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United States v. Petruk

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

January 27, 2014

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Elfred William Petruk, Defendant.

Thomas M. Hollenhorst and Benjamin Bejar, United States Attorney's Office, 300 South Fourth Street, Suite 600, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415, for Plaintiff.

Douglas Olson, Office of the Federal Defender, 300 South Fourth Street, Suite 107, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Pro Se Motion for Direct Appeal, New Trial, or J. of Acquittal [Doc. No. 121] and Defendant's "Motion to Amend with Motion of Acquittal or New Trial" [Doc. No. 124]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Defendant's motions.

II. BACKGROUND

Defendant Elfred William Petruk was charged with carjacking (Count 1) and corruptly attempting to obstruct an official proceeding (Counts 2 and 3). (Superseding Indictment [Doc. No. 74].) On December 11, 2013, after a three-day trial, a jury convicted Defendant of all counts. (Verdict Form [Doc. No. 109].)

On December 26, 2013, Defendant filed a pro se motion asking the Court to grant him a direct appeal and to grant him a new trial, or in the alternative, an acquittal. ( Pro Se Mot. for Direct Appeal, New Trial, or J. of Acquittal [Doc. No. 121].) The Government opposed Defendant's motion. (Government's Resp. in Opp'n to Def.'s Pro Se Post-Trial Mot. [Doc. No. 123].) In January 2014, Defendant filed a "Motion to Amend with Motion of Acquittal or New Trial, " two letters to this Court, and a response to the Government's opposition brief - all pro se. ( Pro Se Def.'s Mot. to Am. with Mot. of Acquittal or New Trial [Doc. No. 124]; Jan. 15, 2014, Pro Se Letter to District Judge for Direct Appeal, New Trial, or Judgment of Acquittal [Doc. No. 125]; Pro Se Resp. to Government's Opp'n [Doc. No. 126]; Jan. 22, 2014, Letter to District Judge [Doc. No. 129].)

III. DISCUSSION

In support of his motions, Defendant argues that (1) the Government did not prove an element to the carjacking count - namely, that the motor vehicle in question had been transported, shipped, or received in interstate or foreign commerce; (2) witnesses Travis Behning and Darin Nemerow committed perjury; and (3) the Government tampered with evidence. ( Pro Se Mot. for Direct Appeal, New Trial, or J. of Acquittal [Doc. No. 121]; Pro Se Mot. to Am. with Mot. of Acquittal or New Trial [Doc. No. 124].)

A. Standard of Review

Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a Court may set aside a guilty verdict if the evidence presented at trial is insufficient to sustain a conviction. FED. R. CRIM. P. 29(c)(2). The Court, however, "has very limited latitude in ruling upon a motion for judgment of acquittal." United States v. Baker , 367 F.3d 790, 797 (8th Cir. 2004). The Court cannot weigh the evidence or assess the credibility of witnesses. Id . If the evidence rationally supports two conflicting hypotheses, the Court will not disturb the conviction. Ortega v. United States , 270 F.3d 540, 544-45 (8th Cir. 2001). Accordingly, the Court may grant a judgment of acquittal "only where the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the government, is such that a reasonably minded jury must have a reasonable doubt as to the existence of any of the essential elements of the crime charged." Baker , 367 F.3d at 797.

Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure permits the Court to grant a new trial to a defendant "if the interests of justice so require." FED. R. CRIM. P. 33. When ruling on a motion for a new trial under this rule, the Court has broader discretion than on a motion for judgment of acquittal under Rule 29. United States v. Campos , 306 F.3d 577, 579 (8th Cir. 2002). It may "weigh the evidence, disbelieve witnesses, and grant a new trial even where there is substantial evidence to sustain the verdict." White v. Pence , 961 F.2d 776, 780 (8th Cir. 1992). Nonetheless, the Court's discretion is not unlimited, and it must exercise its authority under ...


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