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United States v. Helton

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

October 29, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF
v.
JASON HELTON, DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David L. Bunning United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Jason Helton's Motion to Set Aside Verdict of Guilty [Docket No. 60]. The United States having responded to the motion [Docket No. 62], no reply having been filed, and the time for filing a reply having long expired, the motion is ripe for review. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court finds there is no valid ground upon which to set aside the verdict of guilty and will, therefore, deny the motion.

         II. Factual and Procedural History

         On February 23, 2017, a grand jury returned a two-count indictment, charging Jason Helton with violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 and 641. Specifically, it was alleged that beginning in July of 2014 and continuing until April of 2016, Helton knowingly and willfully made and used a false writing and document to the Internal Revenue Service, by falsely reported that he performed work that he did not actually perform and incurred work-related expenses that he did not actually incur. It was further alleged that during the time stated in the indictment, Helton willfully and knowingly received, concealed, retained and intended to convert stolen property of the United States, in an amount exceeding $1, 000.

         The jury trial began on August 14, 2017. After almost four full days of testimony, on August 17, 2017, the jury was instructed and began deliberations shortly after noon. At 4:25 p.m., the Court was advised by a Court Security Officer that the jury had reached its verdict. [Transcript of Jury Verdict, Docket No. 57, p. 2, l. 2-5]. The jury entered the courtroom at 4:49 p.m., and the undersigned published the verdict of guilty on both counts. Id., p. 3, l. 3-12.

         The Court then inquired if either party desired a poll of the jury. Id. Defense counsel requested a poll of the jury. The Clerk proceeded to poll the twelve jurors, while they remained seated in the jury box. After polling Jurors 341, 255, 268, 337, 279 and 285, the Clerk polled Juror 306 and the following transpired:

DEPUTY CLERK: Juror Number 306, is that your verdict?
THE COURT: 306?
JUROR NO. 306: Yeah, kind of.

Id., p. 4, l. 10-13 (emphasis added).

The undersigned, admittedly taken by surprise, inquired:
THE COURT: Sir? Did you vote unanimously with both of these ...

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