United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL AND NEW TRIAL
MARK W. BENNETT, District Judge.
I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
In resolving defendants Jamal Dean and Levon Dean, Jr.'s motions for judgment of acquittal, I must "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the guilty verdict, giving the [prosecution] the benefit of all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the evidence." United States v. Basile, 109 F.3d 1304, 1310 (8th Cir. 1997). Thus, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the trial evidence established the following facts.
A. Factual Background
On April 15, 2013, Jessica Cabell visited Reggie Galvin, a friend, at Galvin's house in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Sarah Berg was at Galvin's house when Cabell arrived. Cabell, a prostitute, mentioned to Berg that she had a "date" with Jeffrey Rollinger scheduled for that evening. Rollinger was a dealer of both methamphetamine and marijuana. The women realized that Rollinger was a customer they had in common. Rollinger had twice previously paid Cabell with money and drugs for sex. Rollinger had also previously provided Berg with methamphetamine in exchange for sex. Cabell offered to try "to play" Berg into her date with Rollinger. Berg accepted Cabell's offer. Previously, Rollinger had stolen $400 from Berg. Berg told Cabell and Galvin that Rollinger owed her money and that she wanted to get it back that night. Galvin told Berg that she needed "more muscle" to get her money back. Tr. at 151. Berg agreed and Galvin suggested that the Deans provide that muscle.
Rollinger received several text messages from Cabell in which she indicated that she and a female friend of hers wanted "to party and hangout." Tr. at 42. Rollinger, an admitted drug dealer, interpreted Cabell's message to mean that she and her friend wanted to do drugs and have sex with him. Cabell told Rollinger that it was going to cost $150 to have a two-girl date with him. Rollinger agreed to pay that price. He checked into the Palmer House Motel between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m., and waited for Cabell and her friend.
Cabell and Berg were at Galvin's house when the Deans arrived. Cabell did not know the Deans. Cabell, Berg, and the Deans drove to the Palmer House Motel for Cabell's "date" with Rollinger. Cabell thought the Deans were with them because Berg had previously encountered "problems" with Rollinger. Berg had told Cabell that Rollinger had previously been rough with her and that she wanted protection. Berg and the Deans' plan was to go to the Palmer House to take money and drugs from Rollinger. Berg assumed that Rollinger had money and drugs since he had set up a date with Cabell and previously possessed drugs.
Cabell arrived at the hotel after 8:30 p.m., then she and Rollinger smoked some methamphetamine and waited for Berg to come to the room. When Berg arrived, Cabell opened the door and Berg and the Deans stormed into the room. Berg screamed, "You think you can steal from me..." Tr. at 48. Jamal pulled a gun on Rollinger and demanded that he give them his money. While Jamal was doing this, Levon was ransacking the room looking for money and drugs. It appeared to Rollinger that the Deans were working in concert.
Jamal hit Rollinger in the head with the gun and Berg took Rollinger's car keys and cellphone. The trio also took a pipe containing methamphetamine. As they were leaving, Jamal threatened, "If you call the cops, I'll kill you." Tr. at 54. Berg drove away in Rollinger's car with the Deans. Rollinger then called 911 from the motel manager's office and reported the robbery.
After the robbery, Cabell returned to Galvin's house. Berg and the Deans then showed up. The Deans were upset that Rollinger did not have any money. Berg and Cabell began arguing over whether Cabell had gotten money from Rollinger before Berg arrived. Berg texted two individuals, Wheezie and Chief, about selling or stripping Rollinger's car, a 2011 Kia Optima.
On April 24, 2013, Craig Barclay was living in a house in the Leeds neighborhood of Sioux City, Iowa. Barclay was selling methamphetamine out of the house. At approximately 5:30 a.m. he was awakened by Levon. Startled, Barclay jumped out of bed. In response, Levon put his hand on Barclay's shoulder and told him, "Sit the fuck down. He's for real." Tr. at 194. At this point, Barclay noticed that Jamal had a rifle pointed at him. Levon then demanded Barclay's wallet. Barclay gave Levon his wallet. Levon then told Barclay to stand up and empty his pockets. Barclay again complied and 20 grams of methamphetamine fell out of his pocket. Levon scooped up the methamphetamine. Jamal then hit Barclay on the top of his head with the rifle. In addition to taking Barclay's drugs, the Deans took $200 to $300, a digital scale, and a dresser drawer full of electronic gear. Jamal pointed the rifle at Hope Marsh, who had been living at Barclay's house, and ordered her to pack up her stuff and that she was going to be living with the Deans. Marsh packed her belongings and went with the Deans. As he was leaving, Levon warned Barclay, You had better not call the cops." Tr. at 198. After they left Barclay's house, the Deans stole Barclay's two cars, a 1998 Chevrolet Malibu and a 2000 Chevrolet Impala. Jamal drove away in the Malibu. Levon, who now had the rifle, directed Hope Marsh to follow Jamal in the Impala. Barclay's Malibu was manufactured in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and his Impala was manufactured in Ontario, Canada.
On April 29, 2013, Katie Ward, a friend of the Deans, picked Jamal up in her car. Also in Ward's car were her three children and Sam Lam. As she was driving, Ward was smoking marijuana with Jamal and Lam. Ward saw a marked Sioux City Police patrol car make a u-turn, activate its lights, and come after her car for a traffic stop. Jamal became nervous and fidgety. He told Ward to "go" and explained that he had a warrant out for his arrest. Eventually, Ward stopped her car. Jamal got out, pulled a Mossberg 22 rifle, and shot it in an attempt to escape capture. The Mossberg 22 rifle Jamal used was manufactured in Brazil and traveled in interstate commerce to arrive in Iowa. The ammunition Jamal used was manufactured in Minnesota.
B. Procedural Background
On April 14, 2014, an eleven count Third Superseding Indictment was returned charging Jamal, Levon, and Berg with: (1) conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (Count 1); interference with commerce by robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 1951 (Counts 2 and 3); carjacking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 2119(1) (Counts 4 and 5); possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 924(c)(1)(A)(ii), and 924(c)(1)(C)(i) (Counts 6 and 7); being prohibited persons in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 922(g)(3), and 924(a)(2) (Counts 8 and 9); and interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 2312 (Counts 10 and 11). All three defendants filed motions to sever in which they argued that Berg should be severed and tried separately. In addition, Jamal and Levon sought to sever Count 8 on grounds that it was improperly joined with the other counts. United States Magistrate Judge Leonard T. Strand found that Berg demonstrated that she would be prejudiced in a joint trial with the Deans and he severed her trial from that of the Deans. In addition, Judge Strand found that Count 8 had been misjoined and ordered a separate trial on Count 8, against Jamal.
Trial on all but Count 8 against began Jamalon August 25, 2014. The prosecution presented eighteen witnesses in its case in chief. On August 27, 2014, at the close of the prosecution's evidence, both Jamal and Levon made motions for judgment of acquittal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, which I denied. However, I granted the prosecution's motion to dismiss Count 11. Neither of the Deans presented any evidence. On August 29, 2014, the jury returned a verdict in which it found Jamal guilty on the offenses charged in Counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 9, and acquitted him of the charges in Counts 5 and 10. The jury found Levon guilty of the charges in Counts 1, 2, and 3, and acquitted him of the charges in Counts 4, 5, and 9. In addition, Levon was acquitted of the charges in Counts 6 and 7, but was found guilty on each count of the lesser-included offense of "possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence."
On September 5, 2014, the Deans requested, and I granted, an extension of time to file their post-trial motions until after the trial transcript was completed. On October 30, 2014, the Deans each filed a motion for judgment of acquittal, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(c), or, in the alternative, a motion for a new trial, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 (docket nos. 317 and 318). The prosecution, after ...