United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge.
two-week securities fraud criminal trial, Defendant Ronnie C.
Rodgers filed a Motion for Judgment of Acquittal pursuant to
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29. [R. 74.] Mr. Rodgers
believes that no reasonable juror could find evidence of a
conspiracy or could find sufficient evidence of Mr.
Rodgers's involvement in such a conspiracy. However,
because the Court finds evidence sufficient to sustain a
conviction, the Court DENIES Mr.
Ronnie Rodgers was charged on December 7, 2017 with one count
conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and securities
fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 1343,
15 U.S.C. § 78j(b), and 17 C.F.R. § 240-10b-5. [R.
1.] According to the indictment, from 2007 through 2017, Mr.
Rodgers and his associates executed a scheme to sell oil and
gas leases in geographical areas where Mr. Rodgers knew the
leases would not produce enough oil or gas to provide a
return of the investments. See id.
the course of the trial, the Government presented evidence
seeking to prove that Mr. Rodgers and his associates made
materially false representations to potential investors
designed to “induce investors to invest in oil and gas
contracts; further induce them to provide additional funds
after their first investment; and, to lull and pacify
investors when they complained about a lack of return on
their investment.” [R. 1 at 4.] According to the
Government's theory, Mr. Rodgers and his brother operated
Rick-Rod Oil Company, Inc. from 2007 to 2011, selling these
investments, and then after 2011, Mr. Rodgers and others
formed various companies in Tennessee: Big South Resources,
Big South Energy, Hydro & Green Global Energy, LLC, and
R&R Plus, LLC. Id. at 3. Counsel for the
Government called numerous investors in Mr. Rodgers's
various operations, all of whom testified that they believed
Mr. Rodgers solicitated their investments and held himself
out to be a partner in the operation. [R. 75 at 1.] The jury
found Mr. Rodgers guilty of the one count indictment. [R.
the close of the Government's case in chief, Mr. Rodgers
moved for a Judgment of Acquittal pursuant to Rule 29. [R.
59.] The Court took this motion under advisement.
Id. At the close of trial, Mr. Rodgers renewed this
motion, and the Court again took it under advisement. [R.
61.] Following the jury's verdict, he filed another Rule
29 motion. [R. 74.] After considering the arguments and the
evidence presented by the Government during trial, the Court
upholds the jury's verdict and denies the request for
initial matter, because the Court reserved decision on the
motion after the close of the Government's proof, the
Court must decide the motion on the basis of the evidence at
the time the ruling was reserved. Fed. R. Crim. Pro. 29(b).
The Court, therefore, only considers the evidence presented
by the Government during its case in chief.
requires this Court to enter a judgment of acquittal on
“any offense for which the evidence is insufficient to
sustain a conviction.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a). When
considering a Rule 29 motion based on an alleged
insufficiency of the evidence, the Court may not reweigh the
evidence, reevaluate the credibility of witnesses, or
substitute its judgment for that of the jury. See United
States v. Callahan, 801 F.3d 606, 616 (6th Cir. 2015).
Instead, the Court views all of the evidence in the light
most favorable to the Government, and then it considers
whether any rational trier of fact could find the elements of
the counts of conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. See,
e.g., United States v. Vichitvongsa, 819 F.3d
260, 270 (6th Cir. 2016); United States v. Villarce,
323 F.3d 435, 438 (6th Cir. 2003). “In sum, a defendant
claiming insufficiency of the evidence bears a very heavy
burden.” Callahan, 801 F.3d at 616 (quoting
United States v. Jackson, 473 F.3d 660, 669 (6th
Cir. 2007)). Because Mr. Rodgers has failed to sustain this
burden, the Rule 29 motion is denied.
review of the trial evidence demonstrates that a rational
trier of fact could conclude that Mr. Rodgers was guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt of the single conspiracy
conviction. Even though the Indictment charged Mr. Rodgers
with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and
securities fraud, the jury could find him guilty if the
evidence sufficiently established a conspiracy to commit a
violation of either mail fraud or wire fraud or securities
fraud. See Sixth Circuit Pattern Jury Instruction
2.12, Use of the Word “And” in the
Indictment. To convict Mr. Rodgers with mail or wire
fraud, the jury was required to find the development of or
participation in a scheme to defraud, that he used the mails
or an interstate wire communication in furtherance of the
scheme, and that he possessed “intent to deprive a
victim of money or property.” United States v.
Ramer, 883 F.3d 659, 681 (6th Cir. 2018) (enumerating
the elements of mail fraud); United States v. Olive,
804 F.3d 747, 753 (6th Cir. 2015) (enumerating the elements
of wire fraud and noting, “Mail fraud has essentially
the same elements [as wire fraud] except that the use of the
mails rather than a wire is required.”). For the jury
to convict Mr. Rodgers of securities fraud, the jury had to
find that he used or employed a manipulative or deceptive
device in contravention of 17 C.F.R. § 240-10b-5 in
connection with the purchase or sale of a security. 15 U.S.C.
§ 78j(b). Accordingly, the jury had to determine that
Mr. Rodgers (1) employed a device, scheme, or artifice to
defraud, (2) made any untrue statement or omission of a
material fact, or (3) engaged in an act, practice, or course
of business, operating as a fraud or deceit. 17 C.F.R. §
240-10b-5. However, Mr. Rodgers was charged with
conspiracy to one of these things, and thus, the
jury only need to find that Mr. Rodgers joined in an
agreement to commit mail, wire, or securities fraud, and that
at least one person in the conspiracy committed an overt act
in support of the conspiracy. United States v.
Phillips, 872 F.3d 803, 806 (6th Cir. 2017).
Rodgers presents three arguments in support of his motion.
First, he argues the Government presented no evidence that
two or more persons conspired to commit mail fraud, wire
fraud, or securities fraud. [R. 74-1 at 3.] Next, he claims
there was no evidence that Mr. Rodgers ever knowingly and
voluntarily joined the alleged conspiracy. Id.
Finally, he maintains that the Government presented no
evidence that any member of the conspiracy committed an overt
act after December 6, 2012. Id.