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U.S. v. PATEL

United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division


January 14, 2003

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
NIRALI PATEL

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. Manning, United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Defendant Nirali Patel was indicted on charges of: (1) bank robbery by force, violence and intimidation (Count I), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and 2; and (2) bank fraud (Count II), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344 and 2. The present matter comes before this Court on Patel's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29.

BACKGROUND*fn1

This case has been tried twice and has resulted in two mistrials. Initially, after pleading guilty to the bank fraud count, Patel proceeded to trial on Count I. At trial, Naperville detective Cammiso testified that Patel confessed to him and FBI special agent Fragomeli. The Government also presented evidence that Patel allegedly violated internal bank procedures to ensure that there was more money than usual in the bank on the day of the robbery. Patel, in turn, testified that she did not confess to the robbery. Agent Fragomeli did not testify. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, and this Court declared a mistrial.

After this Court denied her motion for judgment of acquittal, Patel moved to suppress her alleged confession to the bank robbery, which this Court likewise denied. Thereafter, Patel went to trial a second time. At the second trial, both detective Cammiso and agent Fragomeli testified that Patel confessed to the robbery. On cross-examination, however, Patel's attorney was able to point out glaring inconsistencies in the versions of the alleged confession. Patel exercised her Fifth Amendment right and did not testify at the second trial. As in the first trial, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, and this Court declared a mistrial.

Patel now comes before this Court seeking a judgment of acquittal.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, a court may acquit a defendant on "one or more offenses charged in the indictment or information after the evidence on either side is closed if the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction of such offense or offenses." When reviewing a motion for judgment of acquittal pursuant to Rule 29, the Seventh Circuit mandates that the district court determine:

whether at the time of the motion there was relevant evidence from which the jury could reasonably find [the defendants] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government bearing in mind that it is the exclusive function of the jury to determine the credibility of witnesses, resolve evidentiary conflicts, and draw reasonable inferences.
United States v. Reed, 875 F.2d 107, 111 (7th Cir. 1989). In short, the court views all the evidence in the Government's favor and is absolutely barred from second-guessing the jury's credibility determinations or findings of fact. Id. Instead, the court merely assesses the record to determine if all the admissible evidence supports the defendants' adjudication of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.

ANALYSIS

Patel contends that this Court should enter a judgment of acquittal because there is "no reasonable scenario in which [she] can be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." While this Court recognizes that a jury might never be able to come to a unanimous verdict, the Court finds that viewing the evidence in favor of the Government, as this Court is required to do, that there is sufficient evidence, albeit not very strong, that would allow a jury to find Patel guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Under section 2113(a) (the criminal statute under which Patel is charged), a person is guilty of bank robbery, where that person "by force and violence, or by intimidation, takes, or attempts to take, . . . money . . . in the care, custody, control, management, or possession of, any bank . . ." Here, at the second trial, detective Cammiso and agent Fragomeli testified that Patel confessed to the bank robbery. On cross-examination, however, Patel's attorney pointed out glaring inconsistencies in the versions of the alleged confession.

Although two juries have failed to reach a unanimous verdict and the Government's two main witnesses contradicted each other on several material points, as explained above, it is the exclusive function of the jury to determine the credibility of the witnesses. Therefore, while this Court finds the Government's witnesses lacking in credibility, viewing the evidence in favor of the Government, this Court finds that there was sufficient evidence for jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Patel committed bank robbery in violation of section 2113(a). Accordingly, the Court DENIES Patel's motion.

CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth above, the Court DENIES Defendant Patel's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal [78-1].


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