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United States v. Samuels

June 22, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge


A. Introduction and Procedural Background

On December 16, 2004, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Terry Samuels, aided and abetted by Mark Samuels, with possession of a firearm by a previously convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and (2) (See Doc. 1). Terry Samuels plead guilty to the charged offense on August 12, 2005, and was sentenced on November 3, 2005 to 235 months imprisonment.

On October 7, 2005, Mark Samuels (Terry's brother)*fn1 appeared before this Court in order to plea guilty. However, this Court found his plea unacceptable because Mark refused to admit the "possession" requirement of the offense. On January 19, 2006, following a three-day trial, Mark was was found guilty by the jury of aiding and abetting a felon in possession, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).

Following the rendering of the verdict, Mark orally moved for an extension of time in which to file his post-trial motions. This Court granted that motion, and gave him until on or before February 23, 2006 to file post-trial motions (See Doc. 123).

On February 23, 2006, Mark timely filed his motion for a new trial (Doc. 130)and memorandum in support (Doc. 131). On April 7, 2006, the Government filed its response (Doc. 141). On May 4, 2006, this Court held a hearing on this motion, allowing the parties to present argument and additional evidence on these issues (See Doc. 145). Mark's motion for acquittal or new trial having been fully briefed and argued, the Court now rules thereon, beginning with a factual overview and a reference to the legal standards governing his arguments.

B. Summary of Facts

In late September or early October 2004, Stephen Perkins purchased a firearm, a .45 caliber Glock pistol, from his cousin Mark Samuels. At the time Mark sold Perkins this Glock, he showed Perkins another gun, but refused to sell it to Perkins, telling Perkins that this gun was registered to him. Mark kept this gun, an FEG, Model FP9, .9mm semi-automatic pistol, bearing serial number F36780, in his bedroom closet. Perkins, unbeknownst to Mark, subsequently sold the Glock to another person. In early October 2004, Mark began repeatedly calling Perkins' mother and grandmother to reach Perkins so that he could get the Glock back from him. Mark's attempts to reach Perkins were unsuccessful.

On October 13, 2004, Mark contacted his cousin, Katraelyus Franklin, and asked Franklin to take him to find Perkins because Franklin knew where Perkins "hung out." Franklin agreed. Mark arrived to meet Franklin with his two brothers, Terry*fn2 and Marlon Samuels. Mark brought his FEG firearm*fn3 with him.

While searching for Perkins, the four men first went to a house where Perkins was living, but Perkins was leaving as they pulled up. The men then followed Perkins to the County Line Liquor Store in Cahokia, Illinois, and there confronted him.

As this Court and the jury later learned throughout the course of Mark's trial, that meeting marked the beginning of a contemptible set of events that centered on Mark, Terry, and others repeatedly threatening and beating Stephen Perkins, apparently in an attempt to coerce him into returning Mark's gun. In his memorandum in support of the motion presently before the Court, however, Mark asserts that "[t]he only real issue [in the] instant cause [is] whether Mark Samuels aided and abetted Terry Samuel's possession of a firearm" (Doc. 131). Accordingly, this Court will focus on those facts directly relevant to those issues, and need not delineate each sordid detail composing the story of that evening.

At trial, Perkins testified that he saw Mark hand what he believed to be a gun to Terry Samuels as the two men approached him on the parking lot of the liquor store. Specifically, Perkins testified on direct that he "noticed Mark turn around to give Terry the gun when [he] was walking towards them" (Trial Transcript ["T.Tr."], p.8). He further stated, "I watched when Mark pulled up, I watched him go into his pants and pull something out I reflected as a gun, turned around and hand it to [Terry]." Id. at 13. Notably, upon redirect, Stephen Perkins admitted that he did not "see for a fact" what Mark handed to Terry. See id. at 71. Nonetheless, the Government presented a significant amount of additional evidence to corroborate Perkins' belief that what he saw passed from Mark to Terry was in fact a firearm.

For example, the Government presented witness Sagar Gade, the owner of County Line, who testified that he observed this same incident, and saw the butt of a gun protruding from Terry's pocket as he approached Perkins, and witnessed Terry using what appeared to be a gun to lead Perkins into the van.

In addition to Gade's testimony, the Government displayed a surveillance-video recording that twice showed Terry Samuels walking closely behind Perkins, with his arm partially obscured and held to Perkins' back, while leading Perkins both to the side of the building and to the van. The video also displayed that Gade's view of Terry and Perkins as they walked to the side of the building and into the van was relatively unobstructed.

After confronting Perkins at County Line, the four men took him with them in Franklin's van to find Mark's gun, which Perkins had told him was in his cousin's car in Belleville. According to Perkins, while driving to Belleville, he spotted Belleville police officers standing outside a substation. Perkins attempted to signal the officers, but was unable to do so because of the van's tinted windows. According to Perkins' testimony at trial, Terry saw his attempt to signal the police officers and became very angry, striking Perkins several times with his fists and at least once with the gun he had been holding on him.

In addition, according to Perkins' testimony at trial, later on in the evening, when the men noticed the police following them, Mark again gave Terry the FEG -- which Mark had regained possession of -- and told him to "take off" with it. Specifically, Perkins testified, "Mark handed Terry both the gun and told him to take off running" (T. Tr. p. 27). Moreover, during cross examination, counsel for Mark asked Perkins the following question: "Mark hands Terry a gun and tells him to run off with it?" (T.Tr. ...

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