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United States v. Baez

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 10, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Kelvin Baez, a/k/a “Taliban, ” Defendant.

          David P. Steinkamp, Assistant United States Attorney, on behalf of Plaintiff.

          RJ Zayed, Esq., Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendant Kelvin Baez.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANN D. MONTGOMERY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge for a ruling on Defendant Kelvin Baez's (“Baez”) Motion for New Trial [Docket No. 517] under Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Baez argues a new trial is warranted because the Court erred in not giving his proposed jury instruction on good faith or innocent intent, and because the prosecution made inflammatory remarks during closing argument that prejudiced the jury. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On January 16, 2019, after an eight day trial, a jury found Baez guilty of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Verdict [Docket No. 513]. During the trial, Baez's theory of defense was that he did not act with the intent to distribute methamphetamine or to join the conspiracies charged because he believed in good faith that he was assisting a government informant in a drug trafficking investigation. Baez requested the following proposed jury instruction on his theory of defense:

Mr. Baez asserts that he had a good faith belief and acted with innocent intent at all relevant times charged in the indictment because he honestly believed that he was assisting law enforcement in its investigation of drug trafficking and drug traffickers and therefore he did not act with any intent to distribute methamphetamine or with any intent to join the conspiracies charged knowing their purposes.
A person acts in “good faith” or with “innocent intent” when he or she has an honestly held belief, opinion, or understanding that negates the intent element the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, even if the belief, opinion, or understanding turns out to be inaccurate, incorrect or unreasonable.
If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether Mr. Baez acted in “good faith” or with “innocent intent” then such a reasonable doubt would be a complete defense because good faith or “innocent intent” would be inconsistent with acting with the intent to distribute methamphetamine or with voluntarily and intentionally joining a conspiracy knowing its purpose.
Mr. Baez does not have the burden of proving “good faith” or “innocent intent.” Good faith or innocent intent is a defense because it is inconsistent with the mental state element the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. In deciding whether the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Baez acted with the intent to distribute methamphetamine or with the intent to join the conspiracies charged knowing their purposes, or, whether there is a reasonable doubt as to whether Mr. Baez acted in good faith or with innocent intent, you should consider all of the evidence presented in the case that may bear on Mr. Baez's state of mind.

Proposed Supplemental Jury Instr. [Docket No. 480].

         The proposed instruction is largely based on Model Instruction 5.07 from the Third Circuit, [1] which provides in part that “[a] person acts in ‘good faith' when he or she has an honestly held belief, opinion, or understanding [that is inconsistent with the required mental state], even though the belief, opinion, or understanding turns out to be inaccurate or incorrect.” Third Circuit Model Jury Instr. 5.07. The second paragraph of Baez's proposed instruction generally tracks this language but, in addition to stating that the honestly held belief may be “inaccurate or incorrect, ” Baez's proposed instruction injects the belief may be “unreasonable.”

         The Court declined to give the requested instruction. Instead, an instruction on ...


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