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United States v. Edgeworth

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

April 20, 2017




         After a jury trial, Defendant Alvin Edgeworth ("Defendant") was convicted of brandishing a firearm in the commission of a bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) and 2113(a), respectively. Before the Court is Defendant's post-trial motion filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 29 and 33. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In the early afternoon on January 9, 2015, the Belmont Bank & Trust's downtown location was robbed. The robber walked into the branch location wearing a yellow construction hat, an orange neck warmer wrapped around his face and nose, an orange safety vest, a grey sweatshirt, and carrying a bag. The robber approached a teller, pointed the barrel of a handgun in the teller's direction, and made a verbal demand for money followed by a verbal threat. The teller responded by removing a few bundles of cash, which included a GPS tracking device, from his teller drawer and handing it to the masked robber standing about three feet away. The robber put the cash, which totaled about $3, 000, and his handgun in his bag and walked out of the store. These events were captured on a security camera located a few feet above the teller's banking station. Although the robber's face was not directly visible from the viewpoint of the camera, the gun and the robbery were clearly recorded.

         After the robber left, the teller called 911, and the branch manager pushed the bank alarm. Local and federal law enforcement responded almost immediately, and within ten minutes, a person matching the teller's description of the robber was located running south on State Street. Law enforcement's pursuit of the individual led to an underground train platform, where the individual attempted to flee via the train tracks. Law enforcement apprehended the individual on the train tracks, returned him safely to the platform, and performed a search incident to his arrest. Law enforcement recovered a loaded revolver from the individual's waistband. In the individual's bag were the bank's stolen money, the bank's GPS tracker, and the construction outfit that matched the teller's description. The individual identified himself as Alvin Edgeworth, the Defendant.

         Soon after Defendant was in custody, law enforcement returned to the Belmont Bank with him. The teller confirmed that Defendant matched the height, weight, gender, and race of the robber. Because the perpetrator covered his face with the orange neck warmer during the robbery, the teller could not identify Defendant by his facial features. The teller did confirm, however, that the construction clothes found in Defendant's bag exactly matched those worn by the robber.

         After Defendant was identified as the bank robber, law enforcement took him to the station for booking. Law enforcement reviewed photographs contained in their internal databases and confirmed that Defendant was in fact Alvin Edgeworth. Law enforcement then questioned Defendant without the presence of an attorney about the robbery. He provided a voluntary, recorded statement admitting to the bank robbery. Defendant divulged that he had slept on a park bench the night prior to the robbery, and he needed money, so he acquired a gun and went to the bank to make the illegal withdrawal.

         At trial, the government presented testimony from the Belmont Bank teller, the branch manager, and the arresting officer. The government also presented surveillance footage of the robbery and a recording of Defendant's post-arrest statement. In addition to the witnesses' testimony and the video recordings regarding the robbery-related events, the government presented testimony from three experts to corroborate that Defendant was in fact the perpetrator. A DNA expert testified that she conducted a test of the orange neck warmer, and it contained Defendant's DNA. The neck warmer also contained the DNA of three other people, but the majority of the recovered DNA matched Defendant's. A different expert witness gave testimony about how GPS trackers generally function and the actual location results obtained from the specific GPS tracker given to the bank robber that day. The location results matched where Defendant was first observed by police, the route he fled, and where he was ultimately apprehended. A forensic examiner also testified; he conducted an analysis of a shoe print obtained from the bank, and the results matched the shoe worn by Defendant when he was arrested. The government did not present any fingerprint evidence.

         Defendant exercised his constitutional right to remain silent at trial, did not present any witnesses, and did not provide any documentary or video evidence of his own. His defense, presented by cross-examination and argument by counsel, was simply that the government had the wrong man. After a three-day trial, the jury quickly returned a verdict finding Defendant guilty of bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and guilty of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). Now before the Court is Defendant's post-trial motion requesting an acquittal based on the insufficiency of the evidence or a new trial based on a manifest injustice.


         A. Defendant's Rule 29 Argument.

         1. The Standard of Decision for a Rule 29 Motion.

         When reviewing a defendant's claim that there was not enough evidence to support his or her conviction, the Court "view[s] the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, " meaning that all reasonable inferences are construed in the prosecution's favor. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979); see also United States v. Peterson, 823 F.3d 1113, 1120 (7th Cir. 2016). The Court has "no authority to usurp the jury's function as finder of fact." United States v. Tavarez, 626 F.3d 902, 906 (7th Cir. 2010). This means that the Court will not disturb the jury's conviction if it finds that "any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319 (emphasis in original).

         2. The Government Presented Sufficient Evidence to Convict ...

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