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United States v. Doak

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

July 26, 2019

JAYCEE DOAK, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Jaycee Doak's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal, or, in the alternative, Motion for a New Trial. (Doc. 180).[1] The jury convicted Jaycee Doak of six counts of aiding and abetting in the charge of transportation of a minor with intent that the minor engage in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a), (e). The question Jaycee Doak's motion presents is whether a reasonable jury could have convicted her. The answer to that question turns on whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, a reasonable jury could have concluded she “intend[ed] to facilitate that offense's commission, ” Rosemond v. United States, 572 U.S. 65, 76 (2014), i.e., that she “participate[d] in it as in something that [s]he wishe[d] to bring about” and “s[ought] by h[er] action[s] to make it succeed.” Id. (quoting Nye & Nissen v. United States, 336 U.S. 613, 619 (1949)). Upon consideration, the Government is ORDERED to supplement its response as set forth below.

         I. ARGUMENTS

         Jaycee Doak argues the evidence submitted was insufficient to convict her primarily because the Government failed to provide evidence that Jaycee Doak “wished, sought success, [and] chose[] with full knowledge[] to participate in [Mack Doak]'s illegal venture.” (Doc. 180 at 6 (citing Rosemond, 572 U.S. at 689-70). She specifically argues that the Government failed to present evidence that she possessed intent at the time of travel that the minors engage in criminal sexual activity. In addition, for the first time, she challenges the Court's jury instructions regarding the proof necessary to convict her of aiding and abetting. She takes issue with the Court's failure to instruct the jury that to convict Jaycee Doak the jury had to find evidence of her “advance knowledge.”

         The Government argues that it presented sufficient evidence of Jaycee Doak's guilt because it introduced evidence that she assisted in the transportation of the children and because she did it “knowing that there was ongoing sexual abuse.” (Doc. 184 at 10). Further, the Government argues that Jaycee Doak's aiding and abetting liability is supported by the evidence that she attempted to conceal the abuse.


         Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that “[a]fter 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.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a).[2] The Rule also provides that “[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.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(1).

         “A motion for judgment of acquittal is a direct challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence presented against the defendant.” United States v. Aibejeris, 28 F.3d 97, 98 (11th Cir. 1994). In deciding such a motion, “district courts should apply the same standard as that used for reviewing a conviction for sufficiency of the evidence. The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the government and determine whether a reasonable jury could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” United States v. Sellers, 871 F.2d 1019, 1021 (11th Cir. 1989) (internal citations omitted); see also United States v. Browne, 505 F.3d 1229, 1253 (11th Cir. 2007) (“In reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence challenge, we consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, drawing all reasonable inferences and credibility choices in the Government's favor.”). To sustain a conviction, the evidence need not “exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence or be wholly inconsistent with every conclusion except that of guilt.” United States v. Garcia, 447 F.3d 1327, 1334 (11th Cir. 2006) (internal quotations and citation omitted). “The jury is free to choose between or among the reasonable conclusions to be drawn from the evidence presented at trial, and the court must accept all reasonable inferences and credibility determinations made by the jury.” Sellers, 871 F.2d at 1021 (internal citations omitted).

         Pursuant to Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, “[u]pon the defendant's motion, the court may vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a). “Thus, there are two grounds upon which a court may grant a motion for new trial: one based on newly discovered evidence . . .; and the other based on any other reason, typically the interest of justice . . . .” United States v. Campa, 459 F.3d 1121, 1151 (11th Cir. 2006). The decision whether to grant or deny a motion for new trial rests in the sound discretion of the trial court. United States v. Champion, 813 F.2d 1154, 1170 (11th Cir. 1987).


         a. Jury Instruction

         The Court begins with the challenge to the aiding and abetting jury instructions.[3] The Court is unpersuaded that the advance knowledge requirement set forth in Rosemond, a case involving 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), applies with equal force to the offense with which Jaycee Doak was charged. This is because the Supreme Court in Rosemond specifically addressed a statute of a “compound nature.” United States v. Seabrooks, 839 F.3d 1326, 1334 (11th Cir. 2016). The Supreme Court held that for an aider and abettor to be criminally liable under that statute, “the § 924(c) defendant's knowledge of a firearm must be advance knowledge-or otherwise said, knowledge that enables him to make the relevant legal (and indeed, moral) choice.” Rosemond, 572 U.S. at 78. He must have advance knowledge that a firearm would be used or carried.

         Unlike § 924(c), which, in part, requires participation in an underlying drug crime and using or carrying a firearm during that crime, Seabrooks, 839 F.3d at 1334 (citing § 924(c)), 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a) does not share the compound characteristics. In addition, the Eleventh Circuit has held that the Supreme Court in Rosemond “did not hold that its ruling applied beyond aiding or abetting § 924(c) offenses.” United States v. Persaud, 605 Fed.Appx. 791, 801 (11th Cir. 2015).[4]Moreover, “Rosemond did not purport to change the law of aiding and abetting generally, only to clarify its application to a § 924(c) firearm offense. Since [the defendant's] case does not involve a conviction under § 924(c), Rosemond has no direct application here.” United States v. Aplesa, 690 Fed.Appx. 630, 634 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 138 S.Ct. 524 (2017).[5]

         b. Sufficiency ...

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