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United States v. Dickens

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

May 4, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF
v.
TERENCE DICKENS DEFENDANT

          AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David L. Banning United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Terence Dickens's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal (Doc. # 285) and Motion for a New Trial (Doc. # 286). The government having filed its Responses (Docs. # 295 and 296), and the time for Reply having now expired, this matter is ripe for the Court's review. Having reviewed the parties' briefing, Defendant's Motions will be denied.

         I. Factual Background

         On May 12, 2016, Dickens was indicted by a federal grand jury. (Doc. # 3). The Indictment alleged that Dickens, also known as “K.T.”, conspired with others to steal checks from mailboxes, erase the names of designated payees and replace them with the names of co-conspirators, and then cash the checks or deposit them into bank accounts associated with the conspiracy. Id. at p. 2-4. The Indictment charged Dickens with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and twelve counts of aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft. Id. at p. 1-2, 5-6. A superseding indictment was returned on September 8, 2016, charging the same conduct, but reducing the identity theft counts from twelve to six distinct transactions. (Doc. # 134). At the conclusion of a five-day trial, the jury convicted Dickens of all seven counts. (Doc. # 276).

         At the close of the Government's case, Dickens orally moved for Judgment of Acquittal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29. The Court denied that motion. (Doc. # 272). After conviction, Dickens renewed his motion, and the Court denied the renewed motion. (Doc. # 277). Proceeding on a pro se basis, Defendant has now filed a written Motion for Judgment of Acquittal (Doc. # 285), and a Motion for New Trial. (Doc. # 286). The Court will address each Motion in turn.[1]

         II. Analysis

         A. Motion for Judgment of Acquittal

         1. Standard of Review

         In order to prevail on a motion for judgment of acquittal, the convicted defendant must demonstrate that the evidence was insufficient to prove the offense charged. The jury's verdict must stand if, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, “any rational trier of fact” could have convicted the defendant. United States v. Stewart, 729 F.3d 517, 526 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing United States v. Wettstain, 618 F.3d 577, 583 (6th Cir. 2010)). The Court may not “weigh the evidence presented, consider the credibility of witnesses, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the jury, ” and must resolve all conflicts in evidence in favor of the Government and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor as well. United States v. Siemaszko, 612 F.3d 450, 462 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing United States v. M/G Transp. Servs., Inc., 172 F.3d 584, 588-89 (6th Cir. 1999)). Thus, a convicted defendant challenging the sufficiency of the evidence is presented with an “uphill battle.” United States v. Wagner, 382 F.3d 598, 610 (6th Cir. 2004).

         Dickens presents three challenges to his conviction. First, he claims that his arrest was unlawful, and that any evidence obtained at the time of his arrest should have been excluded. Second, he asserts that identifications and statements from alleged co-conspirators are insufficient, on their own, to sustain a conviction. Finally, he makes a broad assertion that the Government did not prove that he was part of the conspiracy. The Court will address each of Dickens's arguments in turn, but will reserve his unlawful arrest argument for the Motion for New Trial section.

         2. The evidence is sufficient to sustain the jury's guilty verdict for conspiracy to commit bank fraud

         On Count One, the jury convicted Dickens of conspiring to commit bank fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. To prove bank fraud, the Government must show “(1) that the defendant knowingly executed or attempted to execute a scheme to defraud a financial institution; (2) that the defendant did so with the intent to defraud; and (3) that the financial institution was insured by the FDIC.” United States v. Everett, 270 F.3d 986, 989 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing United States v. Hoglund, 178 F.3d 410 (6th Cir. 1999)). To prove a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, the Government must prove that the defendant conspired or agreed with another person to commit bank fraud, and that the defendant knowingly and voluntarily joined the conspiracy. See United States v. Rogers, 769 F.3d 372, 377 (6th Cir. 2014). In this case, the Government need not prove that Dickens committed bank fraud, but only that he conspired to commit it.

         Dickens claims that there are no corroborating facts to support the co-conspirators' identifications and confessions, and therefore, there was insufficient evidence that he conspired to commit bank fraud. (Doc. # 285 at 2). This is simply not the case. The evidence against Dickens was overwhelming.

         Co-conspirators Shellie Grubbs, Vickie Lamb, and Thomas Jones all testified during trial. It is not the Court's job, at this stage, to weigh the credibility of their testimony. Siemaszko, 612 F.3d at 462. The Sixth Circuit has stated that “[t]here is no place … for arguments regarding a government witness'[s] lack of credibility in a Rule 29 motion for acquittal before a federal trial judge.” United States v. Adamo, 742 F.2d 927, 934-35 (6th Cir. 1984). Witness credibility may only render evidence insufficient “in the most extreme cases” where it is “so inherently incredible … that no reasonable person ...


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