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United States v. Turnbull

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 20, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
KETTLY BIEN-AIME TURNBULL, Defendant

MEMORANDUM

JAMES M. MUNLEY, District Judge.

Before the court for disposition is the nonjury criminal trial of Defendant Kettly Bien-Aime Turnbull (hereinafter "defendant"). (Docs. 43, 44). For the following reasons, the court will find the defendant not guilty on all counts.

Background

Defendant was indicted by a Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on May 3, 2012.[1] (Doc. 1). Defendant was charged with two (2) counts of importing counterfeit goods in contravention of 18 U.S.C. § 545, and seven (7) counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2320(a)(1). (Id.)

Defendant filed an unopposed motion to transfer venue to the Middle District of Pennsylvania, which was granted on February 22, 2013. (Doc. 7). Prior to the start of trial, the defendant filed a concurred motion for waiver of a jury trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 23(a)(1)-(3). (Doc. 32). The court approved defendant's waiver (Doc. 33) and conducted a nonjury trial on November 7-8, 2013 (Docs. 43, 44).

At trial, both parties were represented by counsel who presented and argued the issues skillfully and effectively. The government presented seven (7) witnesses: United States Department of Homeland Security (hereinafter "DHS") agent Louise Kennedy; United States Customs and Border Protection (hereinafter "CBP") Officer Michael McKoy; CBP Officer Mary Steinlauf; CBP Officer John Grannis; Jessica Haugen, a legal coordinator with Gucci America, Inc.; and Melissa Roth, director of brand protection for Burberry, Ltd. James McCully was the defendant's sole witness.

At the trial's conclusion, the court directed the parties to submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law with citations to the record. (Docs. 45, 46). Having received the parties post-trial submissions, the matter is ripe for disposition.

Legal Standard

In a nonjury trial, the trial judge is the finder of fact and must find the defendant guilty or not guilty. FED. R. CRIM P. 23(c). For the court to find the defendant guilty of the offenses charged, the government must convince the court that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. THIRD CIRCUIT MODEL JURY INSTRUCTIONS 3.06 (2012). This means that the government must establish each and every element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Id .; United States v. Caraballo-Rodriguez, 726 F.3d 418, 425 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). It may do so with direct or circumstantial evidence. United States v. Bordie , 403 F.3d 123, 134 (3d Cir. 2005). "Circumstantial inferences drawn from the evidence must bear a logical or convincing connection to established fact.'" Caraballo-Rodriguez, 405 F.3d at 425 (quoting United States v. Cartwright , 359 F.3d 281, 291 (3d Cir. 2004)). "A defendant may not be convicted based on suspicion or conjecture, but only on evidence proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." THIRD CIRCUIT MODEL JURY INSTRUCTIONS 3.06 (2012). The Third Circuit Model Jury Instructions further provide that:

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond all possible doubt or to a mathematical certainty. Possible doubts or doubts based on conjecture, speculation, or hunch are not reasonable doubts. A reasonable doubt is a fair doubt based on reason, logic, common sense, or experience. It is a doubt that an ordinary reasonable person has after carefully weighing all of the evidence, and is a doubt of the sort that would cause him or her to hesitate to act in matters of importance in his or her own life. It may arise from the evidence, or from the lack of evidence, or from the nature of the evidence.
If, having heard all the evidence, the court is convinced that the government proved each and every element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, [the court should find the defendant] guilty for that offense. However, if [the court has] a reasonable doubt about one or more of the elements of the offense charged, the [the court] must [find the defendant] not guilty of that offense.

Id.

Findings of Fact[2]

Recorded and issued here, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 23(c), are the relevant and material facts found specifically from the record beyond a reasonable doubt.

A. Defendant's return from China on October 25, 2010

On October 25, 2010, the defendant was working as a flight attendant returning from Beijing, China to Dulles International Airport. (Doc. 43, Notes of Testimony (hereinafter "N.T.") 11/7/13 at 7; Doc. 44, N.T. 11/8/13 at 45). The defendant purchased handbags in China, which she stated on her customs declaration were for personal use and had a value of $400. (Doc. 43, N.T. 11/7/13 at 46, 119-120; Doc. 44, N.T. 11/8/13 at 46-47, 62). After closer examination at customs, CBP Officer Michael McKoy determined that the defendant's handbags were "commercial merchandise for sale" with an approximate value of $3, 000.[3] (Doc. 43, N.T. 11/7/13 at 121-24). Accordingly, Officer McKoy seized the defendant's handbags and sent them to a separate CBP department to determine whether or not the handbags were for commercial sale. (Id. at 124-26).

On October 26, 2010, the defendant returned to Dulles International Airport to reclaim her handbags. (Doc. 44, N.T. 11/8/13 at 49). The defendant provided CBP officers with receipts establishing the value of the handbags at $400. (Id. at 49-50, 76). As such, ...


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