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United States v. Nelson

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

July 22, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVEN A. NELSON, Defendant. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
THEODORE JOHN NELSON, JR., a/k/a Ted Nelson, Defendant. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
THEODORE JOHN NELSON, JR., a/k/a Ted Nelson, and STEVEN A. NELSON, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING MOTIONS FOR ACQUITTAL AND DENYING MOTION TO STRIKE ORDER DENYING MOTION TO QUASH INDICTMENTS ORDER DENYING MOTIONS FOR ACQUITTAL, DENYING MOTION TO STRIKE, AND DENYING MOTION TO QUASH INDICTMENTS

KAREN E. SCHREIER, District Judge.

Pending are a motion for judgment of acquittal filed by counsel for defendant Steven A. Nelson, a motion for judgment of acquittal filed by Steven Nelson pro se, a motion to strike filed by the United States, and a motion to quash indictments filed by defendant Theodore John Nelson Jr., a/k/a Ted Nelson, pro se. For the following reasons, the motions for acquittal are denied, the motion to strike is denied, and the motion to quash indictments is denied.

BACKGROUND

Theodore Nelson and Steven Nelson were convicted by a jury of conspiring to defraud the United States, multiple counts of failure to file an income tax return, and one count each of impeding the Internal Revenue Service.[1] Subsequently, counsel for Steven Nelson filed a renewed motion for judgment of acquittal under Rule 29(c). 13-CR-40033 Docket 95; 13-CR-40073 Docket 137. Following that submission, Steven Nelson filed a motion for new counsel and a pro se Rule 29(c) motion. 13-CR-40033 Docket 96 (motion for new counsel); 13-CR-40073 Docket 138 (motion for new counsel); 13-CR-40033 Docket 97 (pro se Rule 29(c) motion); 13-CR-40073 Docket 139 (pro se Rule 29(c) motion). The United States moved to strike Steven Nelson's pro se filing. 13-CR-40033 Docket 100; 13-CR-40073 Docket 142. The court held a hearing on June 8, 2015, after which the court allowed counsel for Steven Nelson to withdraw and appointed new counsel. On June 25, 2015, Theodore Nelson filed on his own behalf a "PETITION (MOTION) TO QUASH INDICTMENTS/JURY VERDICT NOT WITH STANDING [sic] (Habeas Corpus)." 13-CR-40034 Docket 81; 13-CR-40073 Docket 155.

DISCUSSION

I. Motions for Acquittal

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 provides that "the court on the defendant's motion must enter a judgment of acquittal of any offense for which the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction." Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a). The court "views the entire record in the light most favorable to the government, resolves all evidentiary conflicts accordingly, and accepts all reasonable inferences supporting the jury's verdict." United States v. Boesen, 491 F.3d 852, 856 (8th Cir. 2007) (citing United States v. Water, 413 F.3d 812, 816 (8th Cir. 2005)) "A motion for judgment of acquittal should be granted only if there is no interpretation of the evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.'" Id. at 855 (quoting United States v. Cacioppo, 460 F.3d 1012, 1021 (8th Cir. 2006)).

A. First Motion

1. Conspiracy Count

Steven Nelson contends the court should enter a judgment of acquittal on the charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States because the prosecution failed to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, Steven Nelson argues that "many, if not all of the trusts and entities were created over the many years by John Sheridan for estate planning purposes and other business activities." 13-40033 Docket 95 at 2; 13-40073 Docket 137 at 2. Thus, Steven Nelson believes the prosecution failed to establish that there was an agreement to defraud the United States, that he knew the purpose of the agreement, or that he voluntarily and intentionally joined the agreement.

At the close of the evidence, the court instructed the jury that to establish Steven Nelson's guilt on the conspiracy offense, the government must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

One, beginning on or about January 31, 1992, until and continuing to [April 8, 2015], two or more people reached an agreement or came to an understanding to commit the crime of defrauding the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful governmental functions of the Internal Revenue Service in the ascertainment, computation, assessment, or collection of income taxes;
...
Two, that the defendant voluntarily and intentionally joined in the agreement or understanding, either at the time it was first reached or at some ...

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