United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
Francis Raia ("Defendant") was convicted of
knowingly and intentionally conspiring to commit an offense
against the United States using the mail, contrary to 18
U.S.C. § 1952(a)(3) (Travel Act) and in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 371 (Conspiracy Against the United States).
Indictment ¶ 1, ECF No. 1. Now before the Court is
Defendant's motion for a new trial. ECF Nos. 54, 57
("Motion"). Oral argument was held on October 21,
2019. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is DENIED.
brief fairly represents the facts of this case and each
In 2013, Mr. Raia ran for Hoboken city council along with a
slate of other candidates. In addition, Mr. Raia supported a
ballot referendum that would allow certain landlords to reset
the base rents on certain vacant rent-controlled units to the
market rate. As part of the campaign, Mr. Raia employed a get
out the vote strategy that focused voters in the Hoboken
Housing Authority [("HHA")], by soliciting their
vote by mail vote. [Raia argued] the campaign sought to
enlist many of these same individuals to work on Election Day
by publicizing the campaign, wearing t-shirts, and handing
out campaign literature. These individuals would be paid $50
for their work.
The Government's case against Mr. Raia accused that he
enlisted confidants to approach voters in [HHA] Housing, and
ordered that those confidants offer voters $50 in exchange
for the voter casting a mail in ballot for the candidates and
questions Mr. Raia supported. The Government also alleged
that in connection with this plan, Mr. Raia demanded that he
be permitted to inspect the completed ballots before they
were submitted to the Board of Elections, Mr. Raia engaged a
middleman to process checks to these voters in order to
conceal the payments, and had other individuals complete
mandatory New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission
Mot. at 2. On June 25, 2019, a jury convicted Defendant of
being part of a conspiracy to commit an offense against the
United States, namely, by violating the Travel Act.
posits two reasons he must be granted a new trial: (1)
because the verdict was against the weight of the evidence
and (2) because the prosecution mischaracterized the
evidence, creating a substantial possibility that the verdict
Weight of the Evidence
the defendant's motion, the court may vacate any judgment
and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so
requires." Fed. R. Crim. Pro. 33(a) ("Rule
33"). The Third Circuit has described the rules
governing a Rule 33 "weight of the evidence" motion
A district court can order a new trial on the ground that the
jury's verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence
only if it believes that there is a serious danger that a
miscarriage of justice has occurred-that is, that an innocent
person has been convicted. Unlike an insufficiency of the
evidence claim, when a district court evaluates a Rule 33
motion it does not view the evidence favorably to the
Government, but instead exercises its own judgment in
assessing the Government's case.
United States v. Brennan, 326 F.3d 176, 189 (3d Cir.
2003) (cleaned up). "Motions for a new trial based on
the weight of the evidence are not favored. Such motions are
to be granted sparingly and only in exceptional cases."
Defendant argues for a new trial because "[t]he
Government relied heavily on Calicchio, Holmes, and Frazier
to make this case to the jury, but their testimony was too
unreliable to form the basis of any case." Mot. at 6.
That is not sufficient. First, Calicchio, Holmes, and
Frazier's testimony was not so patently unreliable that
the Court must throw it out and overturn the jury's
determination. Second, the Court is not convinced ...