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United States v. Ruttanamongkongul

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 20, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Thoucharin Ruttanamongkongul, Defendant.

          Laura M. Provinzino and Melinda A. Williams, Assistant United States Attorneys, United States Attorney's Office, counsel for Plaintiff.

          Daniel C. Guerrero, Esq., Meshbesher & Spence, Ltd., counsel for Defendant.

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM

          DONOVAN W. FRANK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Thoucharin Ruttanamongkongul's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal on Count 1 of the Third Superseding Indictment (Doc. No. 1008). For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Defendant's motion.

         MEMORANDUM

         I. Background

         The Third Superseding Indictment in the above-entitled matter charged Defendant Thoucharin Ruttanamongkongul's (“Ruttanamongkongul”) with Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking (Count 1), Conspiracy to Commit Transportation to Engage in Prostitution (Count 3), Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering (Count 4), and Conspiracy to Use a Communication Facility to Promote Prostitution (Count 5). (See Doc. No. 830.) All four counts proceeded to trial by jury. On December 12, 2018, the jury returned its verdict, finding Ruttanamongkongul guilty of all counts. (Doc. No. 1000.)

         II. Defendant's Motion

         Ruttanamongkongul now moves, pursuant to Rule 29(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, for judgment of acquittal on Count 1 of the Third Superseding Indictment. (Doc. No. 1009 (“Memo.”) at 1.) Count 1 charged that:

From in or about January 2009 through in or about May 2017, in the State and District of Minnesota and elsewhere, [Ruttanamongkongul] did, in and affecting interstate and foreign commerce, knowingly conspire with one another and others, known and unknown to the grand jury, to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, and maintain, by any means, a person, and benefited, financially and by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which engaged in the previously described acts, and knowing that means of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion, and any combination of such means would be used to cause the person to engage in a commercial sex act, and attempted to do so, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1591(a), 1591(b)(1), and 194(a).

         (Doc. No. 830 ¶ 7). Ruttanamongkongul argues that the Court must vacate the jury's verdict on Count 1 and enter a judgment of acquittal because there was insufficient evidence to convict her of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. (Id.) The Government opposes Ruttanamongkongul's motion. (Doc. No. 1018.)

         For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that sufficient evidence exists to support the verdict reached by the jury as to Count 1 of the Third Superseding Indictment. Therefore, the Court denies Ruttanamongkongul's Rule 29(c) motion for judgment of acquittal.

         Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, a district court must enter a judgment of acquittal if the evidence presented at trial is insufficient to sustain a conviction. Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a), (c). “The standard for determining whether evidence is insufficient is very strict, requiring acquittal only where there is ‘no interpretation of the evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.'” U.S. v. Munoz, No. 11B167, 2012 WL 2021143 (D. Minn. July 25, 2012) (citing U.S. v. Gomez, 165 F.3d 650, 654 (8th Cir. 1999)). The Court makes this determination with very limited latitude. U.S. v. Thompson, 285 F.3d 731, 733 (8th Cir. 2002). Even if the evidence rationally supported two conflicting hypotheses, the court will not disturb the conviction. Ortega v. U.S., 270 F.3d 540, 544 (8th Cir. 2001). The Court does not “weigh the evidence or assess the credibility of the witnesses.” Id. The Court views the “evidence in the light most favorable to the government, resolving conflicts in the government's favor, and accepting all reasonable inferences that support the verdict.” U.S. v. Lewis, 895 F.3d 1004, 1008 (8th ...


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