United States v. Ali, No. 15-4433 (4th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment against defendant after a jury found him guilty of four counts of aiding and abetting Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2, 1951(a); four counts of carrying a firearm in connection with a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c); and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2).
The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to sequester the co-defendant witnesses. The court noted that this was not the easiest situation in the world to manage, what with four codefendant witnesses and limited holding cells; in the context of defendant's requests and the building's constraints, the district court handled this issue with care; at no point did defendant move for a mistrial or request a limiting instruction with regards to sequestration; and the district court suggested removing a co-defendant from the building and allowed fulsome cross-examination, which was a fully sufficient response to defendant's request. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's motion for a new trial. The court explained that, given the ample evidence that was adduced at trial against defendant, the new evidence that defendant proffered in support of his Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 motion came very late and would have hardly made any kind of difference. Finally, the court concluded that the uncertainty as to the predicate offenses for the section 924(c) convictions did not render them invalid. In this case, considering the overwhelming weight of the evidence the government presented at trial, defendant cannot meet his burden of establishing that the outcome would have been different absent the improper instruction.