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United States v. Mohammed

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 11, 2014

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Sheriff Olaleran Mohammed, Defendant.

Thomas Calhoun-Lopez, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Courthouse, 300 South Fourth St., Minneapolis, MN 55415, for United States of America.

Jephtah Olupo, Elder Jones Building, 1120 East 80th St., Suite 107, Bloomington, MN 55415, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion For a New Trial [Doc. No. 61]. For the reasons stated below, this Court denies the motion.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Defendant was indicted on one count of smuggling goods from the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 554(a), and seventeen counts of making a false statement in the course of purchasing a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(a)(6), 924(a)(2). Each time he purchased the firearms in question, Defendant executed a form, required by law, that included a prominently stated "WARNING" directing the purchaser to read the notice, also included on the form, that "[t]he State or Commerce Departments may require you to obtain a license prior to export." By executing this form for each purchase, Defendant acknowledged that he had read the notice. At Defendant's trial, this Court gave the following "deliberate ignorance" (or "willful blindness") instruction to the jury:

The element of knowledge may be inferred if the defendant deliberately closed his eyes to learning whether the exportation of firearms from the United States was contrary to any law or regulation of the United States. You may not find the defendant acted knowingly if you find he was merely negligent, careless, or mistaken as to whether the exportation of firearms from the United States was contrary to any [such] law or regulation.

(Doc. No. 58, at 7.) Defendant was convicted on all eighteen counts.

Defendant now moves for a new trial, arguing that (1) the Court erred in instructing the jury on deliberate ignorance, and (2) the verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence.

II. DISCUSSION

A. New Trial Standard

Under Criminal Rule 33, this Court may "vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires." Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a). With respect to the provision of jury instructions, this Court possesses broad discretion. United States v. Galimah, ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 3361164, *1 (July 10, 2014). The question is whether the "instructions, taken as a whole, fairly and adequately represent the evidence and applicable law in light of the issues presented" in the case. Id.

With respect to the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction, the decision to grant a new trial is within this Court's broad, but not unlimited, discretion. United States v. Campos , 306 F.3d 577, 579 (8th Cir. 2002) (explaining that while court's discretion on new trial motion is broader than that permissible in granting motion for acquittal under Rule 29, court must still "exercise the Rule 33 authority sparingly and with caution'"). The jury's verdict must be allowed to stand unless this Court "determines that a miscarriage of justice will occur." Id . A judgment of conviction will be reversed "only if no reasonable jury could have found the defendant guilty.'" United States v. Listman , 636 F.3d 425, ...


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