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United States v. Canalichio

United States District Court, Third Circuit

July 8, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DAMION CANALICHIO.

MEMORANDUM

EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, District Judge.

I. BACKGROUND

This matter arose from Damion Canalichio's participation in the affairs of a racketeering enterprise, the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra (LCN) Family, from 1999 to 2012. He was charged by Third Superseding Indictment as follows:

COUNT 1-RICO conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d);
COUNT 47-Illegal electronic gambling device business in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1955 and 2; and
COUNT 49-Illegal sports bookmaking business in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1955(b) and 2.

On May 4, 2012, Defendant pleaded not guilty to all counts. On February 5, 2013, following a three-month trial with six other defendants, a jury returned a verdict convicting Defendant of Count 1 but acquitting on Counts 47 and 49. Defendant now moves for a judgment of acquittal under Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and, alternatively, a new trial under Rule 33.

II. POST-VERDICT MOTIONS

Defendant renews his motion for judgment of acquittal pursuant to Rule 29 that he first raised at the conclusion of the Government's case at trial. He again argues that the evidence against him was insufficient to sustain a conviction for RICO conspiracy. He also brings a motion for a new trial pursuant to Rule 33, arguing that the Court erroneously declined to excuse two jurors who had been exposed to extraneous information. For the following reasons, Defendant's motions will be denied.

A. Legal Standards of Review

In resolving a motion for a judgment of acquittal under Rule 29, the Court views the evidence introduced at trial in the light most favorable to the Government and upholds the jury's verdict so long as any rational trier of fact "could have found proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt based on the available evidence.'" United States v. Claxton , 685 F.3d 300, 305 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting United States v. Brodie , 403 F.3d 123, 133 (3d Cir. 2005)). The Court is required to "afford great deference to, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of, the jury's verdict." United States v. Piekarsky , 687 F.3d 134, 146 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting United States v. Riley , 621 F.3d 312, 329 (3d Cir. 2010)). The Court may not "usurp the role of the jury" by weighing the evidence or assessing the credibility of witnesses. United States v. Brodie , 403 F.3d 123, 133 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing United States v. Jannotti , 673 F.2d 578, 581 (3d Cir. 1982) (en banc); 2A Charles Alan Wright, Peter J. Henning & Sarah N. Welling, Federal Practice & Procedure (Criminal) §467, at 311 (4th ed. 2013)). Thus, the defendant bears an "extremely high" burden when challenging the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a jury verdict, United States v. Iglesias , 535 F.3d 150, 155 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal marks omitted) (quoting United States v. Lore , 430 F.3d 190, 203-04 (3d Cir. 2005)), and the Government "may defeat a sufficiency-of-the-evidence challenge on circumstantial evidence alone." Id. at 156 (citing United States v. Bobb , 471 F.3d 491, 494 (3d Cir. 2006)). A finding of insufficiency should therefore "be confined to cases where the prosecution's failure is clear.'" Smith, 294 F.3d at 477 (quoting United States v. Leon , 739 F.2d 885, 891 (3d Cir. 1984)).

Pursuant to Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Court may grant a new trial "if the interest of justice so requires." Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a). "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. Silveus , 542 F.3d 993, 1004 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting United States v. Johnson , 302 F.3d 139, 150 (3d Cir. 2002). This standard is broader than that for a motion for acquittal under Rule 29; however, a district court may, in its discretion, "order a new trial only if it finds that there is a serious danger that a miscarriage of justice has occurred-that is, that an innocent person has been convicted.'" Silveus , 542 F.3d at 1004-05 (quoting Johnson , 302 F.3d at 150). Where multiple errors are alleged, a new trial may be granted only where the errors, "when combined, so infected the jury's deliberations that they had a substantial influence on the outcome of the trial.'" United States v. Hoffecker , 530 F.3d 137, 168 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting United States v. Copple , 24 F.3d 535, 547 n.17 (3d Cir. 1994)). Consequently, harmless errors that do not deprive the defendant of a fair trial are not a basis for granting a defendant's Rule 33 motion. See Copple , 24 F.3d at 547.

A. Renewed Motion for Judgment of Acquittal Under Rule 29

Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of RICO conspiracy. But the facts established at trial and a review of the relevant case law satisfy the Court ...


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