United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MCNULTY United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on the post-trial motion (ECF
no. 61) of the defendant, Francis J. Styles, for a judgment
of acquittal, pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c). Trial of
the matter ended in a hung jury and declaration of a
mistrial. For the reasons expressed herein, the
motion will be denied.
Standard Under Rule 29
29(c) motion for a judgment of acquittal is most commonly
made after the entry of a guilty verdict. It may also be
made, as here, when a jury has been discharged after having
"failed to return a verdict." Fed. R. Crim. P.
29(c)(2); see also Fed. R. Crim. P.
Rule 29, a defendant who asserts that there was insufficient
evidence to sustain a conviction shoulders "a very heavy
burden." United States v. Anderson, 108 F.3d
478, 481 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting United States v.
Coyle, 63 F.3d 1239, 1243 (3d Cir. 1995)). The court
cannot substitute its judgment for that of the jury. Hence it
must view the evidence, and all reasonable inferences
therefrom, in the light most favorable to the prosecution,
resolving all credibility issues in the prosecution's
favor. United States v. Hart, 273 F.3d 363, 371 (3d
Cir. 2001); United States v. Scanzello, 832 F.2d 18,
21 (3d Cir. 1987). Having done so, the court must uphold the
conviction if "any rational trier of fact could
have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a
reasonable doubt." Jackson v. Virginia, 443
U.S. 307, 319 (1979) (emphasis in original). Accord
United States v. Caraballo-Rodriguez, 726 F.3d 418,
430-31 (3d Cir. 2013) (en banc) (reaffirming principle and
reversing a line of drug conspiracy cases that seemingly
undermined it); United States v. Silveus, 542 F.3d
993, 1002 (3d Cir. 2008) (issue for trial or appellate court
is "whether any rational trier of fact could have found
proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt based on the
available evidence"); United States v. Smith,
294 F.3d 473, 476 (3d Cir. 2002).
Charged offenses; knowledge and intent
Styles, a Bayonne police officer, was indicted for
falsification of a report with intent to obstruct an
investigation, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1519, and
misprision of a felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 4.
The Indictment alleges that a fellow Bayonne police officer,
Domenico Lillo, violated the civil rights of a handcuffed
arrestee by striking him in the face with a flashlight.
(Lillo later pled guilty to the assault.) Styles is alleged
to have covered up the assault by submitting a false incident
parties agree that the falsification offense under 18 U.S.C.
§ 1519 has three essential elements:
First: That defendant Styles knowingly concealed, covered up,
falsified, or made false entries on a document or record;
Second: That defendant Styles acted with the intent to
impede, obstruct, or influence an investigation or proper
administration of a matter or in relation to or in
contemplation of any such matter or case; and
Third: That the investigation or matter was within the
jurisdiction of a department or agency of the United States.
of a felony under 18 U.S.C. § 4 has four essential
First: That a federal felony (here, Lillo's deprivation
of the victim's civil ...