United States District Court, D. Nebraska
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
F. Rossiter, Jr. United States District Judge.
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). See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(2)
and 33. For the reasons stated below, the motions are denied.
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
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.
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
Motion for Judgment of Acquittal
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)).
Admissibility of the Cocaine
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).
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.
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).
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
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 ...