United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER
SCOTT COOGLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
filed two Motions for Judgment of Acquittal (docs. 29 &
30) on the 20th day of November, 2017, and the United States
has filed its response in opposition to each. After
considering the arguments of each as well as the testimony
presented at trial, each motion is due to be denied.
Standard of Review
Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 allows a defendant to move the
Court for judgment of acquittal within fourteen days after a
guilty verdict or after the Court discharges the jury,
whichever is later. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(1).
On a motion for judgment of acquittal, “the test is
whether, viewing the evidence presented most favorable to the
[g]overnment, a reasonable-minded jury could accept the
relevant and admissible evidence as adequate and sufficient
to support the conclusion of the defendant's guilt beyond
a reasonable doubt.” Sanders v. United States,
416 F.2d 194, 196 (5th Cir. 1969) (citation
Abney's Challenge to the United States' Proof of
first motion, Abney challenges her conviction based upon what
she contends was the failure of the United States to prove
that venue was proper in the Middle District of Alabama.
While Abney acknowledges that witnesses testified that the
events made the subject of the charges occurred at the
Tuskegee Post Office, she maintains that such is insufficient
to demonstrate that such Post Office is located in Tuskegee,
Alabama and thus the Middle District of Alabama. (Doc. 29 at
jurisdiction and venue are ‘essential elements' of
any offense in the sense that the burden [of proof] is on the
prosecution to prove their existence.” United
States v. White, 611 F.2d 531, 536 (5th Cir. 1980).
However, venue need only be proved by a preponderance of the
evidence as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt.
Id. at 534. “Evidence of venue need not be
direct; when circumstantial evidence as a whole reasonably
supports the inference that the crime was committed in the
trial district, the government's burden is
satisfied.” United States v. Rivamonte, 666
F.2d 515, 517 (11th Cir. 1982) (citing United States v.
Martino, 648 F.2d 367, 400 (5th Cir. 1981)).
United States has met its burden of showing that the crimes
for which Abney was convicted occurred in the Middle District
of Alabama. Abney does not dispute that the evidence showed
that her crime occurred in the Tuskegee Post Office. (Doc. 29
at 2.) The Court may take judicial notice of a fact that
“is not subject to reasonable dispute because it . . .
can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose
accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.” Fed.R.Evid.
201(b); see also Shahar v. Bowers, 120 F.3d 211, 214
(11th Cir. 1997) (Courts may take judicial notice of
“matters of geography: for instance, what are the
boundaries of a state.”). There are in fact two United
States Post Offices with Tuskegee in their designation. The
first is located at 401 N. Elm Street, in Tuskegee and the
other at the Tuskegee Institute 1702 W. Montgomery Rd.
Tuskegee, Alabama. Both are located in Tuskegee, Alabama,
which is in turn located in the Middle District of Alabama.
Court notes that the testimony given at trial was sufficient
for the jury to find that venue was proper without even
resorting to judicially noticing the location of the Tuskegee
Post Office. Weaver v. United States held that when
indictment language, opening statements, and witness
testimony supported that an offense occurred on a certain
street located in a city within the judicial district, this
evidence was sufficient for the conclusion that the crime
occurred in the judicial district. 298 F.2d 496, 498-499 (5th
Cir. 1962). During trial, there was a dearth of
circumstantial evidence showing that Abney's offense
occurred in the Middle District of Alabama. One witness,
Janice Simpson, testified that she worked at the Tuskegee
Post Office and was working there when the incident occurred.
She also testified that she called the Tuskegee Police
Department in response to the incident. Obviously the
Tuskegee, Alabama Police Department serves and is located in
Tuskegee, Alabama. Further, Mekecha Key testified that she
worked in the United States Post Office in Tuskegee and that
she was doing her job there when the incident occurred.
Finally, Jim Tynan, a United States Postal Inspector,
testified that the package that Abney was attempting to
retrieve was addressed to Jamese Abney, 1112 Chambless
Street, Tuskegee, Alabama 36088 and was recovered there at
the Post Office in question.
witnesses have testified to the incident's occurrence in
the Tuskegee Post Office, which is located in the Middle
District of Alabama. The United States met its burden of
showing proper venue.
The Sufficiency of Evidence under 18 U.S.C. §
second motion, Abney challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence to support her conviction under 18 U.S.C. §
111(a)(1). She argues that her actions do not constitute
“simple assault” because “[t]here would
have been no contact between these two individual if [the
victim] had not grabbed her by the arms and then grabbed her
around the throat” and “the video did not show
nor was there any testimony that [Abney] made any contact
with [the victim] until after both of these events
occurred.” (Doc. 30 at 2.)
motion is due to be granted if this Court finds that a
reasonable jury could not have found the defendant guilty of
“forcible assault” beyond a reasonable doubt.
See United States v. Sellers, 871 F.2d 1019, 1021
(11th Cir. 1989). At the conclusion of the trial the jury was
instructed that before they could return a verdict of guilty
as to the subject charge, the jury had to conclude that Abney
had forcibly assaulted a federal officer who was performing
an official duty and that Abney's acts had resulted in
physical contact with the federal officer. The jury was also
informed that “forcible assault” is an
intentional threat or attempt to cause serious bodily injury
when the ability to do so is apparent and ...