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United States v. Rainone

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

May 31, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MARIO RAINONE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HARRY D. LEINENWEBER, District Judge.

Before the Court are Defendant Mario Rainone's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal and Motion for a New Trial. For the reasons stated herein, the Defendant's Motions are denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A jury convicted Defendant, Mario Rainone (hereinafter, "Rainone" or the Defendant") of unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) on February 28, 2013. At the trial, the Government presented testimony of various law enforcement officers who testified that a search warrant was obtained and executed for the condominium Rainone was occupying. During the search, officers discovered a.357 caliber revolver in Rainone's night stand and also found Rainone's birth certificate, Illinois identification card, and other personal effects in or near the same night stand.

The Government also provided testimony from Michelle Cozzo ("Cozzo"), the owner of the condominium, during its case-in-chief. Cozzo testified that she allowed Rainone to live at the condominium and that he stayed in the bedroom where officers discovered the firearm.

Bryan Thalia ("Thalia"), the owner of the firearm, also testified. He stated that his firearm was stolen from his residence in the fall of 2008, and stated that he did not know Rainone and had never been to the condominium from which the firearm was recovered.

The jury convicted Rainone on February 28, 2013. On March 29, 2013, he filed the instant Motion seeking a judgment of acquittal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, or in the alternative a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Defendant's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal

In relevant part, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 provides that "the court on the defendant's motion must enter a judgment of acquittal of any offense for which the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction." FED. R. CRIM. P. 29(a). A defendant that requests a judgment of acquittal under Rule 29, "faces a nearly insurmountable hurdle [because]... [the court] consider[s] the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, defer[s] to the credibility determinations of the jury, and overturn[s] a verdict only when the record contains no evidence, regardless of how it is weighed, from which the jury could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." United States v. Blassingame, 197 F.3d 271, 284 (7th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted).

Defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). As a result of the stipulations between the Government and Defendant prior to trial, the only contested fact was whether Rainone legally possessed the firearm in question.

Rainone argues that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to conclude he possessed the firearm. He bases this claim on the fact that he had been in custody the day before officers executed the search warrant and recovered the firearm. Rainone contends that since the Government failed to maintain continuous surveillance of the condominium, it is impossible to know who was at the condominium the day before the warrant was executed, and therefore impossible to know whether the firearm was in fact in someone else's possession. He also argues that the Government failed to provide testimony that the firearm was in the condominium at the time of his arrest. He claims these facts make it so a rational jury could not find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court disagrees.

Possession of a firearm may be actual or constructive. United States v. Kitchen, 57 F.3d 516, 520 (7th Cir. 1995). Constructive possession is "when a person does not have actual possession but instead knowingly has the power and the intention at a given time to exercise dominion and control over an object, either directly or through others..." Id.

Reviewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the Government, the Court finds sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict. Cozzo testified that Defendant occupied the room where officers discovered the firearm. The night stand in which the firearm was recovered was within arms' reach of Rainone's bed and also had several of his personal effects located in it. Furthermore, the owner of the firearm testified that it was not inadvertently left in Rainone's bedroom. Based on this evidence, the Court finds it reasonable for a jury to infer that Defendant had constructive possession of the firearm. See United States v. Alanis, 265 F.3d 576, 592 (7th Cir. 2001) (affirming a defendant's conviction for illegal possession ...


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