United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, United States District Judge.
a week-long criminal trial, Defendants James Ronald Jones and
Tony Britton were found guilty by a jury. Now, both
defendants have filed motions for acquittal and motions for a
new trial. [R. 514; 515; 516; 517.] Because sufficient
evidence supports the jury's verdict and the evidence
does not weigh heavily against the jury's verdict, the
Court DENIES all four of these motions.
Jones and Mr. Britton were charged in November of 2017 by a
Second Superseding Indictment, joining six other
co-defendants who had previously been charged with similar
crimes. [R. 181.] Both Mr. Jones and Mr. Britton were charged
with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, and Mr. Britton was
also charged with aiding and abetting a burglary.
Id. According to the Second Superseding Indictment,
from December 2010 through October 2015, Robert Nunley,
Christopher Land, Anthony Bosio, Kenneth Britton., Randy
Stiefel, Jamie Sweeton, James Ronald Jones, and Tony Britton
conspired to distribute pills containing oxycodone.
Id. Additionally, the Second Superseding Indictment
alleged that on or about January 26, 2014, Robert Nunley,
Christopher Land, Randy Stiefel, and Tony Britton aided and
abetted one another to enter Stephanie's Down Home
Pharmacy and steal controlled substances totaling over $500.
the course of trial, the Government called on Co-Defendants
Robert Nunley, Anthony Bosio, and Christopher Land to testify
as to the Defendants' involvement in the conspiracy. [R.
481; R. 485.] The Government introduced cell phone records
establishing communication among some of the conspirators and
surveillance videos of several pharmacies in both Tennessee
and Kentucky. [R. 495.] The jury found both defendants guilty
of all counts against them. [R. 498; R. 499.]
the jury's verdict, both defendants filed post-trial
motions for a judgment of acquittal pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 29 and motions for a new trial pursuant to
Rule 33. After considering the arguments by both Mr. Jones
and Mr. Britton and the evidence presented at trial, the
Court upholds the jury's verdict and denies the requests
for post-trial relief.
conclusion of the Government's case, and again at the
conclusion of proof at trial, Mr. Jones and Mr. Britton both
moved for acquittal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal
Procedure 29. [R. 491; R. 492.] They have now both
supplemented these motions. [R. 515; R. 516.] Rule 29
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).
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 the defendants failed to sustain this
burden, the Rule 29 motions are properly denied.
review of the trial evidence demonstrates that a rational
trier of fact could conclude James Ronald Jones was guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt of the single conviction for
conspiracy to distribute oxycodone. To establish a drug
conspiracy, the Government must prove “(1) an agreement
to violate drug laws; (2) knowledge of and intent to join the
conspiracy; and (3) participation in that conspiracy.”
United States v. Gardner, 488 F.3d 700, 710 (6th
Jones opines that a rational jury could not have convicted
him because the evidence presented was circumstantial and
because the testimony of the co-defendants was conflicting
and not reliable. [R. 516-1.] Robert Nunley told the jury
that Mr. Jones would ride in the same vehicle and go into the
stores during burglaries. [R. 481 at 17-18.] He identified
Mr. Jones as a participant in the burglary of Ely Drug in
Glasgow, Kentucky, where he claimed Mr. Jones stole Schedule
II narcotics. Id. at 53-57. Mr. Nunley also
implicated Mr. Jones in the burglary of Monterey Drug in
Monterey, Tennessee, Designer Drug in Chattanooga, Tennessee,
and Lee's Total Health Pharmacy in Sevierville,
Tennessee, all of which included Mr. Jones stealing pills.
Id. at 72-86. Anthony Bosio testified that he knew
Mr. Jones worked with Mr. Nunley to steal pills. [R. 485 at
12-13.] He claimed to have discussed the conspiracy with Mr.
Jones. Id. at 20- 21. Christopher Land corroborated
this, stating Mr. Jones accompanied him on several
burglaries. Id. at 72. He also identified Mr. Jones
as an assistant in the Glasgow, Kentucky burglary.
Id. at 82-87.
establishing a conspiracy, the Government need not introduce
proof of a formal agreement, as a conspiracy may be inferred
from circumstantial evidence. United States v.
Avery, 128 F.3d 966, 970-71 (6th Cir. 1997). Contrary to
Mr. Jones's assertions, the Government did not need
direct evidence; the statements from co-conspirators are
sufficient. As to the reliability of the testimony, that is a
question for the jury. In a Rule 29 motion, 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). The testimony of Mr. Nunley, Mr. Land, and
Mr. Bosio is sufficient. Mr. Jones has not met the ...