United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. ELLIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
October 5, 2017, the Government indicted Defendant Terry
Taylor for wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343,
and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 1349. Following a four-day trial, on March 21, 2019, a
jury found Taylor guilty on both counts. Taylor now moves for
a judgment of acquittal, or alternatively, a new trial [114,
115]. In support of a judgment of acquittal, Taylor argues
that he did not have knowledge of or intent to commit wire
fraud and that he could not have reasonably foreseen a wiring
in furtherance of the fraud. In support of a new trial,
Taylor argues that the Court improperly instructed the jury
on aiding-and-abetting liability and deliberate avoidance,
and improperly admitted evidence that Taylor did not file tax
returns during the scheme. Because the Court finds that the
Government introduced sufficient evidence for a jury to find
that Taylor had the requisite intent, the Court denies
Taylor's motion for a judgment of acquittal.
Additionally, the Court denies Taylor's motion for a new
trial because the Court finds that it properly instruct the
jury and admitted evidence of his failure to file tax
Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 allows a defendant to challenge
whether the evidence is “insufficient to sustain a
conviction.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a). “A motion
for acquittal should be granted only where the evidence is
insufficient to sustain a conviction.” United
States v. Kohli, 847 F.3d 483, 489 (7th Cir. 2017)
(citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). The
Court will only overturn the jury's verdict if
“after 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. Wrobel, 841 F.3d 450,
454 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting United States v.
Campbell, 770 F.3d 556, 571-72 (7th Cir. 2014)).
“When a defendant has introduced evidence in his own
defense at trial, we examine the evidence as a whole,
including that presented by the defendant.” United
States v. Wilson, 879 F.3d 795, 802 (7th Cir. 2018).
“When challenging a conviction based on sufficiency of
the evidence, a defendant bears a ‘heavy' burden
that is ‘nearly insurmountable.'”
Kohli, 847 F.3d at 489 (quoting United States v.
Moses, 513 F.3d 727, 733 (7th Cir. 2008)).
Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 allows “a district court
to grant a timely request for a new trial ‘if the
interest of justice so requires.'” United
States v. O'Malley, 833 F.3d 810, 811 (7th Cir.
2016) (quoting Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a)). Courts look at the
weight of the evidence, including the credibility of
witnesses, to determine “whether the verdict is against
the manifest weight of the evidence.” United States
v. Washington, 184 F.3d 653, 657-58 (7th Cir. 1999). The
Court should grant a new trial only if the evidence
“preponderates[s] heavily against the verdict, such
that it would be a miscarriage of justice to let the verdict
stand.” United States v. Swan, 486 F.3d 260,
266 (7th Cir. 2007) (alteration in original) (quoting
United States v. Reed, 875 F.2d 107, 113 (7th Cir.
Judgment of Acquittal
Taylor argues that the Government failed to introduce
sufficient evidence to sustain his two convictions. “To
establish that [Taylor] committed wire fraud, the government
had to prove that: (1) [Taylor] participated in a scheme to
defraud; (2) with intent to defraud; and (3) interstate wires
were used in furtherance of the fraud.” United
States v. Bloom, 846 F.3d 243, 250 (7th Cir. 2017); 18
U.S.C. § 1343. To obtain a conspiracy conviction, the
government must prove that: (1) there was a conspiracy; (2)
Taylor joined the conspiracy with the intent to further it;
and (3) at least one conspirator committed an overt act in
furtherance of the agreement. See United States v.
Dingle, 862 F.3d 607, 614 (7th Cir. 2017).
Taylor's Knowledge and Intent
argues that he did not know a fraud was occurring, and he did
not intend to defraud or knowingly join a conspiracy to
commit fraud. Taylor's argument, however, centers around
the credibility of two Government witnesses: Sharlon Bailes,
Taylor's co-defendant, and Agent Robert Walker. The
issues of witness credibility, the resolution of evidentiary
conflicts, and inferences that the jury could draw from the
evidence presented by the parties, remain in the jury's
exclusive domain and the Court cannot consider them in
considering a sufficiency of the evidence challenge. See
United States v. Pope, 739 F.2d 289, 291 (7th Cir. 1984)
(the jury has the “exclusive authority to assess the
witnesses' credibility, resolve evidentiary conflicts and
draw reasonable inferences from the evidence
the Court must look at the evidence in the light most
favorable to the Government and determine whether it
sufficiently provided a basis for the jury to conclude that
Taylor knew a fraud was occurring, that he intended to
defraud, and that he knowingly joined a conspiracy to commit
fraud. The Court concludes that it did.
Court finds that there was sufficient evidence that the jury
could conclude that Taylor knew about the alleged fraud.
Bailes testified that Taylor owned his own construction
company and did remodeling work for her. Doc. 110 at 69.
Taylor completed a job at her home painting the interior of
the house and Bailes paid him with a check with a check from
Near North, of which only 35% actually paid for Taylor's
labor and costs for the paint job. Id. at 83. The
remaining 65% of the check Taylor split between taxes at 50%
and a payment to his contact at the Currency Exchange to
cover the contact's fee for cashing the check at 15% .
Id. at 83-4. The following week, Bailes gave Taylor
another check written on Near North accounts in response to
Taylor's request that Bailes help him out. Id.
at 85. Bailes testified that Taylor told her that they
didn't have to worry about getting caught because he had
a connection at the Currency Exchange. Id. Taylor
received this check despite having done no work on
Bailes' home or any property associated with Near North
to justify the payment. Id. at 86 -7. In fact,
Taylor never worked as a contractor for a Near North project.
Id. Between 2008 and 2012, Taylor received some Near
North checks from Bailes as "loans" but he never
repaid the money nor received it as compensation for work he
had legitimately done for either Bailes or Near North.
Id. at 88. Additionally, Agent Walker testified that
Taylor admitted he knew cashing the checks was wrong in his
first interview with law enforcement. Doc. 112 at 302.
on this evidence, a jury could reasonably determine that
Taylor knew of the alleged fraud. Taylor accepted these
checks written on Near North accounts in spite of the fact
that he was not a contractor for any Near North project and
at times, in spite of the fact that he had done no work for
Bailes. Taylor told Bailes that they would not have worry
about getting caught because of his contact at the Currency
Exchange to whom he paid a fee each time he cashed a Near
North check. It strains credulity that Taylor would not have
known about the fraud and yet still mention to Bailes that
she did not have to worry about getting caught. Further,
Taylor took checks written on Near North accounts that
contained information about specific properties from Bailes
for work he did not do in response to his request that she
help him out financially. This evidence is sufficient for the
jury to find that Taylor knew of the alleged fraud.
evidence relating to his intent, “[i]ntent to defraud
requires a willful act by the defendant with the specific
intent to deceive or cheat, usually for the purpose of
getting financial gain for one's self or causing
financial loss to another. The intent to defraud may be
established both from circumstantial evidence and inferences
drawn by examining the scheme itself.” United
States v. Domnenko, 763 F.3d 768, 772-73 (7th Cir.
2014). Here, Taylor benefitted financially from scheme to
defraud, receiving money from Bailes for more than the cost
of the work he did for her or at times, for doing no work at
all. With the proceeds from the scheme, he bought a house and
rehabbed it. Doc. 110 at 115-17. He admitted to Agent Walker
that Bailes paid ...