United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Virginia M. Kendall United States District Court Judge
August 13, 2014, Defendant John Bills was indicted on twenty
counts for fraudulently causing the City of
Chicago (“City”) to award Redflex Traffic
Systems, Inc. (“Redflex”) a contract for the
installation and operation of red light cameras after he
received bribes and personal benefits from Redflex. (Dkt. No.
156 at ¶ 1; Dkt. No. 164 at 1.) Following a two-week
trial, a jury convicted Bills of all counts of the indictment
on January 26, 2016. (Dkt. 148.) Bills moves for a judgment
of acquittal under Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c) arguing principally
that the evidence presented to the jury was inherently
unreliable. (Id. at 2-4.) Alternatively, Bills
requests a new trial under Fed. R. Crim. P. 33, claiming that
the Court erred by: (1) admitting hearsay testimony regarding
the existence of and Bills’s role in the alleged
conspiracy, and (2) denying Bills’s pre-trial motion to
change venue. (Id. at 4-15.) The Court denies
Bills’s motion because there was more than sufficient
evidence to support the jury’s verdict and the
Court’s previous rulings were supported by the facts
and the law.
Bills is Not Entitled to a Judgment of Acquittal
asserts that he is entitled to a judgment of acquittal
because the evidence presented to the jury was insufficient
to sustain his conviction. He principally contends that the
evidence was inherently unreliable and therefore should have
been disregarded by the Court. See Fed. R. Crim. P.
29. Bills faces “a nearly insurmountable hurdle”
in claiming that the jury had insufficient evidence to
conclude that he was guilty of the charges. See e.g.
United States v. Domnenko, 763 F.3d 768, 772 (7th Cir.
2014) (citing United States v. Torres-Chavez, 744
F.3d 988, 993 (7th Cir. 2014)). Once the Defendant is
convicted, the Court reviews the evidence presented to the
jury in the light most favorable to the Government and makes
all reasonable inferences in the Government’s favor.
See United States v. Cejas, 761 F.3d 717, 726 (7th
Cir. 2014) (citing United States v. Larkins, 83 F.3d
162, 165 (7th Cir. 1996)). The Court may overturn the
jury’s guilty verdict only if upon viewing the evidence
in the light most favorable to the Government, “the
record is devoid of evidence from which a reasonable jury
could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” United
States v. Jones, 713 F.3d 336, 340 (7th Cir. 2013)
(quoting United States v. Stevenson, 680 F.3d 854,
855-56 (7th Cir. 2012)). Finally, “[i]t is up to the
jury to weigh the evidence and determine the credibility of
the witnesses; [courts do] not second-guess the jury's
assessment of the evidence.” United States v.
Rollins, 544 F.3d 820, 835 (7th Cir. 2008).
contends that the Court should grant his motion for judgment
of acquittal because the Government “relied almost
exclusively” on the testimony of three witnesses -
Karen Finley, Martin O’Malley, and Aaron Rosenberg - who
were “inherently unreliable” and whose testimony
“was not supported by anything other than their own
statements or, arguably, documents which support their
version of the events only if [the jury] believe[d] their
interpretations of those documents.” (Dkt. No. 159 at
3-4.) Based upon those allegations, Bills argues that the
Court should have disregarded those witnesses’
testimony and should now enter a judgment of acquittal.
initial point, the Court is obliged to “defer to the
jury’s credibility determinations” and
“cannot second-guess the jury’s determination of
which witnesses were credible and which were not.”
United States v. Graham, 315 F.3d 777, 781 (7th Cir.
2003). Bills’s current arguments that Finley and
Rosenberg “are admitted liars” and that
O’Malley’s story was “largely
unsupported” are essentially requests to this Court to
“reweigh the credibility of the witnesses.”
See, e.g., Myers v. Scales, No. IP 00-0457-C-T/K,
2002 WL 31242735, at *2 (S.D. Ind. Aug. 30, 2002).
“However, it is within the exclusive province of the
jury to judge the facts and the credibility of the
witnesses.” See, e.g., id. at *2; see also
Goodwin v. MTD Products, Inc., 232 F.3d 600, 609 (7th
Cir. 2000) (“Rather, credibility questions are within
the province of the trier of fact, in this case a
jury.’); Hasham v. Ca. State Bd. of
Equalization, 200 F.3d 1035, 1047 (7th Cir.2000)
(“We will not second-guess a jury on credibility
issues.). Given that the Court may not overtake the
jury’s role and reassess witness credibility,
Bills’s contentions are insufficient to meet the nearly
insurmountable hurdle before him.
more, his argument that the testimony should have been
disregarded “because it was not supported by anything
other than their own statements” or the
witnesses’ interpretation of the documentation
presented to the jury is simply contrary to the trial record.
First, the Government presented other witnesses, all of whom
had no previous relationship with Bills, that bolstered the
testimony provided by Finley, Rosenberg, and O’Malley.
For example, Jack Jarzynka testified that he sold his Arizona
condominium to O’Malley through John Bills,
who delivered a check to Jarzynka to place the condominium on
hold even though the eventual HUD 1 Settlement Statement
listed O’Malley and his wife as the borrowers. Jarzynka
testified that he never met O’Malley despite the fact
that O’Malley was listed as the purchaser of the home.
This evidence showed that O’Malley was sending Bills
money that O’Malley received from Redflex to effectuate
Rudis’s testimony was nearly identical. Rudis stated
that Bills paid him $2, 400 for catering Bills’s
daughter’s graduation party through a check that was
written off the account of M.G. O’Malley &
Associates. Just as with Jarzynka, Rudis did not know
O’Malley, had never met O’Malley, and had never
done any business with M.G. O’Malley & Associates.
Michael Noonan’s testimony further bolsters the
testimony of the three principal witnesses. In an identical
vein to that of Jarzynka and Rudis, Noonan testified that
Bills repaid Noonan for monies that Noonan lent to Bills by
providing Noonan with number of separate checks that were
written from the account of M.G. O’Malley &
Associates. Similarly to the other two witnesses, Noonan also
testified that did not know O’Malley, had never met
O’Malley, and had never done business with M.G.
O’Malley & Associates.
this evidence, corroborated and supported
O’Malley’s testimony that he passed along
commissions and bonuses that he received from Redflex to
Bills, allowing Bills to spend thousands of dollars on meals,
vacations, and even another home among other purchases. The
three principal witnesses’ testimony was therefore
corroborated and the circumstantial evidence supported
Bills’s involvement in the conspiracy and the
substantiated the benefits that he derived from that
with the testimony of other witnesses, the Government
presented further evidence in the nature of e-mails, airline
and financial records, and other documentation that
corroborated the testimony of the three main witnesses. For
example, Rosenburg testified that he submitted numerous
expense requests - related to hotel stays, meals, and other
gifts - to Redflex on behalf of John Bills. The jury had the
opportunity to review a number of those expense requests
through the multitude of cash expense statements that the
Government submitted as part of its presentation of evidence.
(See, e.g., Government Trial Exhibit 272.) In all,
Rosenberg submitted expense requests amounting to some $14,
246.17; a number that Rosenburg testified to and the
documentary evidence unequivocally supported. (See
Govt. Tr. Ex. 287.) Moreover, the Government introduced
recorded conversations between Rosenburg and Bills in which
the two clearly discussed airline flights and other benefits
for the latter that were expensed to Redflex. (See
Govt. Tr. Ex. 318.) The Government presented a similar chart
of expenses that O’Malley submitted on Bills’s
behalf between January 2003 and June 2011. (Govt. Tr. Ex.
280.) The jury further heard testimony and reviewed
documentary evidence of a number of other benefits that Bills
received from Redflex through O’Malley. For instance,
the jury heard about and saw a copy of the fax by which
O’Malley transferred his Val Vista membership to Bills
for the Beach Club Village in Arizona within weeks of the
date on which Bills purchased the condominium using documents
that listed O’Malley and his wife as borrowers. (Govt.
Tr. Ex. 202.)
that this evidence is merely a very small proportion of the
substantial amount of evidence that the Government placed
before the jury, and taking all reasonable inferences in the
favor of the Government, it was reasonable that the jury
found Rosenberg, O’Malley, and Finley’s testimony
regarding Bills’s culpability both reliable and
persuasive. Accordingly, the Court denies
Bills’s motion for a judgment of acquittal.
The Court Did Not Err Such that a New Trial is
33(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure states that,
“[u]pon the defendant’s motion, the court may
vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of
justice so requires.” See also United States v.
Berg, 714 F.3d 490, 500 (7th Cir. 2013); United
States v. Smith, 674 F.3d 722, 728 (7th Cir. 2012).
“A defendant is entitled to a new trial if there is a
reasonable possibility that a trial error had a prejudicial
effect upon the jury’s verdict.” United
States v. Van Eyl, 468 F.3d 428, 436 (7th Cir. 2006);
see also United States v. Eberhart, 388 F.3d 1043,
1048 (7th Cir. 2004) (“‘[C]ourts have interpreted
[Rule 33] to require a new trial in the interests of justice
in a variety of situations in which the substantial rights of
the defendant have been jeopardized by errors or omissions
during trial.’”) (quoting United States v.
Kuzniar, 881 F.2d 466, 470 (7th Cir. 1989))),
overruled on other grounds, 546 U.S. 12 (2005).
However, “[a] jury verdict in a criminal case ...