The opinion of the court was delivered by: DITTER
Defendant Bruno Mannello was convicted of offenses stemming from the theft and distribution of several million dollars worth of food stamps. Presently before the court are his post-trial motions. For reasons that follow, these motions will be denied.
Mannello contends that there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction on count eleven of the indictment, which charged an unlawful distribution of food stamps having a face value of $558,500.
In evaluating this contention, I must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, drawing all reasonable inferences from that evidence in the government's favor, and am required to uphold the verdict unless no rational jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the government had proved the charge in the indictment.
Viewed against these principles, defendant's argument must fail.
Initially, there appears no real question that the government showed an illegal distribution of food stamps took place on the date in question, April 6, 1984. Rather, defendant's contention focuses on a claimed insufficiency of evidence that Mannello was involved.
Michael Kakas, who was the master-mind of the food stamps theft, testified that the April 6, 1984 distribution was the third in a series of contemporaneous distributions initiated by Kakas with Frank Hutchinson, another defendant. Kakas was to drop off a commercial truck at the Penn-Warren club to allow Hutchinson to have it loaded with food stamps. N.T. at 41-43 (June 27, 1984). After the truck had been left in the assigned location, 25 boxes of food stamps were found in the truck. Id. at 43.
While there was no eyewitness testimony as to who loaded the boxes on the truck, there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to support Mannello's conviction on this count. First, there was evidence that food stamps were stored at the Villa Sorrento, a restaurant owned by Mannello, and that Mannello had access to them. Particularly probative of this point is John McDonnell's testimony that on two occasions at the Villa Sorrento, Mannello provided him with food stamps to sell. N.T. at 165-66, 172 (June 29, 1984). Furthermore, Michael Kakas testified that he was told by Hutchinson that Mannello was laundering the proceeds from food-stamp sales and that Mannello was selling food stamps. N.T. at 106 (June 26, 1984).
More important, the government showed that Mannello participated in other contemporaneous and similar distributions by Hutchinson, and that the Villa Sorrento served as a storage facility for the Hutchinson distributions. Kakas testified that he had obtained stamps from Hutchinson on two occasions in the two weeks prior to the April 6, 1984 distribution. N.T. at 31-33, 37-39. Kakas testified that he left his truck at the Queen Ann Shopping Center so Hutchinson could get it, load it, and return it to him with the food stamps. Id. On both of these occasions, Kakas returned to the truck to find the food stamps he had ordered. Id.
Thomas J. Weidman, a special agent of the FBI, testified that he was assigned to observe the two distributions. He said that both times he saw Kakas leave his truck at the shopping center, and that another individual then took it from the shopping center. Id. at 90-92, 95-97. Both times, the truck was backed to the rear doors of the Villa Sorrento, where the driver and Bruno Mannello unloaded boxes from the restaurant and placed them in the truck. Id. at 93-94, 97. The truck was then returned to the shopping center where it was reclaimed by Kakas. Id. at 94-95, 97. Agent Weidman's identification of Mannello was corroborated by Kakas' testimony that, upon review of a surveillance film of the first distribution, one of the individuals loading boxes was Bruno Mannello.
Even though there was no direct eyewitness testimony concerning the April 6, 1984, distribution, it is clear from the foregoing that the jury could reasonably conclude that Mannello was a participant in that distribution. The jury reasonably could have found that Mannello was involved in light of his prior involvement in other distributions, the direct eyewitness testimony concerning his participation in two relatively contemporaneous and similar distributions, and the testimony concerning the use of the Villa Sorrento as storage facility for the food stamps.
There is thus no merit to defendant's first argument.
Defendant next contends that I erred in refusing to allow government witness John McDonnell to be cross-examined about his alleged status as a Navy deserter. In his post-trial brief, defendant claims that a restriction of this nature deprived him of the ...