U.S. v. MUYABA and MUDEKUNYE, LEXIS 14169 (5TH Cir. 2011)
Defendants and one co-defendant were convicted by a jury in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas of charges stemming from their tax-fraud conspiracy. Defendants appealed an claimed that their Rule 29 motion due to insufficient evidence should have been granted.
When a defendant preserves a sufficiency challenge by moving, pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a), for judgment of acquittal at the close of both the Government's case-in-chief and all the evidence, review is de novo. The verdict will be affirmed if a reasonable trier of fact could conclude from the evidence that the elements of the offense were established beyond a reasonable doubt. All evidence is viewed, and reasonable inferences drawn, in the light most favorable to the verdict. Appellate courts evaluate neither the weight of the evidence nor the credibility of the witnesses. The evidence need not exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence or be wholly inconsistent with every conclusion except that of guilt, and the jury is free to choose among reasonable constructions of the evidence.
The Court found that the evidence established that the Muyaba worked as a tax preparer at a tax preparation company, had a cubicle there, was engaged by many clients when they visited it for tax-filing help, and was one of several of its tax preparers who fraudulently prepared returns. A rational trier of fact could find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Muyaba was part of the conspiracy. Mudekunye argued that the Court should have severed his case from the case of Muyaba. The Court found that no timely motion had been made and that there was no showing of manifest injustice resulted from the two defendants being tried at the same time.
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