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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Judge denies ex-convict’s motion to acquit

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona reiterated her initial ruling that denied a motion to acquit Jesus S. Palacios, an ex-convict in Guam who was found guilty last month of charges filed on Saipan for possession of two guns and 27 bullets.

In a written order issued last week, Manglona pointed out that ample evidence shows that Palacios knowingly possessed some of the firearms and ammunition alleged in each count of the indictment.

Manglona said Palacios, through counsel Mark Scoggins, challenges the sufficiency of the evidence as to each element of the six counts for which he was convicted, but makes no argument whatsoever as to why the evidence was insufficient for the U.S. government to meet its burden on any particular element of any of the counts.

The judge noted that after the U.S. government laid out how the evidence supports the jury’s verdict on each element of each count, Palacios did not counter any of the government’s arguments in a reply brief.

“In short, defendant has not given the court any reason to think that its denial of his oral motion for judgment of acquittal, made at the close of the government’s case, was misguided,” she said.

Palacios asked for a judgment of acquittal on Dec. 3, after the prosecution rested its case during a jury trial. His argument focused on the sufficiency of the evidence to support a finding that he had knowingly possessed the firearms and ammunition in question. Manglona denied the motion orally.

On Dec. 4, the jury returned a guilty verdict against the 52-year-old Palacios on all six counts—three counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition, and three counts of being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm or ammunition.

On Dec. 18, Palacios filed a motion for judgment of acquittal.

In a written order denying the motion, Manglona pointed out that Palacios has not contested that he was a felon at the time of the alleged possession.

Manglona said that Palacios agreed that he is a convicted felon, and that stipulation was read to the jury.

As to Palacios being an unlawful user of a controlled substance, the judge cited the testimony of the wife, a detective, and a forensic chemist with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“From this evidence, the jury could reasonably infer that defendant used methamphetamine regularly, over an extended period of time, and contemporaneously with his possession of the firearms and ammunition,” Manglona said.

Palacios will be sentenced on March 14, 2014.

The filing of the indictment arose from an incident in April 2013 when police arrested Palacios for allegedly beating up his wife in front of their child and pointing a gun at her head when she refused to give him money.

The then 4-year-old boy told police that he witnessed the beating of his mother and that he also saw his father smoke “ice” and has four guns.

Police learned that Palacios was arrested in Guam in 1997 and charged with murder, manslaughter, and possession of a gun without an ID. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

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