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United States v. Almeida-Olivas

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 1, 2017

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Jose Federico Almeida-Olivas Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: June 9, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Kansas City

          Before LOKEN, MURPHY, and MELLOY, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM.

         Jose Federico Almeida-Olivas was involved in the distribution of methamphetamine in the Kansas City, Missouri area. He was charged with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture containing methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A), 846, and use of a communication device to facilitate the distribution of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b), (d). After all the evidence was presented, Almeida-Olivas moved for judgment of acquittal. The district court[1] denied the motion and the jury convicted him of both counts. Almeida-Olivas appeals and we affirm.

         I.

         In March 2010, Department of Homeland Security agents in the Kansas City, Missouri area began investigating a drug trafficking organization. During the investigation, agents conducted surveillance and obtained court approval for a series of Title III wiretaps. Through the investigation, agents identified 31 individuals involved in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. In March 2012, those 31 individuals were charged with conspiracy. However, due to confusion over Almeida-Olivas's identity based on an informant's misidentification of Almeida-Olivas as his brother, Jesus, Almeida-Olivas was not charged. Those 31 individuals pleaded guilty.

         After it became clear that Almeida-Olivas was not his brother, a two-count indictment charged him with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture containing methamphetamine and use of a communication device, a telephone, to facilitate the distribution of methamphetamine. Almeida-Olivas was tried before a jury. At the close of evidence, Almeida-Olivas moved for a judgment of acquittal. The district court denied the motion. Almeida-Olivas also requested a lesser-included-offense jury instruction that would permit the jury to find him guilty of conspiracy to distribute "500 grams or more or less" of methamphetamine. The district court rejected the request "on the basis that if the jury can't find 500 grams the way its been charged, then they've got to find him not guilty."

          The jury convicted Almeida-Olivas of both counts. The district court sentenced him to 210 months on the conspiracy count and 48 months on the use of a telephone count, to be served consecutively. Almeida-Olivas appeals.

         II.

         Almeida-Olivas argues that the district court erred by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal and by refusing his request for a lesser-included-offense jury instruction.

         A.

         "In reviewing the denial of a motion for a judgment of acquittal, we review the sufficiency of the evidence de novo, evaluating the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and drawing all reasonable inferences in its favor." United States v. Wright, 739 F.3d 1160, 1167 (8th Cir. 2014). "[T]he court will not disturb the conviction unless 'no reasonable jury could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.'" Id. (quoting United States v. Serrano-Lopez, 366 F.3d 628, 634 (8th Cir. 2004)). "[I]t is not necessary for the evidence before the jury to rule out every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. It is enough if the entire body of evidence be sufficient ...


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