United States District Court, D. New Jersey
the close of the Government’s evidence in this matter,
counsel for defendant Fred Rivers (“Defendant”)
made an “oral application for a Rule 29 motion for
judgment of acquittal.” (D.E. No. 70 (“Vol.
II”) at 457:7–9). Under Federal Rule of Criminal
Procedure 29(b), the Court “reserve[d] its decision on
[D]efendant’s motion and . . . proceed[ed] with
trial.” (Id. at 457:15– 18). The jury
ultimately acquitted Defendant on Count One of the Indictment
(D.E. No. 11)- receiving bribes in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 201(b)(2)(A) & (C)-but convicted him on Count
Two-conspiring to defraud the United States in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 371. (D.E. No. 62; D.E. No. 68 (“Vol.
IV”) at 715:5–18).
25, 2019, Defendant formally moved with a “Motion for a
Judgment of Acquittal [on Count Two] pursuant to Fed. R.
Crim. P. 29(c), or in the alternative, Motion for a New Trial
pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 33” (D.E. No. 72
(“Def. Br.”) at 1), which the Government opposed
(D.E. No. 73 (“Gov. Br.”)). The Court has
considered the record and the parties’ briefs and, for
the reasons discussed below, DENIES Defendant’s motion.
Motion for a Judgment of Acquittal
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, the Court “must
uphold the jury’s verdict unless no reasonable
juror could accept the evidence as sufficient to support
the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
United States v. Fattah, 914 F.3d 112, 182–83
(3d Cir. 2019) (emphasis added). In reviewing the sufficiency
of the evidence,  the Court must view the evidence in the
“light most favorable” to the Government,
id. at 183, and “must be ever vigilant . . .
not to usurp the role of the jury by weighing credibility and
assigning weight to the evidence, or by substituting its
judgment for that of the jury.” United States v.
Flores, 454 F.3d 149, 154 (3d Cir. 2006). “A
finding of insufficiency should be confined to cases where
the prosecution’s failure is clear.” United
States v. Brodie, 403 F.3d 123, 133 (3d Cir. 2005)
(internal quotation marks omitted). Hence “[t]he burden
on a defendant who raises a challenge to the sufficiency of
the evidence is extremely high.” United States v.
Lore, 430 F.3d 190, 203 (3d Cir. 2005).
Overview of Count Two
sustain its burden of proof on the crime of conspiracy to
defraud the United States, the [G]overnment had to prove
[beyond a reasonable doubt]: (1) the existence of an
agreement; (2) an overt act by one of the conspirators in
furtherance of the objective; and (3) an intent on the part
of the conspirators to agree as well as to defraud the United
States.” United States v. Gambone, 314 F.3d
163, 176 (3d Cir. 2003). More specifically, Jury Instruction
Number 16-based on the Circuit’s Model Criminal Jury
Instruction 6.18.371A and not contested by either
party-defines the elements of Count Two as follows:
First: That two or more persons agreed “to defraud the
United States, ” as charged in the Indictment.
“Defraud the United States, ” means to cheat the
United States government or any of its agencies out of money
or property. It also means to obstruct or interfere with one
of the United States government’s lawful functions, by
deceit, craft, trickery, or dishonest means;
Second: That the defendant was a party to or member of that
Third: That the defendant joined the agreement or conspiracy
knowing of its objective to defraud the United States and
intending to join together with at least one other
conspirator to achieve that objective; that is, that the
defendant and at least one other alleged conspirator shared a
unity of purpose and the intent to achieve a common goal or
objective, to defraud the United States; and
Fourth: That at some time during the existence of the
agreement or conspiracy, at least one of its members
performed an overt act in order to further ...