United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
C. CACHERIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Michael
Henderson's (“Defendant” or
“Henderson”) Combined Motion for New Trial
Pursuant to Rule 33 and Motion for Acquittal Pursuant to Rule
29. [Dkt. 571.] Henderson's Second Motion for New Trial
is also before the Court. [Dkt. 575.] For the following
reasons, the Court will deny both of Defendant's motions.
Standard of Review
Motion for Judgment of Acquittal
Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(c) provides, in relevant part,
“if the jury has returned a guilty verdict, the court
may set aside the verdict and enter an acquittal.”
Where such a motion is based on “insufficiency of the
evidence, the conviction must be sustained if the evidence,
when viewed in the light most favorable to the Government, is
sufficient for any rational trier of fact to find the
essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable
doubt.” United States v. Romer, 148 F.3d 359,
364 (4th Cir. 1998).
ruling on a Rule 29(c) motion, “the trial court should
only consider the sufficiency of the evidence presented in
that trial, not what evidence is likely to be admitted or
excluded in a future trial.” United States v.
Mackins, 32 F.3d 134, 138-39 (4th Cir. 1994). The
Government must be allowed “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) (citations omitted).
“Furthermore, neither the district court nor the
appellate court should consider a witnesses' credibility,
but must assume that the jury resolved all contradictions in
favor of the Government.” Romer, 148 F.3d at
Motion for New Trial
Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 provides, in relevant part,
that “the court may vacate any judgment and grant a new
trial if the interest of justice so requires.” Fed. R.
Crim. P. 33. The Fourth Circuit instructs that “a trial
court should exercise its discretion to award a new trial
sparingly, and a jury verdict is not to be overturned except
in the rare circumstance when the evidence ‘weighs
heavily' against it.” United States v.
Smith, 451 F.3d 209, 216-17 (4th Cir. 2006) (citations
omitted). Although while addressing a Rule 33 motion a
district court “is not constrained by the requirement
that it view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
government, ” such a motion should only be granted when
“the evidence weighs so heavily against the verdict
that it would be unjust to enter judgment.” United
States v. Arrington, 757 F.2d 1484, 1485 (4th Cir.
Motion for Judgment of Acquittal
Henderson's omnibus motion, which consists of just six
sentences, adopts Defendant Seko's motion for judgment of
acquittal in its entirety. [Dkt. 571.] Seko's motion
focuses almost exclusively on the sufficiency of the evidence
used to convict her. [Dkt. 566 at 3-17.] As a result, the
motion has little or nothing to say about the sufficiency of
the evidence used to convict Henderson. While the Court
recognizes that Henderson's motion fails to meet the
“heavy burden” required under Rule 29(c) to set
aside a unanimous jury verdict, see United States v.
Foster, 507 F.3d 233, 245 (4th Cir. 2007), it
nevertheless proceeds to analyze the testimony and
documentary evidence underlying his convictions.
instant case, the Court finds that there was ample evidence
to convict Defendant Henderson of conspiracy and mail and
wire fraud. For example, Joshua Johnson, Sabrina Rafo, and
Nicholas Estilow all testified that Henderson was involved in
the fraudulent scheme; in fact, Estilow described Henderson
as one of the scheme's best salespeople. Two victims,
Ronald D. and Auntrae B., also testified that Henderson
personally scammed them. See also Gov't Exhs.
84-1 through 84-9. In addition, Estilow testified that he
observed Henderson disbursing the scheme's fraudulent
proceeds to Araya, a point which Rafo later corroborated.
Rafo also testified that she observed Henderson opening bank
accounts on behalf of the fraudulent scheme. Her testimony
was then confirmed by documentary evidence, which established
that Henderson opened a number of bank accounts into and from
which he deposited and withdrew victim funds, frequently in
cash, see, e.g., Gov't Exhs. 118-1, 118-2, 124-2
through 124-5, 125-1, 125-2, 125-4 through 125-6, 126-1
through 126-4, 128-1, 128-2, 128-4, 128-7, 128-11, 128-21,
129-1 through 129-3, 403-1, 403-2, 404-1, 404-2, 405-1,
405-2, 406-1, 406-3, 407-1, 407-2, 408-1, 409-1, as well as a
number of retail mailboxes used to receive those funds,
see, e.g., Gov't Exhs. 45-1, 55-1, 57-2, 59-1,
87-3, 87-4. Moreover, the documentary evidence showed that
Henderson personally retrieved victim funds that were sent
through MoneyGram, see Gov't Exhs. 114-1, 114-2,
114-3, 115-1, and went with Araya and Seko to open Permit 78
to continue sending mailings to potential victims in the fall
of 2013, see, e.g., Gov't Exh. 40-2. Finally, an
employee of Chase Bank testified that she spoke with
Henderson, warning him that a victim complained about paying
money for services that were never rendered. See
Gov't Exh. 128-19.
the substantial weight of this evidence, and Rule 29(c)'s
requirement to view that evidence in the light most favorable
to the Government, the Court holds that a reasonable trier of
fact could have found Defendant Henderson guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt of conspiracy and mail and wire fraud.
Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant's motion for a
judgment of acquittal.