Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Mendoza

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 21, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
RUDY MENDOZA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

         Presently before me is the Motion for New Trial and Judgment of Acquittal (Doc. 95) filed by Defendant Rudy Mendoza (“Mr. Mendoza”). Following a three-day trial in this Court, a jury found Mr. Mendoza guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to do bodily harm and knowingly possessing a prohibited object, but not guilty of conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to do bodily harm. Mr. Mendoza now seeks post-trial relief. Specifically, Mr. Mendoza contends that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of those charges and that the jury's verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence. For the reasons that follow, Mr. Mendoza's post-trial motion will be denied.

         I. Background

         By way of Indictment dated April 10, 2018, Mr. Mendoza and co-Defendant Jesus Chavez (“Mr. Chavez”) were charged with assault with a dangerous weapon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(3) (Count 1) and possession of a prohibited object (a shank) in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1791(a)(2) (Count 2). (See Doc. 1, generally). A Superseding Indictment was subsequently returned by the Grand Jury on April 23, 2019. (See Doc. 39, generally). Therein, Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Chavez were again charged with assault with a dangerous weapon (Count 2) and possession of a prohibited object (Count 3), as well as conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Count 1). (See id.).

         The charges related to an incident that occurred on June 17, 2017 in Mr. Mendoza's cell at the United States Penitentiary (“USP”) Canaan. Specifically, as shown on video presented at trial, the incident began when Rogelio Rojas-Flores (“Mr. Rojas-Flores”) approached, uninjured, and entered Mr. Mendoza's cell, which was on the second floor. Mr. Mendoza entered the cell as well, and shortly thereafter he closed the cell door. Mr. Chavez proceeded towards the cell door, where he stood for a few minutes before entering the cell. While the inside of the cell was not shown on video, rapid movements could be seen through the cell door window. Several minutes passed before Mr. Chavez and Mr. Mendoza exited the cell. Mr. Rojas-Flores then exited bloodied and injured with numerous stab wounds. Mr. Mendoza's cell was covered in blood and a shank was located in the toilet therein.

         At trial, the Government presented video surveillance from various camera angles of the cellblock, as well as the testimony of several prison employees. Correction Officer Nicholas Altofer testified that he was one of two officers assigned to the cellblock containing Mr. Mendoza's cell at the time of the incident. C.O. Altofer testified that he was patrolling the lower floor when he heard noise from the upper unit. After climbing the stairs, C.O. Altofer observed Mr. Mendoza covered in water as though he just washed himself. Mr. Mendoza was shirtless as he walked away from his cell, but he was in the process of putting on a fresh shirt. C.O. Altofer also testified to encountering Mr. Rojas-Flores as he left the cell.

         Special Investigative Technician James Graeber also testified at trial. Specifically, S.I. Tech Graeber testified that he photographed Mr. Mendoza's cell, and that he retrieved bloody clothing and the shank from the cell.

         Emergency Medical Technician Michael Kabonick testified that he examined Mr. Mendoza, Mr. Chavez, and Mr. Rojas-Flores after the incident. As to Mr. Mendoza, he had injuries on his right hand and thumb which EMT Kabonick said were consistent with gripping an object. EMT Kabonick also testified that he treated Mr. Rojas-Flores, who was sent to an outside medical facility for treatment for puncture and laceration wounds.

         Testimony was also presented at trial that following this incident, the shank that was found in Mr. Mendoza's cell was lost by the Bureau of Prisons. Additionally, Mr. Rojas-Flores was deported prior to trial.

         Before trial, Mr. Mendoza moved for the termination of his counsel and to proceed pro se. (See Doc. 54, generally). Following a hearing, Mr. Mendoza's motion to proceed pro se was granted, but stand-by counsel was appointed for trial purposes. (See Doc. 64, generally).

         On June 26, 2019, a jury found Mr. Mendoza guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon and knowingly possessing a prohibited object, but not guilty of the conspiracy charge. (See Doc. 81, generally). Following the verdict, counsel was appointed for Mr. Mendoza for all future proceedings. (See Doc. 88, generally). Mr. Mendoza then filed the instant motion for new trial and judgment of acquittal. (See Doc. 93, generally; Doc. 95, generally). Mr. Mendoza's post-trial motion is now ripe for disposition.

         II. Discussion

         Mr. Mendoza, as stated, seeks a new trial and a judgment of acquittal. I will address his request for judgment of acquittal first.

         A. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.