United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANT'S
SUPPLEMENTAL MOTION FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL (DKT. NOS.
G. MASTROIANNI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Roeder (“Defendant”), a former police officer,
was charged with violating an arrestee's Fourth Amendment
rights (18 U.S.C. § 242) and falsifying a report about
the incident (18 U.S.C. § 1519). A jury convicted
Defendant of both counts. He subsequently moved for judgment
of acquittal under Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c). (Dkt. No. 157.)
The court treated the motion as seeking additional time to
file a Rule 29 motion so Defendant could have sufficient time
to order and review the trial transcripts. (Dkt. No. 158.)
After having that time, Defendant filed a supplemental Rule
29 motion, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence
underlying both convictions. (Dkt. No. 179.) The government
opposed the motion (Dkt. No. 181), and it is now ripe for
consideration. As explained below, Defendant's motion for
judgment of acquittal will be denied.
Facts and Plausible Inferences in the Light Most Favorable to
was formerly a police officer with the Hadley Police
Department (“HPD”). On March 30, 2017, he was
working a traffic detail in Hadley, Massachusetts where the
town's Department of Public Works (“DPW”) was
trimming trees. Nickolas Peters drove a pickup truck down the
street where the DPW was working and where Defendant was
directing traffic. The side mirror of Mr. Peters' truck
hit Defendant's elbow. According to Edward
Koehler (a DPW worker on the scene), Defendant
yelled at Mr. Peters and grabbed the door of the truck-Mr.
Koehler described Defendant as “hanging on [the]
door” and “banging on the side of the guy's
pickup”-but Mr. Peters accelerated and drove away.
(Jan. 30, 2019 Trial Tr. (Dkt. No. 176) at 9:16-22, 33:3-5.)
Mr. Koehler then heard Defendant say, “I'll get
that fucker. He's a contractor, he'll be coming
through town.” (Id. at 10:8-10; see also
id. at 31:5-12.) Mr. Koehler described Defendant as
being “agitated” and “mad.”
(Id. at 10:20.) Mr. Koehler was taken aback by
Defendant's behavior and had never seen anything like it.
Almost immediately after Mr. Peters drove off, an officer
from a different police department pulled up. Defendant told
the officer he had just been hit by a pickup truck, she
turned on her flashing lights and drove after Mr. Peters, but
she did not find him. Defendant later called Mr.
Koehler's home phone and asked him to come to the police
department to give a statement; Mr. Koehler never did.
April 3, 2017, Defendant was handling traffic enforcement and
saw a pickup truck that resembled the one that had hit him a
few days earlier. As the pickup drove past Defendant, he
recognized its driver as the person who had hit him and had
driven off. Defendant then activated his emergency lights,
followed the pickup, and pulled it over. Defendant told Mr.
Peters he was going to arrest him for what had happened on
March 30, and Defendant called HPD for backup. Defendant
eventually transported Mr. Peters to the police station for
booking. The dispatcher on duty, Richard Downie, testified
that when Defendant arrived at the station, "[h]e seemed
a little anxious, irritated" and "had an angry look
on his face." (Jan. 29, 2019 Trial Tr. (Dkt. No. 168) at
101:5-10; see also Id. at 123:15-16,
and HPD Officer Courtney Call booked Mr. Peters. Two video
cameras captured what happened during the booking process.
Three videos were admitted into evidence at trial: the
footage from the two cameras and a split screen video showing
the footage from both cameras next to each other. (Trial Exs.
1 (video from side of booking area), 4 (split-screen video),
& 12 (video of view from behind booking desk).) Only the
side-view camera recorded audio; that audio plays in both the
side-view and split-view videos. This still from the
split-view shows the perspective of each camera, with the
side-view on the left and the view from behind the booking
desk on the right:
Call photographed Mr. Peters while he was standing against a
wall of the booking area. He then sat on the bench in the
booking area, and she walked out of view of the side camera
and asked him a question. He stood up while answering and
quickly sat back down. As he was sitting down, Defendant
spoke to Mr. Peters, but it is difficult to decipher what
Defendant said. Mr. Peters responded, "Sir, I was asked
a question, okay" and then Mr. Peters twice said,
and Officer Call were behind the booking desk during this
interaction. Defendant came around the booking desk toward
where Mr. Peters sat. While approaching him, Defendant said,
"You're not in charge here, bud." Mr. Peters
replied, "I know I'm not." Mr. Peters was
seated with his hands in his lap; he gestured a few times
while speaking with Defendant:
held handcuffs in his right hand and, with his left hand,
reached for Mr. Peters' right arm and hand:
Defendant reached, Mr. Peters said, "I'm not being
cuffed" and put both hands behind his back, so they were
between his body and the wall behind him. Defendant's
left arm ended up between Mr. Peters' right arm and Mr.
Peters' body so that Defendant's hand was behind Mr.
Peters' back. The handcuffs remained in Defendant's
told Mr. Peters, "You are being cuffed. You are being
cuffed. Release your grasp right now." The next second,
Defendant used his right elbow to strike Mr. Peters in the
striking Mr. Peters, Defendant cuffed Mr. Peters' left
arm to the bar on the wall and left the immediate area.
Officer Call tended to Mr. Peters, whose blood was dripping
from his face onto the bench and floor. Defendant, who had
walked around to the other side of the booking desk, said,
“I just told you, you're not in - I told you stop
resisting.” He asked for a colleague to call EMTs and
continued booking Mr. Peters. After the EMTs arrived,
Defendant told them Mr. Peters “just has a broken
nose.” Mr. Peters was taken to the hospital, diagnosed
with a broken nose, and subsequently underwent surgery to
hours after the incident, Defendant, Officer Call, the
dispatcher (Officer Downie), and Sergeant Ken Hartwright (the
supervisor on duty) watched the video footage of it. Sergeant
Hartwright instructed Defendant to document the incident.
Accordingly, that night, Defendant wrote a police report
about it. HPD Officer Janelle Seitz testified she saw
Defendant typing the report at a computer in the squad room.
He showed her the booking video, which was open in a
minimized window on the computer.
Government charged Defendant with intentionally making four
false statements in his police report:
1. Defendant knowingly falsely wrote that Mr. Peters made an
obscene comment toward Defendant after Mr. Peters had been
instructed to turn his head to ...