Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

June 11, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERMAN JOHNSON, JR. and SARKIS LABACHYAN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Robert F. Rossiter, Jr. United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on defendant Sarkis Labachyan's (“Labachyan”) Motion for a Judgment of Acquittal (Filing No. 142) and Motion for a New Trial (Filing No. 144).[1] See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(2) and 33. For the reasons stated below, the motions are denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 21, 2016, Labachyan and his co-defendant, Sherman Johnson Jr. (“Johnson”), were traveling east on Interstate 80 in Omaha, Nebraska, when Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Olson (“Deputy Olson”) initiated a traffic stop. Deputy Olson searched the vehicle and found over five kilograms of cocaine hidden in the spare tire mounted below the vehicle.

         On August 16, 2016, a grand jury indicted (Filing No. 16) Johnson and Labachyan for possessing five kilograms or more of cocaine with intent to distribute. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1). Labachyan and Johnson each moved to suppress (Filing Nos. 40 and 42) the cocaine found during the search, and the Court denied (Filing No. 63) their motions. Following that denial, a Superseding Indictment (Filing No. 65) added a charge of conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. See §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1) and 846.

         A jury found Johnson and Labachyan each guilty of both charges. Following the verdict, Labachyan filed the present motions seeking either a judgment of acquittal or a new trial.[2]

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion for Judgment of Acquittal

         “If the jury has returned a guilty verdict, the court may set aside the verdict and enter an acquittal.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(2). “The verdict must be upheld ‘if there is any interpretation of the evidence that could lead a reasonable-minded jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.'” United States v. Espinoza, 885 F.3d 516, 520 (8th Cir. 2018) (quoting United States v. Taylor, 813 F.3d 1139, 1146 (8th Cir. 2016)).

         1. Admissibility of the Cocaine

         As he did before trial, Labachyan asserts the cocaine seized during the search of the vehicle should not have been admitted into evidence. He relies on the recent Supreme Court decision of Byrd v. United States, which held “as a general rule, someone in otherwise lawful possession and control of a rental car has a reasonable expectation of privacy in it even if the rental agreement does not list him or her as an authorized driver.” 584 U.S. ___, ___, 200 L.Ed.2d 805, 810 (2018). Labachyan also quotes United States v. Esparza for the proposition that an officer cannot “rely on a third party's consent to intentionally bypass a person who is present, has a superior privacy interest in the premises, and actively objects to the search.” 162 F.3d 978, 980 (8th Cir. 1998).

         Labachyan's reliance on Byrd is misplaced. First, the renter was not present in Byrd but had given permission to the defendant to use the vehicle. Id. at, 200 L.Ed.2d at 811. In this case, the renter, Johnson, was present and clearly gave oral permission to search. Labachyan has not provided any authority suggesting his privacy interest in the vehicle was superior to, or even equal to, Johnson's under these circumstances.

         Second, it is true that if two individuals both possess a privacy interest in a common area, the objection of one individual to a search normally overrides the consent of the other individual and renders the products of the search inadmissible against the objecting party. Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103, 122-23 (2006). However, the Eighth Circuit has stated, “It is not clear that Randolph, which involved a search of a residence, applies in the context of a vehicle search.” United States v. Lumpkins, 687 F.3d 1011, 1014 (8th Cir. 2012).

         Finally, even if Labachyan possessed a reasonable expectation of privacy in the vehicle and Randolph applies to vehicles, Labachyan never actually objected to the search. The relevant exchange between Labachyan and Deputy Olson follows:

Deputy Olson: [Johnson] is the renter of the vehicle; he gave us permission to search the vehicle, ok? And your property is only the bag up front, right?
Labachyan: Yes, sir.
Deputy Olson: Ok, do I have permission to search ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.