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United States v. Connelly

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 25, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
GEORGE J. CONNELLY, JR. and WILLIAM REIDELL

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL

          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         At the close of the government's case, both defendants moved for a judgment of acquittal under Rule 29 on all counts. I reserved on the issue at that time. Connelly did not put on a case, but Reidell did. At the close of all evidence, both defendants renewed their Rule 29 motions. I again reserved, and the case was submitted to the jury. The jury convicted Connelly on Counts One, Two, and Four of the Indictment and Reidell on Counts One and Two of the Indictment. For the reasons that follow, I DENY the defendants' motions.

         I. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, a “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.” In ruling on Rule 29 motion, a court must “[v]iew[] the evidence in the light most favorable to the government and draw[] all reasonable inferences in support of the jury's verdict . . . [to determine if] a rational trier of fact could have found the elements of the charged crimes proven beyond a reasonable doubt.” U.S. v. Anderson, 747 F.3d 51, 54 (2d Cir. 2014). Because the defendants made their motions at the close of the government's case, at which point I reserved decision, I “must decide the motion on the basis of the evidence at the time the ruling was reserved, ” Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(b), meaning that I will not consider Reidell's testimony for the purposes of these motions.

         II. Discussion

         A. Conspiracy Count

         1. Connelly

         Count One of the Indictment charged Connelly with Conspiracy to Commit Interstate Transport of Stolen Property. Connelly argued that the government had not introduced sufficient evidence for a rational factfinder to find that he had knowledge of the purpose or aims of the conspiracy, namely that the stolen goods were going to be transported outside of Connecticut. But I find that the evidence that Connelly knew both that the property Ace Amusements acquired from “boosters” was stolen and that it would be resold to others outside of Connecticut, when viewed in the light most favorable to the government, was sufficient for a reasonable jury to convict him on this count.

         To prove that Connelly knew these items were stolen, the government introduced evidence that Connelly regularly bought new, in-box items that had various security devices attached, including “spider wrap, ” from sellers he knew or suspected were addicted to drugs and whom he referred to as “boosters” and “junkies.” It also introduced evidence that Connelly removed the security devices from the boxes and, when doing so triggered a loud alarm, smashed the devices with a hammer. There was also evidence that the “boosters” regularly brought the same types of items into the store and routinely accepted one-third of the retail value for these items, which Connelly or Mr. Muzyka paid in cash, before reselling the items for one-half of the retail value.

         To prove that Connelly knew that Reidell and others were reselling these items online- and, therefore, most likely outside of Connecticut-the government introduced evidence that Connelly was present in the store while there was “chatter” among the online resellers about which products were selling well and that he responded by raising the prices that Ace charged the resellers for those items. A reasonable juror could infer from this evidence that such “chatter” was overheard by Connelly and included discussion of online sales-a fact suggesting movement of goods in interstate commerce. The government also introduced evidence that Connelly and Muzyka set aside items in bags or in boxes for large, repeat resellers to pick up, in quantities that suggested the resellers were not personally using the items.

         As the jury was instructed, the knowledge requirement for the conspiracy charge would have been satisfied by proof beyond a reasonable doubt “that the defendant acted with a conscious purpose to avoid learning the truth about the unlawful purpose and acts of the conspiracy.” (ECF No. 130 at 37.) There was evidence that Connelly, after 2010, refused to accept goods with “spider wrap” but that he would accept the same goods when a booster left the store with the “spider-wrapped” item, only to return a few minutes later with the same item but without the “spider wrap.” I find that the government's evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to it, was sufficient for a reasonable jury to find that the knowledge requirement was satisfied, either by actual knowledge or by conscious avoidance, and to convict Connelly on Count One.

         2. Reidell

         Count One of the Indictment also charged Reidell with Conspiracy to Commit Interstate Transport of Stolen Property. I find that the government also introduced sufficient evidence for a rational trier of fact to convict Reidell on this count. First, through Rhieu's testimony, the government introduced Reidell's interview statements. In that interview, Reidell admitted to knowing that the goods that he bought at Ace Amusements were probably stolen. He also admitted that he knew that some of the people who sold goods to Ace were “junkies” or “shoplifters.” Based on that evidence, along with evidence about the frequency with which Reidell visited Ace, his knowledge of its pricing scheme, his online sales of the goods to customers in other states and other countries, communications that he received from IP enforcement personnel of various products as well as online buyers suggesting that the products were stolen, and his continued reselling activity after being interviewed by the FBI, I find that a rational jury could similarly have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Reidell conspired to commit the interstate transport of stolen goods.

         B. Subst ...


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