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United States v. Jones

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

December 20, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES RONALD JONES and TONY BRITTON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, United States District Judge.

         Following 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.

         I

         Mr. 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. Id.

         Over 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.]

         Following 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.

         II

         A

         At the 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).

         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 the defendants failed to sustain this burden, the Rule 29 motions are properly denied.

         1.

         A 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 Cir. 2007).

         Mr. 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.

         When 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 ...


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