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United States v. Pitts

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia

July 26, 2019




          Before the court is Defendant Michael Lewis Pitt's Motion for Acquittal and Motion for New Trial, dkt. no. 75.[1]This I. Defendant's Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review. For the reasons provided below, the Motion is DENIED.

         I. Defendant's Conviction

         After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty on all three counts as charged in the Superseding Indictment. Count One was for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person; Count Two was for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance (Cocaine, Cocaine Base, Methamphetamine, and Marihuana); and Count Three was for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Motion for Judgment of Acquittal

         A motion for judgment of acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 "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); see also United States v. Ward, 197 F.3d 1076, 1079 (11th Cir. 1999) ("In considering a motion for the entry of judgment of acquittal under [Rule 29(c)], a district court should apply the same standard used in reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a conviction."). The Court must "determine whether, viewing all the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government and drawing all reasonable inferences and credibility choices in favor of the jury's verdict, a reasonable trier of fact could find that the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.'" United States v. Grigsby, 111 F.3d 806, 833 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting United States v. O'Keefe, 825 F.2d 314, 319 (11th Cir. 1987)).

         B. Motion for New Trial

         Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33(a), "the court may vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires." Whether to grant a new trial is left to the sound discretion of the trial court. United States v. Champion, 813 F.2d 1154, 1170 (11th Cir. 1987). A new trial is only appropriate where the evidence "preponderate[s] heavily against the verdict, such that it would be a miscarriage of justice to let the verdict stand." Butcher v. United States, 368 F.3d 1290, 1297 (11th Cir. 2004)(citation omitted). Motions requesting a new trial are thus viewed with "great caution"; they are not a vehicle by which a court may "reweigh the evidence or set aside the verdict simply because it feels some other result would be more reasonable." United States v. Hall, 854 F.2d 1269, 1271 (11th Cir. 1988) (quoting Bentley v. United States, 701 F.2d 897, 898 (11th Cir. 1983)); Butcher v. United States, 368 F.3d 1290, 1297 (11th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted).

         Ill. Discussion

         Defendant argues that the government did not meet its burden of proving each of the required elements for the three counts charged in the Superseding Indictment because "the testimony and exhibits merely provided proof that someone committed the crimes alleged and did not establish that it was the defendant to the exclusion of every other reasonable hypothesis." Dkt. No. 75 at 2. This is the entirety of Defendant's argument. Defendant's argument fails because the evidence of his guilt is overwhelming.

         The evidence showed that Defendant was the driver and sole occupant of a vehicle that was pulled over by Detectives Baldwin and Russell for failure to stop at a stop sign. Detective Baldwin approached Defendant's pulled-over vehicle from the driver's side. Upon reaching the driver-side window, Detective Baldwin asked Defendant to turn off the vehicle and hand him the keys. Detective Baldwin then made the same request a second time, and Defendant complied. Detective Baldwin then asked Defendant to exit the vehicle, but Defendant did not comply. Detective Baldwin had to ask Defendant multiple times to exit the vehicle before Defendant finally complied.

         Upon exiting the vehicle, Detective Baldwin patted down Defendant. Detective Baldwin felt a large bulge on Defendant's right hip. Defendant informed Detective Baldwin that the bulge was a firearm. Detective Baldwin then removed the firearm from a holster, of which were both in Defendant's right, front pant pocket. The firearm had a loaded magazine. The firearm was manufactured in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Defendant had prior felony convictions.

         Detective Russell then approached Defendant's vehicle and smelled burnt marijuana emanating from Defendant's vehicle. While searching the vehicle, Detective Russell recovered blunt wrappers, two marijuana blunts, and a small yellow ziplock bag with cocaine that was wrapped in a Wal-Mart receipt. Further, Detective Russell recovered a Crown Royal pouch or bag that contained ten bags of various drugs, including powder cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine pills, methamphetamine powder, and marijuana. The Crown Royal bag was located on the driver's side floorboard near the brake and gas pedals. The street value of these drugs was approximately $3, 400. The Crown Royal bag also contained a digital scale, new/unused yellow packets, and a firearm magazine that was identical to- the magazine loaded in the ...

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