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United States v. Patterson

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 2, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JAMES PATTERSON, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge

In November, 2015 Defendant James Patterson (“Patterson” or “defendant”) was tried by a jury on five counts of bank robbery and one count of attempted bank robbery under 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). After the close of the government’s case-in-chief, this Court entered a judgment of acquittal on the attempted bank robbery charge, holding as a matter of law that the government had not presented evidence sufficient to sustain a conviction. The remaining counts of bank robbery were sent to the jury, which convicted Patterson on all five counts. The memorandum that follows explains the reasoning for the Court’s judgment of acquittal on the attempted bank robbery charge.

I. Background

On December 4, 2014 Patterson was indicted on charges related to a string of bank robberies carried out in a number of cities and towns in the greater Boston area between April and July, 2014. Defendant was charged with six counts: 1) robbery of a Beverly Bank branch in Beverly, Massachusetts on April 16, 2014 in the amount of $10, 740; 2) robbery of a People’s United Bank branch in Beverly, Massachusetts on May 10, 2014 in the amount of $5, 936; 3) robbery of a Century Bank branch in Somerville, Massachusetts on June 4, 2014 in the amount of $4, 350; 4) robbery of a South Shore Bank branch in Stoughton, Massachusetts on June 12, 2014 in the amount of $6, 790; 5) robbery of a North Shore Bank branch Salem, Massachusetts on July 20, 2014 in the amount of $7, 055 and 6) attempted robbery of a Century Bank branch in Burlington, Massachusetts on August 4, 2014.

Based on multiple witness reports and surveillance footage of a black Volvo leaving the scene of the robberies, law enforcement officers had identified a car used by Patterson through a license plate search of the Registry of Motor Vehicles database. In late July, 2014 officers obtained a warrant to place a GPS tracking device on the black Volvo. They also obtained a warrant to place a GPS tracking device on another car after officers observed a person remove the license plate from the black Volvo and place it on the second car. The tracking information from those devices led the government to conduct surveillance of Patterson. During one instance of such surveillance on August 4, 2014, the government arrested Patterson as he was in the process of committing the acts for which he was charged with attempted bank robbery.

At trial, the government presented surveillance video from August 4, 2014 showing a person walking up and down a street near a Century Bank branch in Burlington, Massachusetts. The video showed FBI agents in unmarked government vehicles approach the person and arrest him. Testifying FBI agents identified the man they arrested in the video as Patterson. FBI agents also testified that when they arrested Patterson, he was dressed in long pants worn over shorts, long sleeves and transparent latex gloves with his face largely covered by a hat, sunglasses, and something over his mouth. Furthermore, the government presented evidence that FBI agents found a BB gun on Patterson’s person at the time of the arrest.

II. Judgment of Acquittal

A. Legal Standards

a. Judgment of Acquittal

After the close of the government’s evidence and before charges have been submitted to the jury in a criminal proceeding, a court may, on its own motion, determine that the evidence presented is insufficient to sustain a conviction. Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a). Upon such a determination, the court must enter a judgment of acquittal for the relevant offense. Id. “A defendant is entitled to a judgment of acquittal only if ‘the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the government, could not have persuaded any trier of fact of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt’.” United States v. Merlino, 592 F.3d 22, 29 (1st Cir. 2010) (quoting United States v. Bristol- Martir, 570 F.3d 29, 38 (1st Cir. 2009)).

b. Attempted Bank Robbery

Patterson was charged with attempted bank robbery under 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a), which states:

Whoever, by force and violence, or by intimidation, takes, or attempts to take, from the person or presence of another, or obtains or attempts to obtain by extortion any property or money or any other thing of value belonging to, or in the care, custody, control, management, or possession of, any bank, credit union, or any savings and loan association ...

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