United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON, JUDGE
racketeering prosecution, Darrick Vallodolid was convicted at
trial for his participation in the Latin Kings street gang.
His participation in the gang included the murder of a 16
year old boy who was riding through the neighborhood on his
bike when Vallodolid shot and killed him thinking he was a
rival gangster. Vallodolid now seeks a judgment of acquittal
or, in the alternative, a new trial. [DE 1914]. No. less then
eight fellow Latin Kings testified at trial that Vallodolid
was the local leader of the gang. The evidence against
Vallodolid was plainly sufficient for a jury to determine he
was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There was no
miscarriage of justice, and neither an acquittal nor a new
trial is warranted.
eleven day jury trial was held before me in May 2018 against
Vallodolid and his co-defendant, Robert Nieto. Vallodolid was
found guilty of racketeering conspiracy in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 1962(d), and in answer to a special
interrogatory, the jury unanimously found Vallodolid
committed the murder of Victor Lusinski while committing or
attempting to commit criminal gang activity and he conspired
to distribute or possess with intent to distribute 5
kilograms or more of cocaine. [DE 1590.] Vallodolid was also
found guilty of a drug conspiracy in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 846, and the jury found the offense involved the
distribution of 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 100
kilograms or more of marijuana. [Id.]
evidence at trial showed that Vallodolid was a member of the
Latin Kings, a Chicago-based street gang, with local sets or
“hoods” in Hammond, Gary, and East Chicago. [Tr.
372-75, 458-59, 497, 543, 1025, 1053-54.] The Latin Kings are
a highly organized street gang with a written manifesto, a
distinct hierarchy and established rules. The evidence
established that members of the Latin Kings committed acts of
violence including murders, shootings, arsons, beatings to
protect their territory, and they were involved in an
extensive drug trade. [Tr. 375-76, 450, 482, 511, 1040-41,
1053, 1065-66, 1092-93, 1143-46, 1159, 1440, 2109, 2276.] The
Kings had a common gang sign (a five-point crown) and a
unique handshake that they called “shaking up the
crown.” [Tr. 391-92, 437-39, 476-79, 1033-34, 1092,
1376-77, 1393.] They showed disrespect to rival gang members
by intentionally making that gang's sign upside down
(known as “throwing down” the rival's sign).
[Tr. 440-41.] The Latin Kings were required to pay dues which
went to purchase drugs for resale, firearms, ammunition, and
pay attorney fees and bond money for incarcerated members.
[Tr. 491, 1345, 1418, 1673.]
rose in the ranks to the position of the Inca, which was the
leader of the local King set. [Tr. 463-69, 498, 501-03,
1040-41, 2260, 2269.] Eight Kings testified against
Vallodolid at trial, identifying him as an Inca of the
Hammond 148th Street set of the Kings, and
testifying that they saw him sell drugs, carry guns, post up
and patrol his territory, collect and deliver gang dues,
order and participate in beatings for rule violations and
initiations into the gang, give orders for others to commit
acts of violence, shoot at a house and a car, and shake up
the crown. [Tr. 531-35, 858-66, 1170-88, 1254-64, 1357-74,
1378-84, 1684-86, 1689-90, 1693, 1757, 1762-66, 2251-52,
2269, 2271-83, 2288-93.] There was also evidence that
Vallodolid shot and killed 16 year old Victor Lusinski
believing him to be a rival gang member. [Tr. 892-97, 894-95,
921-22, 927-28, 1387-88, 1390-95, 1557, 1568-70, 1769-72.]
The jury found in its answers to a special verdict form that
the murder of Lusinski was done both with the intent to
benefit the Latin Kings and to increase Vallodolid's
standing in the Kings. [DE 1948 at 51-52; DE 1590].
Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(c) provides that a defendant
may renew a motion for judgment of acquittal after a guilty
verdict, and “the court may set aside the verdict and
enter an acquittal.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(1), (2).
Thus, Vallodolid may renew his motion even though this Court
already denied a previous motion (made during trial at the
end of the Government's case). [DE 1579.]
ruling on a motion for acquittal, the Court must determine
whether, at the time of the motion, there is relevant
evidence from which a jury could reasonably find the
defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the Government.
See United States v. Studley, 892 F.2d 518, 526 (7th
Cir. 1989); see also United States v. Howard, 619
F.3d 723, 726 (7th Cir. 2010). The Court must bear in mind
that “it is the exclusive function of the jury to
determine the credibility of witnesses, resolve evidentiary
conflicts and draw reasonable inferences.” United
States v. Hagan, 913 F.2d 1278, 1281 (7th Cir. 1990)
(quotation omitted). The inference of guilt of a criminal
offense may be created by either direct or circumstantial
evidence, and circumstantial evidence is of equal probative
value to direct evidence. Studley, 892 F.2d at 526.
All reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the evidence
are viewed in the light most favorable to the Government.
Rule 29, a defendant like Vallodolid faces “a nearly
insurmountable hurdle” since this Court will
“defer to the credibility determination of the jury and
overturn a verdict only when the record contains no evidence,
regardless of how it is weighed, from which the jury could
find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” United
States v. Torres-Chavez, 744 F.3d 988, 993 (7th Cir.
2014); see also United States v. Blanchard, 542 F.3d
1133, 1154 (7th Cir. 2008) (courts defer to the jury's
first argues that the Government failed to prove he was part
of an enterprise. For the Government to prove Vallodolid
guilty in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d), it had to
establish: (1) Vallodolid knowingly conspired to conduct or
participate in the conduct of the affairs of the Latin Kings,
an enterprise, through a pattern of racketeering activity, as
described in the superseding indictment; (2) the Latin Kings
were an enterprise; and (3) the activities of the enterprise
affected interstate commerce. See United States v.
Olson, 450 F.3d 655, 664, 668-69 (7th Cir. 2006).
argues that the testimony merely established “the group
of people Vallodolid associated with were no more than
acquaintances who occasionally acted together.” [DE
1914 at 2.] This argument is way off base. An enterprise
includes any association or group of individuals associated
in fact. 18 U.S.C. § 1961(4). The existence of an
enterprise “is proved by evidence of an ongoing
organization, formal or informal, and by evidence that the
various associates function as a continuing unit.”
United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576, 583 (1981).
While the central element of an enterprise is structure, the
Seventh Circuit has held that with informal organizations
such as criminal groups, there “must be some structure,
to distinguish an enterprise from a mere conspiracy, but
there need not be much.” United States v.
Rogers, 89 F.3d 1326, 1337 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting
United States v. Korando, 29 F.3d 1114, 1117 (7th
Cir. 1994)). Indeed, the Latin Kings have been found by many
courts to constitute an enterprise. See, e.g., United
States v. Amaya, 828 F.3d 518 (7th Cir. 2016);
Olson, 450 F.3d 655; United States v.
Tello, 687 F.3d 785 (7th Cir. 2012); United States
v. Guzman, No. 08 CR 746-11, 2011 WL 4702186 (N.D. Ill.
Sept. 29, 2011) (denying motions under Rule 29 and Rule 33).
case, the jury heard ample evidence that the Latin Kings were
a group of people associated together for a common purpose -
they were a hierarchy organized by a set of rules and a
written Manifesto, they paid dues and had set practices
regarding initiation, attending meetings, and engaging in
violence in the name of the gang, and they acted together to
sell drugs and hold down their territory. Multiple witnesses
testified about the structure of the Latin Kings, the
hierarchy, and the fact that Vallodolid worked his way up to
become a leader, and was the Inca for a number of years. The
evidence showed that the Latin Kings shared money, drugs, and
the power associated with being ...