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United States v. Eiland

November 27, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge



This matter comes before the Court on the post-trial motions of three defendants in the second trial group: Gerald W. Eiland ("Eiland"), Frederick A. "Toby" Miller ("Miller"), and Alvin Gaskins ("Gaskins"). Following a lengthy trial and 14-day jury deliberation, the jury reached a unanimous guilty verdict as to each of the three above-named defendants.*fn1 Defendant Eiland was found guilty of Narcotics Conspiracy, RICO Conspiracy, Continuing Criminal Enterprise, attempted possession with intent to distribute heroin, and three counts of unlawful use of a communication facility. Defendant Miller was found guilty of Narcotics Conspiracy, RICO Conspiracy, Continuing Criminal Enterprise, attempted possession with intent to distribute heroin, and three counts of unlawful use of a communication facility. Defendant Gaskins was found guilty of Narcotics Conspiracy.

After trial, defendants each moved the Court within seven days for an extension of time to file post-trial motions. The Court granted each defendant a thirty day extension within which to file their respective post-trial motions. The defendants each timely filed motions seeking a judgment of acquittal, or in the alternative, a new trial. Defendant Eiland filed on January 1, 2007 his Motion [910] for a Post-Trial Judgment of Acquittal or Alternatively for a New Trial. Defendant Miller filed on January 5, 2007 his Motion [911] for Judgment of Acquittal and/or Request for a New Trial. Defendant Gaskins filed on December 31, 2006 his Motion [909] for Judgment of Acquittal and Alternate Motion for a New Trial.

Upon a thorough review of each party's filings, the applicable law, and the entire record herein, this Court has determined that all of the defendants' motions [909, 910, 911] for acquittal or for a new trial shall be DENIED.


I. Legal Standard

A. Motion for Acquittal

A motion for acquittal filed after the jury has returned a guilty verdict asks the Court to set aside the verdict and enter a judgment of acquittal. FED. R. CRIM. P. 29. In reviewing a motion for judgment of acquittal, the Court must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, giving it the benefit of all reasonable inferences. See United States v. Singleton, 702 F.2d 1159, 1163 (D.C. Cir. 1983); see also United States v. Fennell, 53 F.3d 1296, 1298 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (providing for the deferential review of jury verdicts); United States v. Long, 905 F.2d 1572, 1576 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (noting that "a jury is entitled to draw a vast range of reasonable inferences from evidence"). Accordingly, motions for judgment of acquittal are granted on the basis of insufficient evidence only if the court concludes, as a matter of law, that no reasonable juror could have convicted the defendant based on the evidence presented. See United States v. Weisz, 718 F.2d 413, 438 (D.C. Cir. 1983) ("[A] judgment of acquittal is appropriate only when there is no evidence upon which a reasonable juror might fairly conclude guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.") (citing United States v. Reese, 561 F.2d 894, 898 (D.C. Cir. 1977)).

B. Motion for New Trial

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 provides 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." Fed. R. Crim. P. 33. Generally, any such motion must be filed within seven days of the verdict unless otherwise specified by the Court. FED. R. CRIM. P. 33(b)(2).

The decision of whether to grant a motion for a new trial is "committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge." Reese, 561 F.2d at 902. Such a decision is subject to reversal "only for abuse of discretion or misapplication of the law." Id. The defendant bears the burden of showing that a new trial would be in the "interest of justice." Id. Furthermore, even if the defendant demonstrates that an error occurred, a new trial is not warranted unless the defendant shows that the error influenced the jury to such a degree that a substantial right of the defendant was affected. See FED. R. CRIM. P. 52(a) (describing harmless error provision that "any error, defect, irregularity or variance which does not affect substantial rights shall be disregarded"); Kotteakos v. United States, 328 U.S. 750, 757 (1946) (noting that the harmless error provision restates existing law that technical errors, defects, or exceptions that do not affect the substantial rights of the parties are not grounds for reversal).

Having carefully considered defendants' arguments, this Court finds that defendants fail to carry their burden under either standard and accordingly are entitled to neither judgments of acquittal nor new trials. None of the defendants has successfully demonstrated that any errors occurred; even if errors had occurred, defendants failed to show that the errors affected any substantial right of the defendants. Each motion will be discussed separately.

II. Defendant Gerald Eiland's Motion [909] for Acquittal or Alternatively for a New Trial

In his motion, defendant Eiland argues that his conviction of participation in a single conspiracy was insufficiently supported by the evidence, and that a "fatal variance" existed between the evidence shown at trial and the indictment. (Eiland Mot. [910] 1-2.) Specifically, defendant Eiland contends that the evidence introduced by federal prosecutors at trial showed that defendant Eiland participated in multiple independent conspiracies, as opposed to a single overarching conspiracy, as alleged within the indictment. (Id.) Further, defendant Eiland maintains that he was substantially prejudiced by this variance, on the grounds that the "transference of guilt that necessarily followed by the government's ability to introduce evidence from the various multiple conspiracies that would have been inadmissible as mere propensity evidence and not validly admissible under any valid FRE 404(b) theory." (Id. at 4.)

The government counters that no such variance exists in this case. The government argues instead that the evidence clearly establishes that the drug conspiracy at issue in this case was a classic "chain conspiracy," in which each conspirator performed particular interdependent roles in furthering the conspiracy and its goals. (See Gov.'s Opp. Mot. [956] 9.)

Under the law of this Circuit, "[a] variance between the allegations of the indictment and the proof at trial constitutes grounds for reversal only if the [defendant] proves (1) that the evidence at trial established facts materially variant from those alleged in the indictment, and (2) that the variance caused substantial prejudice." United States v. Tarantino, 846 F.2d 1384, 1391 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (internal citations omitted). Within the context of a conspiracy prosecution, the defendant bears the burden of proving two elements: "(1) that the evidence established the existence of multiple conspiracies, rather than the one conspiracy alleged in the indictment, and (2) that because of the multiplicity of defendants and conspiracies, the jury was substantially likely to transfer evidence from one conspiracy to a defendant involved in another." Id. (internal citation omitted). A defendant must prove both elements in order to be entitled to relief.*fn2 For the following reasons, the Court finds that defendant Eiland has not proven either element in this case.

A. Sufficiency of Evidence of a Single Narcotics Chain Conspiracy

In order to determine whether the evidence at trial established a single chain conspiracy or multiple independent conspiracies, the Court must consider a variety of factors. First, and most important, is "whether the conspirators share a common goal, such as the possession and distribution of narcotics for profit." Tarantino, 846 F.2d at 1393 (internal citations omitted). Second, the Court must consider the degree of dependence among the co-conspirators.*fn3 Id. (internal citations omitted). Third, and least significant, is whether there exists any "overlap of participants in the various operations claimed to comprise a single conspiracy." Id. 1393 (internal citation omitted). When considering each of these factors, the Court must also be mindful of the longstanding precedent that "participants in a continuous drug distribution enterprise can be parties to a single conspiracy even if they do not all know one another, so long as [the evidence shows that] each knows that his own role in the distribution of drugs and the benefits he derives from his participation depend on the activities of the others." United States v. Childress, 58 F.3d 693, 709--10 (D.C. Cir. 1995). Upon consideration of the evidence presented at trial against defendant Eiland, the government has more than ably established that a single conspiracy existed, and that defendant Eiland was an integral participant of this overarching conspiracy.

1. Evidence Shows Conspirators Shared A Common Goal

First, the evidence shows that the conspirators shared a common goal of distributing mass quantities of drugs for profit in the Washington, D.C. area. As joint heads of the conspiracy, defendants Eiland and Miller gained nearly $20,000 each week from the sale of drugs. (Trial Tr., 44, Oct. 19, 2006, p.m.) Darius Ames, a participant in the conspiracy, testified that, on one occasion, he used a money-counting machine to help Eiland count almost $800,000 in money located in a stash house used by Eiland, Miller and Ames. (Trial Tr., 47-48, Oct. 4, 2006, p.m.) Ames also testified that, on another occasion, he delivered a shoe box containing $90,000 from defendant Miller to defendant Eiland. (Id. at 58.) Further, defendants Eiland and Miller used much of this revenue obtained from their narcotics activity in order to purchase an additional supply of drugs and to pay other members of the conspiracy. (Trial Tr., 74-75, Oct. 10, 2006, p.m.)

In addition to defendants Eiland and Miller, other members of the conspiracy profited from the sale of drugs that were sold by the enterprise. For example, Timothy Thomas combined his money with money from defendant Eiland in order to purchase five kilograms of cocaine in Phoenix, Arizona, worth $50,000.*fn4 (Trial Tr., 74-76, Oct. 10, 2006.) As his consensual phone calls with Tyrone Thomas indicate, defendant Timothy Thomas stated that he hoped this investment in cocaine would yield an additional $50,000 in personal profit once the cocaine was sold on the street in the Washington, D.C. area. (Consensual Phone Calls T-40, T-44.) Additionally, defendant Miller offered to pay Tyrone Thomas to transport by Lincoln Town Car the $50,000 in cash belonging to defendants Timothy Thomas and Eiland to Phoenix, Arizona, and to return to Washington, D.C. with the five kilograms of cocaine to be purchased by defendant Eiland.*fn5 (Trial Tr., 72-76, Oct. 10, 2006, p.m.) Moreover, both Darius Ames and James Ingram were paid between $4,000 and $6,000 to fly with defendant Eiland to Phoenix, Arizona, so that they might smuggle heroin back into the Washington, D.C. area. (Trial Tr., 59, Oct. 4, 2006, p.m.)

In addition to his services in smuggling heroin from Phoenix, Arizona to Washington, D.C., Darius Ames was paid between $500 and $1000 each week for processing the smuggled raw heroin into street-level heroin. (Id. at 26-31.) As a lieutenant, Ricky Gore earned between $8,000 and $10,000 a week delivering drugs from defendant Eiland to street-level dealers, and returning the money from the street-level dealers to defendant Eiland. (Trial Tr., 28, 32, 37, 43, Oct. 19, 2006, p.m.) Charles Brown, another participant in the conspiracy, was paid by defendant Miller to accept a package of drugs delivered to Brown's residence. (Trial Tr., 32, Oct. 18, 2006.) Finally, Brian Lipscombe, a hired hitman for the enterprise, was ...

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