The opinion of the court was delivered by: Daniel L. Hovland, District Judge United States District Court
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR ACQUITTAL AND NEW TRIAL
Before the Court is Defendant Dustin Morsette's "Motion for Judgment of Acquittal and New Trial" filed on April 24, 2012. See Docket No. 248. The Government filed a response in opposition to the motion on May 2, 2012. See Docket No. 250. Morsette filed a reply brief on May 9, 2012. See Docket No. 251. For the reasons explained below, the motion is denied.
On April 2, 2012, Dustin Morsette was tried on eighteen criminal counts. At the close of the Government's case, Morsette made a motion for judgment of acquittal under Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The Court granted the motion as to Count Fifteen (attempted sexual abuse of a minor) but denied the motion with regard to the remaining counts. The Court found the testimony of the victim in Count Fifteen established that she was not between the ages of twelve and sixteen at the time of the incident, and sufficient evidence did not exist to support a conviction on that count. The Government agreed that Count Fifteen should be dismissed. With respect to the remaining counts, the Court found that the testimony of the witnesses, especially the victims, sufficiently established all the elements of the charged offenses. Morsette renewed the Rule 29 motion after the presentation of his evidence. The Court again denied the motion. On April 10, 2012, the jury convicted Morsette on all remaining seventeen counts which are as follows:
Count One: Aggravated sexual abuse
Count Two: Aggravated sexual abuse Count Three: Sexual abuse of a minor Count Four: Sexual abuse of a minor Count Five: Sexual abuse Count Six: Sexual abuse Count Seven: Sexual abuse Count Eight: Sexual abuse of a minor Count Twelve: Aggravated sexual abuse Count Thirteen: Aggravated sexual abuse Count Fourteen: Sexual abuse of a minor Count Sixteen: Conspiracy Count Seventeen: Use or employment of a minor in drug trafficking Count Eighteen: Use or employment of a minor in drug trafficking Count Nineteen: Use or employment of a minor in drug trafficking Count Twenty: Tampering with a witness Count Twenty-One: Sex trafficking See Docket No. 233.
On April 24, 2012, Morsette filed a "Motion for Judgment of Acquittal and New Trial." See Docket No. 248. Morsette contends the evidence was insufficient to support convictions on Counts One through Six. He alleges the victims' testimony as to those counts was not credible. He argues the testimony of the victim in Count Fourteen was contradicted by the testimony of co-defendant Medicine Bird Morsette, and therefore the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. As to Count Seventeen, Morsette argues that the victim testified that co-defendant Francene Azure used her in drug trafficking, not Morsette. Finally, regarding Count Twenty-One, Morsette contends the jury was confused and the evidence was not sufficient to support a conviction.
The Government filed a response in opposition to the motion on May 2, 2012. See Docket No. 250. The Government essentially contends that Morsette's motion is primarily based on issues of witness credibility, and the jury has the responsibility to resolve conflicts in testimony and determine the credibility of witnesses. The Government argues that the Court should deny Morsette's motion for acquittal because sufficient evidence exists to support a conviction on each of the counts. The Government also argues the Court should deny Morsette's motion for a new trial because a miscarriage of justice did not occur.
Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal procedure provides: (a) Before Submission to the Jury. After the government closes its evidence or after the close of all the evidence, the court on the defendant's motion must enter a judgment of acquittal of any offense for which the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction. The court may on its own consider whether the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction. If the court denies a motion for a judgment of acquittal at the close of the government's evidence, the defendant may offer evidence without having reserved the right to do so. . .
(c) After Jury Verdict or Discharge.
(1) Time for a Motion. A defendant may move for a judgment of acquittal, or renew such a motion, within 14 days after a guilty verdict or after the court discharges the jury, whichever is later.
(2) Ruling on the Motion. If the jury has returned a guilty verdict, the court may set aside the verdict and enter an acquittal. If the jury has failed to return a verdict, ...