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United States v. Mobley

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 27, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
BOGDANA ALEXANDROVNA MOBLEY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ERIC F. MELGREN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On March 6, 2019, a jury found Defendant Bogdana Alexandrovna Mobley guilty on Counts 1, 2, and 3 of the Superseding Indictment: (1) international parental kidnapping in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1204; (2) extortionate interstate communications between August 27 and August 30, 2015, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(b); and (3) extortionate interstate communications on or about November 21, 2015, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(b). Defendant has now filed a Motion for Judgment of Acquittal (Doc. 129) and a Motion for New Trial (Doc. 130). For the reasons stated below, the Court denies both motions.

         A. Motion for Judgment of Acquittal

         Rule 29(c)(2) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure states, in relevant part, that “[i]f the jury has returned a guilty verdict, the court may set aside the verdict and enter an acquittal.” When reviewing the sufficiency of evidence to sustain a guilty verdict, the Court “ask[s], whether, ‘after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.' ”[1] Substantial evidence must support the conviction, but “ ‘it need not conclusively exclude every other reasonable hypothesis and it need not negate all possibilities except guilt.' ”[2] Furthermore, the Court cannot cast aspersions on the credibility of witnesses or weigh conflicting evidence, because “these matters are within the exclusive province of the jury.”[3]

         Defendant asserts that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support a guilty verdict as to Counts 2 and 3 of the Superseding Indictment-extortionate interstate communications in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(b). That statute states, in pertinent part: “[w]hoever, with intent to extort from any person . . . any money or thing of value, transmits into interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing a threat to kidnap . . . any person . . . shall be fined . . . or imprisoned.”[4] Accordingly, to prove a violation of this statute, the Government must show: (1) that the defendant communicated a threat to kidnap any person; (2) that the defendant transmitted the communication with the intent to extort money or any thing of value; and (3) that the communication was transmitted in interstate or foreign commerce. Defendant argues that the evidence presented by the Government for Counts 2 and 3 does not establish the “threat to kidnap” element of 18 U.S.C. § 875(b).[5] The Court, however, disagrees.

         The evidence presented at trial included the direct testimony of Brian Mobley and conversations between Brian Mobley and Defendant via text messaging and Skype. Brian Mobley testified regarding Defendant's threats to take his daughter, S.M., and Defendant's subsequent taking of S.M. to Russia. Government Exhibit 35a is a series of Skype communications between Defendant and Brian Mobley on August 27, 29, and 30, 2015, consisting of Brian Mobley asking to Skype with S.M. and Defendant's demands of money in return. Because Defendant made these demands while continuing to retain S.M. in Russia, a rational jury could conclude that Defendant intended to communicate a credible threat to kidnap S.M. unless Brian Mobley paid her money or another item of value. For example, the conversation on August 27, 2015, states in part:

Brian Mobley: Can I please Skype with the kids?
[Defendant]: Can you please pay for the girls Montessori school?
Brian Mobley: So, you are saying that I cannot see my children unless I give you money?
[Defendant]: So I am saying that we live in Russia. I am 100% compliant with Russian court orders.”

         Defendant's last statement in this conversation indicates that she planned to remain in Russia with S.M., in violation of Brian Mobley's court-ordered parental rights, unless Brian Mobley paid her money.

         Similarly, page 2 of Government's Exhibit 35a shows a conversation between Defendant and Brian Mobley on August 29, 2015. That conversation began with Brian Mobley asking Defendant if he could Skype with the children and further states:

[Defendant]: Yes you can. You can also transfer the child ...

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