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United States v. Engel

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 19, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
TODD C. ENGEL, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Gloria M. Navarro, Chief Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Todd C. Engel's (“Defendant's”) Motion for New Trial, (ECF No. 3183). The Government filed a Response, (ECF No. 3198), and Defendant filed a Reply, (ECF No. 3204). Additionally, the Government filed a Sur-Reply, (Ex. A to Motion for Leave to File, ECF No. 3210-1).[1] For the following reasons, the Court denies Defendant's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 2, 2016, a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Nevada returned a Superseding Indictment charging nineteen defendants with sixteen counts related to a confrontation on April 12, 2014, with Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) Officers in Bunkerville, Nevada. (ECF No. 27). Defendant was grouped with Tier 3 defendants and was part of the first group of defendants that went to trial. (Order, ECF No. 1098). At the conclusion of Defendant's trial, the jury found Defendant guilty of Count Twelve, Obstruction of the Due Administration of Justice, and Count Sixteen, Interstate Travel in Aid of Extortion. (Jury Verdict, ECF No. 1903).

         Subsequent to Defendant's trial, the Tier 1 defendants proceeded to trial. (Order, ECF No. 1098). On December 20, 2017, the Court declared a mistrial for the Tier 1 defendants, finding that the Government's failure to disclose evidence to the Tier 1 defendants resulted in numerous Brady violations. (Mins. of Proceedings, ECF No. 3041). Following the Court's declaration of mistrial, the Court found that dismissal with prejudice was necessary. (Mins. of Proceedings, ECF No. 3116).

         In the instant Motion, Defendant requests that the Court vacate his conviction and grant a new trial on the grounds that his trial “was the product of numerous Brady [sic] violations, prosecutorial misconduct, withholding exculpatory evidence, and in the alternative may not be maintained under the plain language of the statues upon which the charges are based.” (Mot. for New Trial 2:5-13, ECF No. 3183).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 provides, “[u]pon 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. P. 33(a). A motion for new trial based on new or newly discovery evidence must be filed within three years after the verdict. Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(b)(1). Although determining whether to grant a motion for a new trial is left to the district court's discretion, “it should be granted only in exceptional cases in which the evidence preponderates heavily against the verdict.” United States v. Pimentel, 654 F.2d 538, 545 (9th Cir. 1981) (internal quotation omitted). Moreover, the defendant bears the burden of persuasion. United States v. Endicott, 869 F.2d 452, 454 (9th Cir. 1989).

         “A defendant who seeks a new trial based on new or newly discovered evidence must show that (1) the evidence is newly discovered; (2) the failure to discover the evidence is not attributable to a lack of diligence by the defendant; (3) the evidence is material to the issues at trial; (4) the evidence is neither cumulative nor impeaching; and (5) the evidence indicates that a new trial would probably result in an acquittal.” United States v. Waggoner, 339 F.3d 915, 919 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing United States v. Jackson, 209 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 2000)). “Evidence will not be deemed ‘newly discovered' simply because it appears in a different light under a new theory. [A] party who desires to present his case under a different theory in which facts available at the original trial now first become important, will not be granted a new trial.” United States v. Hamling, 525 F.2d 758, 759 (9th Cir. 1975).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Insufficient Evidence

         Defendant argues that the charges he was convicted of at trial cannot be sustained based on the statutes' requirements. (Mot. for New Trial 8:1-2, ECF No. 3183). Specifically, Defendant claims that the facts do not support a conviction under Count Twelve charging Obstruction of the Due Administration of Justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1503 because “the execution of a court order is not included in the clear and explicit language of the statute, . . . none of the officers, agents, or law enforcement officers, present that day or involved with the matter were the persons identified by the statute, ” and “none of the alleged victims were, or are the parties which were meant to be protected by the statute.” (Id. 9:1-8). Additionally, Defendant argues that his conviction under Count Sixteen charging Interstate Travel in Aid of Extortion in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1952, “specifically relates to an intent to commit any crime of violence to further any unlawful activity, which was never proven at trial.” (Id. 9:25-26).

         The Court finds that Defendant's arguments regarding insufficient evidence are time-barred. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33, “[a]ny motion for a new trial grounded on any reason other than newly discovered evidence must be filed within 14 days after the verdict or finding of guilty.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(b)(2); see Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(1) (“A defendant may move for a judgment of acquittal, or renew such a motion, within 14 days after a guilty verdict or after the court discharges the jury, whichever is later.”). Here, the jury returned its verdict on April 24, 2017, and more than nine months later Defendant filed the instant Motion on February 8, 2018. (See Jury Verdict, ECF No. 1903). Accordingly, Defendant's arguments regarding insufficient evidence are untimely.

         B. Newly ...


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