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United States v. Taylor

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 29, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Omar Kashaka Taylor, Defendant.

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM

          DONOVAN W. FRANK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Omar Kashaka Taylor's (“Defendant”) Motion for New Trial. (Doc. No. 115.) Defendant moves for a new trial on the basis that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt regarding the defendant committing any acts “in interstate commerce” or “in and affecting interstate commerce.” The United States (“the Government”) opposes Defendant's motion in all respects. (Doc. No. 116.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Defendant's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant went to trial on one count of Sex Trafficking of a Minor, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1591(a), (b)(2), and (c), 1594(a), and 3559(e); two counts of Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud, or Coercion in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1591(a) and (b)(1), 1594(a), and 3559(e); and one count of Commission of a Felony Offense Involving a Minor When Required to Register as a Sex Offender, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2260A. On February 5, 2019, following a seven-day trial, a jury returned verdicts of guilty on all counts. (Doc. Nos. 106, 107.) The evidence at trial established that from in or about August of 2017 through in or about March of 2018, Defendant, a registered sex offender, ran an unlicensed “massage parlor” out of a residential duplex on Spring Street in Northeast Minneapolis where women performed commercial sex acts, and that Defendant collected a portion of the women's earnings.

         DISCUSSION

         Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 33(a) provides that a Court may grant a new trial “if the interests of justice so requires.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a). This is a discretionary decision that rests with the Court. United States v. Dodd, 391 F.3d 930, 934 (8th Cir. 2004). “A district court may grant a new trial under Rule 33 only if the evidence weighs so heavily against the verdict that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.” United States v. McClellon, 578 F.3d 846, 857 (8th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “When faced with a motion for new trial, . . . a district court is permitted to weigh the evidence and judge witness credibility for itself in determining if there may have been a miscarriage of justice such that a new trial is required.” United States v. Samuels, 543 F.3d 1013, 1019 (8th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Although the Court has broad discretion in deciding a motion for new trial, it “must exercise the Rule 33 authority sparingly and with caution.” McClellon, 578 F.3d at 857 (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Defendant argues that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt regarding the Defendant committing any acts in “interstate commerce” or “in and affecting interstate commerce.”

         Title 18, United States Code 1591(a), “Sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud, or coercion” provides:

(a) Whoever knowingly-
(1) in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, maintains, patronizes, or solicits by any means a person; or
(2) benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which has engaged in an act described in violation of paragraph (1),
knowing, or in reckless disregard of the fact, that means of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion described in subsection (e)(2), or any combination of such means will be used to cause the person to engage in a commercial sex act, or that the person has not attained the age of 18 years and ...

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