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United States of America v. Amin A. Rashid

October 9, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
AMIN A. RASHID,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rufe, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

On July 12, 2011, the jury in this case found Defendant, Amin Rashid, guilty of nine counts of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, and eight counts of aggravated identity theft in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1). Defendant has filed a Motion for a New Trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33. For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be denied.

I.BACKGROUND

Because the Court summarily denies Defendant's Motion for a New Trial, the Court will provide only the factual and procedural context necessary to explain it's reasoning.

The evidence at trial showed that for a period of about three years, Defendant operated an organization called The Center for Constitutional and Criminal Justice, Inc. ("the Center") using the title "Director of Legal and Political Affairs." Defendant would solicit business by sending letters to potential clients whose homes had been sold at sheriff's sales.*fn1 In exchange for a fee, which appears to have varied in accordance with the means of his clients, Defendant agreed to help clients prevent or reverse sheriff's sales, remain in their homes, and/or recover excess proceeds of the sale of their homes. Defendant would require that clients give him a copy of their driver's license and sign a power of attorney ("POA") giving "Amin A. Rashid and/or The Center for Constitutional and Criminal Justice, Inc." permission to act as their attorney-in-fact for the purpose of reclaiming or redeeming their homes.*fn2

Defendant would manipulate these documents by, for example, changing the name and address on the license but retaining the photograph, license number, and date of birth.*fn3

Defendant would then submit these fraudulent documents to City Line Abstract Company (the company hired by the City of Philadelphia to prepare a distribution policy regarding the payment of excess proceeds resulting from a sheriff's sale), and acquire unclaimed proceeds of sheriff's sales due to the individuals named in the manipulated document. These individuals, however, did not request that Defendant recover sale proceeds on their behalf and, in many instances, pre-deceased by many years the date on which Defendant represented that they had empowered him to recover the proceeds.*fn4

The trial commenced in this case on June 29, 2011. After 6 days of testimony from nearly 40 witnesses, closing statements were made on July 11, 2011. The following morning, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on 9 of the 10 counts of mail fraud, and all 8 counts of identity theft. They found Defendant not guilty on count 10, mail fraud, and count 19, passing an altered postal money order. Defendant thereafter filed several post-trial motions*fn5 including the Motion for a New Trial now before the Court.

II.STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 provides that "[u]pon the defendant's motion, the court may vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires."*fn6

Motions under Rule 33 are "not favored and should be granted sparingly and only in exceptional cases."*fn7 Exceptional cases are those in which errors that occurred during trial, either individually, or in combination, "so infected the jury's deliberations that they had a substantial influence on the outcome of the trial."*fn8

III. Discussion

Defendant raises five arguments in support of his Motion for a New Trail. The Court will address each argument in turn.

A. The Court's Refusal To Take Judicial Notice That Defendant Did Not Continue to Assist Clients Once The Indictment Was Filed Because A Court Order Prevented Him From Doing So Trial was scheduled to commence in this case on June 28, 2011. However, because

Defendant made several motions on the eve of trial, the Court excused the jury panel selected that day, postponing trial for one day to afford Defendant an additional day to prepare for trial, and held argument on the newly-filed motions.*fn9 One such motion Defendant filed on the eve of trial, which the Court addressed during the June 28, 2011 hearing, was Defendant's ...


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