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United States v. Morris

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 20, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Michael Morris, Defendant.

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

          Robert D. Sicoli, Esq., Sicoli Law, Ltd., counsel for Defendant.

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM

          DONOVAN W. FRANK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Michael Morris' Motion for Judgment of Acquittal on Count 2 of the Third Superseding Indictment (Doc. No. 1007). 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 Michael Morris (“Morris”) with Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking (Count 1), Sex Trafficking by Use of Force, Threats of Force, Fraud, or Coercion (Count 2), 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 five counts proceeded to trial by jury. On December 12, 2018, the jury returned its verdict, finding Morris guilty of all counts. (Doc. No. 997.)

         II. Defendant's Motion

         Morris now moves, pursuant to Rule 29(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, for judgment of acquittal on Count 2 of the Third Superseding Indictment. (Doc. No. 1007 (“Memo.”) at 1.) Specifically, Morris argues: (1) there was insufficient evidence as a matter of law for a reasonable jury to have convicted him on Count 2, and (2) the government failed to establish venue in the District of Minnesota by a preponderance of the evidence to sustain the conviction. (Id.) The Government opposes Morris' motion. (Doc. No. 1017.)

         The Court finds that sufficient evidence exists to support the verdict reached by the jury as to Count 2 of the Third Superseding Indictment. The Court also finds that the government properly established venue in the District of Minnesota. Therefore, the Court denies Morris' Rule 29(c) motion for judgment of acquittal.

         A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         Morris maintains that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support a conviction with respect to Count 2 of the Third Superseding Indictment. Count 2 charged that:

From in or about April 2009 through in or about January 2010, in the State and District of Minnesota and elsewhere, the defendant Michael Morris, a/k/a Bill, aiding and abetting and aided and abetted by others, . . . knowingly recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, and maintained a person, namely, Victim A, and benefited financially and by receiving something of value, from participation in a venture which engaged in the previously described acts, and knowing that force, threats of force, fraud, and coercion would be used to cause Victim A to engage ...

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