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United States v. Lawson

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

August 26, 2014




This matter is before the Court on Defendant Julius Lawson's Motion for New Trial Pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 33 [ECF No. 83], filed on October 23, 2013, and Second Motion for New Trial Pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 33 [ECF No. 95], filed on March 12, 2014. The Motions have been fully briefed. This Opinion and Order addresses both motions.


On December 19, 2012, at around 3:30 PM, two men entered the Diplomat Plaza Post Office located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and attempted to rob items from inside the Post Office. An investigation led to the arrest of the Defendant as one of the perpetrators.

On January 23, 2013, the Government filed an Indictment [ECF No. 18] charging the Defendant with attempting to rob a person having custody of any mail matter, money, or property of the United States and aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2114(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Count 1); use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence and aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Count 2); and interference with the performance of the duties of an empoyee of the United States and aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111(a)(1) and and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Count 3). The Court conducted a fiveday jury trial, which began on May 14, 2013, and concluded on May 21 when the jury returned a verdict of guilty as to all three counts.

The jury heard testimony from witnesses who were inside the bank during the attempted robbery. Testimony from a customer revealed that one of the men held a gun on her while the other jumped over the counter to get behind the clerk stations. The Government presented evidence to support its theory that the Defendant was the counter jumper. A postal employee and window clerk, Cathy Weigold, observed the two subjects when they first entered the customer P.O. box lobby area through the front door. She locked eyes with the counter jumper. As he entered the customer lobby area where Weigold was working, she saw him pull a mask up from under his chin area, covering his mouth up to the bridge of his nose. Weigold ran into the manager's office, where she and two other employees barricaded themselves until police arrived. She continued to watch the events on a monitor located inside the office and called 911.

Dawn Hunter was the customer Weigold had just finished assisting with a postal transaction when the two men entered. She was the only customer in the post office at the time. One of the men stated "I have a gun" and pointed a gun at her midsection while standing within arm's reach. The Defendant joined his gun wielding accomplice as he stood with Hunter. The Defendant grabbed a few items from her purse, but did not keep anything. Hunter then saw the Defendant jump over the middle counter. She witnessed him jump back over and leave with his accomplice.

While watching the surveillance monitor from the Manager's office, Weigold observed the Defendant jump the middle counter, then stand in front of the partition located behind the window clerk stations. He went both directions from the partition, including the side where the Manager's office is located. Behind the counter were items of value and cash.

Surveillance photos show the counter jumper placing his left hand on the counter as he vaulted over it.[1] Surveillance photos also show the unknown accomplice and Hunter watching the Defendant as he jumps over the counter and then back again before fleeing with his accomplice. Hunter remained crouched down on the floor and called 911, twice. During her second call, she relayed that a cell phone located on the counter was going off, and that it had not been there before. The cell phone would prove to be an important piece of evidence.

Police arrived and secured the scene. Investigators at the post office noticed the cell phone when it continued to ring. The call was from Violent Hanson's cell phone. Hanson is the Defendant's girlfriend and mother of his child. That same day, Postal Inspector Andrew Gottfried went to Hanson's residence. While there, he saw the Defendant and another man. On December 20, FWPD Detective Gary Morales conducted a forensic examination of the cell phone dropped on the counter and determined that the dialing number on the phone was XXX-XXX-XXXX with the IMSI number as XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. The name Violet with number XXX-XXX-XXXX was one of the contacts stored in the phone. The phone also contained photographs of an individual taking pictures of himself with the cell phone. The metadata information indicated that the pictures were taken on December 13, 14, 16 and 17, 2012. Inspector Gottfried later identified the individual in those photographs as the Defendant.

Susan Johnson, Custodian of Records for T-Mobile, also testified at the trial. She explained that the subscriber record information for the prepaid cell phone (recovered from the postal counter) was in the name of Julius Lawson with mobile number XXX-XXX-XXXX and IMSI number XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. The call detail records for the Defendant's phone for the month of December reflected numerous calls and text messages made to and received from Violet Hanson's cell phone number. The T-Mobile call detail records also reflected a call to the Diplomat Plaza Post Office.

FWPD Detective Joel Slygh testified that he conducted a forensic examination of Hanson's cell phone. The forensic examination report confirmed that the phone number associated with Hanson's phone was in fact XXX-XXX-XXXX. Hanson's phone had also received text messages from the Defendant's cell phone number.

Detective Mark A. Rogers, a Detective with the City of Fort Wayne Police Department for more than eighteen years, testified regarding his role in the attempted robbery investigation. Rogers testified that he was assigned to the crime scene management division, where his duties involved collecting and preparing evidence for forensic examination. According to Rogers, he took photographs at the Post Office, including a picture of a cell phone located on the front, middle counter. The Defendant also collected the cell phone itself. Rogers testified that he dusted for fingerprints, and was able to lift several prints from the middle window counter of the Post Office, which he placed in a plastic evidence bag and sealed.

These prints were later analyzed by a Forensic Latent Print Analyst with the United States Postal Inspection Service, Norberto Rivera. Testifying as an expert, Rivera told the jury that the latent lifts were of sufficient quality to make several points of comparison with the Defendant's known prints. He ...

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