or
"fundamental ambiguity" doctrines applied to the
false statements alleged in Count Four; (2) whether the
analysis of Count Four would be affected were the court to
conclude that one or more of the alleged false statements
could not support a perjury conviction as a matter of law;
(3) whether the absence of a special unanimity jury
instruction in Count Four bore on the second issue; and (4)
whether the court could consider errors in jury instructions
when the defendants had filed only a Rule 29 motion and not a
motion for new trial under Rule 33. ECF No. 124. Supplemental
briefs were filed on June 1, 2016.
days later, on June 3, 2016, Edlind filed a motion for new
trial pursuant to Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal
Procedure. The court heard a second round of argument on July
20, 2016, focusing specifically on the timeliness of the
motion for new trial. During the July 20 hearing, Chujoy
orally moved to join Edlind's Rule 33 motion, effectively
transforming Edlind's original Rule 33 motion into a
joint motion for new trial.
Rule 33 motion rises and falls on timeliness grounds. The
motion was filed nearly six months after trial and almost
three months after the extended deadline for post-trial
motions. This is well outside the time limits provided by the
Federal Rules. Because defendants fail to show excusable
neglect for their late-filed motion, the court finds it
untimely and will not consider it. Nor does the court have
authority to convert the pending Rule 29 motion into a motion
for new trial.
motion for new trial must be filed within fourteen days of a
guilty verdict, absent proof of newly discovered evidence.
Fed. R. Grim. P. 33(b)(2). However, the time limits in Rule
33 are not jurisdictional, see Eberhart v. United
States. 546 U.S. 12, 19 (2005) (per curiam), and must be
read in light of Rule 45. Specifically, Rule 45(b) states:
(1) In General. When an act must or may be done within a
specified period, the court on its own may extend the time,
or for good cause may do so on a party's motion made:
(A) before the originally prescribed or previously extended
time expires; or
(B) after the time expires if the party failed to act because
of excusable neglect.
(2) Exception. The court may not extend the time to take any
action under Rule 35, except ...