On October 10, 2018, after the Government closed its presentation of evidence in USA v. Cliffard Whitby, Harold Knowles, Central Georgia Partnership for Individual and Community Development (“PICD”), and Positiventures Initiative, LLC (“PVI”), Stephen T. LaBriola successfully argued for a judgment of acquittal for his client, PICD.
In the fall of 2017, PICD, a Macon 501(c)(3) non-profit, learned that it had been indicted on charges of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of unlawful activity. Specifically, the Government alleged that PICD, along with the other three defendants, conspired to bribe Dr. Romain Dallemand, the former Superintendent of the Bibb County School District, to gain his support for the Macon Promise Neighborhood Initiative. The bribe centered around a $100,000 payment from Defendant PVI which was eventually paid to Dr. Dallemand.
On Day 9 of a 12-day trial, Mr. LaBriola entered his oral motion for judgment of acquittal pursuant to FRCrP 29. The Government, after some prompting from U.S. District Court Judge Marc T. Treadwell, agreed that, “. . . There is no evidence that PICD knew about the $100,000 transaction. . .” On Day 10 of trial, a Friday, Judge Treadwell revisited PICD’s motion, challenging the Government to present an argument to impute fellow defendant Cliffard Whitby’s knowledge onto PICD. Judge Treadwell held off on ruling on the motion, noting he would consider anything submitted over the weekend.
Judge Treadwell officially granted PICD’s motion at the resumption of trial the following Monday after his Courtroom Deputy sent a message the night before to Mr. LaBriola that he “. . . may pack light.” The judge based his granting of this motion on the dearth of evidence that PICD knew that the proceeds of their invoice to the Bibb County School District were possibly illegal or that the subsequent $100,000 transaction was intended to conceal or launder those proceeds.
Ultimately all four defendants were acquitted of all charges. Given the Government’s conviction rate is at or above 95% in Federal Court, this is a remarkable feat.