Archive | conspiracy

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Abu Ghayth and the Material Support Statute

In a summary order, the Second Circuit upheld the convictions of Sulaiman Abu Ghayth (a son-in-law of Osama Bin Laden) for offenses including conspiracy to murder Americans and providing material support for terrorist activities.  The outcome is unsurprising, but the decision nevertheless offers some hope for differently situated defendants charged under the material support statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2339A.

The order, available here, serves as a troubling reminder of the potential breadth of the material support statute. Abu Ghayth’s material support conviction was based on his speeches in the wake of September 11 urging Muslims to fight for Al Qaeda and threatening attacks on “new American targets.” Slip op. at 8. The Circuit rejected a sufficiency-of-the-evidence challenge to this conviction, and observed that “speech alone” can serve to establish a material support violation. Id. at 7 (quoting United States v. Rahman, 189 F.3d 88, 116-17 (2d Cir. 1999)). …


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Categories: aiding and abetting, conspiracy, jury charge, jury instructions, material support statute, plain error, prejudice, sufficiency, summary order, terrorism

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Monday, June 12th, 2017

Multiple Conspiracies, Reasonable Foreseeability, and Government Misconduct in Closing, Oh My… A Clean Sweep for the Defendant as Judge Oetken Grants Rule 29 and Rule 33 Motions in a Noteworthy Opinion

John Pauling contested two counts at trial in an eight-count indictment relating to various drug and gun charges. First, he challenged a 924c charge (possessing a gun in furtherance of a drug conspiracy) and was acquitted by the jury.  Second, he challenged the weight of the drugs in the drug conspiracy count that would have triggered a five-year mandatory minimum.  The jury convicted him on that count.  Judge Oetken now vacates that conviction, leaving Pauling with no mandatory minimum.  A copy of the opinion is attached here.

In an opinion worth reading for its explanation of the distinction between a single conspiracy and multiple conspiracies, Judge Oetken in referencing the common wheel analogy, found that the government failed to show there was “a ‘rim’ around the ‘spokes,’ such that the spokes became coconspiractors.” At trial, the Court gave a multiple conspiracies instruction over the government’s objection, finding the government’s …


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Categories: conspiracy, Rule 29, Rule 33

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Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Remand for resentencing to consider the difference between substantive conspiracy liability and the scope of relevant conduct for guidelines purposes; Remand for resentencing under § 3582(c)(2)

The Second Circuit issued four summary orders in criminal cases today.

United States v. Rigo, 15-1914, remanded the case for resentencing. The Second Circuit held that the district court committed plain error in calculating the loss amount for the purposes of determining the guideline range. The Circuit explained that “the scope of conduct for which a defendant can be held accountable under the sentencing guidelines is significantly narrower than the conduct embraced by the law of conspiracy.” Order at 2. The “emphasis in substantive conspiracy liability is the scope of the entire conspiracy” but the guidelines are concerned with “the scope of the individual defendant’s undertaking.” Id. (emphasis in original). In other words, even if the acts of co-conspirators were foreseeable to the defendant, they do not constitute relevant conduct for guidelines purposes if they were “not within the scope of the defendant’s agreement.” Id. at 3. …


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Categories: 3582(c)(2), conspiracy, relevant conduct, Rule 11, sentencing findings

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Sunday, October 26th, 2008

The Ecstasy and the Ecstasy

United States v. Ogando, No. 05-0236-cr (2d Cir. October 20, 2008) (Kearse, Calabresi, Sack, CJJ)

Francisco Ogando, a licensed livery cab driver, was convicted of participating in an ecstasy importation and distribution conspiracy. On appeal, the circuit held that the evidence was insufficient.

Background

Angel Gomez, a drug courier, was arrested at Kennedy Airport with ecstasy that he had imported from Belgium, and agreed to cooperate. He told the agents that he was supposed to call “Frank” – defendant Ogando – on arrival. He did so, and Ogando said he was right near the airport. Ogando found Gomez and brought him to his car. They did not discuss drugs, money or where they would be going, and were arrested before they got into Ogando’s car.

Ogando was found to have a cellphone – Gomez had been given that number by his handlers – a business card that mentioned Brussels and …


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Categories: conspiracy, drug distribution, sufficiency, Uncategorized

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Buyer’s Remorse

United States v. Hawkins, No. 07-3018-cr (2d Cir. October 16, 2008) (Straub, Raggi, CJJ, Sessions, DJ)

Alex Luna sold drugs in Danbury, Connecticut, from 2002 to 2005. Warren Hawkins was convicted, after a jury trial, of one count of conspiring with Luna to distribute less than 500 grams of cocaine and less than five grams of crack. After the verdict, the district court granted Hawkins’ Rule 29 motion, finding that, although Hawkins bought drugs from Luna with intent to resell them, there was insufficient evidence to establish that Hawkins participated in Luna’s conspiracy. On the government’s appeal, the circuit reversed.

Background

In February 2005, Hawkins spoke with a another Luna co-conspirator about purchasing five grams of cocaine. They discussed price, quality, and how Hawkins would raise the money, but the sale did not take place. A few days later, Hawkins spoke with Luna and said that some of his co-workers …


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Categories: “buyer-seller” rule, conspiracy, drug distribution, Uncategorized

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Saturday, October 25th, 2008

Slight Change

United States v. Huezo, No. 07-0033-cr (2d Cir. October 14, 2008) (Newman, Walker, Sotomayor, CJJ)

Defendant Huezo was convicted, after a jury trial, of money laundering and money laundering conspiracy. The district court granted his post-verdict Rule 29 motion, and the government appealed. A divided appellate panel reversed. It also, however, unanimously wrought an important change in conspiracy law: an elimination of the so-called “slight evidence” rule.

Background

On November 5, 2004, two of Huezo’s co-conspirators drove from Connecticut to New York in a Jeep registered to Heuzo to discuss delivering $1 million to an undercover agent, who was posing as a money launderer. Three days later, Huezo drove one of them back to New York, opened the trunk from the driver’s seat, and the agent recovered a bag containing half of the money. It was packaged in bundles, as is typical for money laundering transactions. The two men returned …


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Categories: conspiracy, money laundering, sufficiency, Uncategorized

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Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

Medicareless

United States v. Wexler, No. 06-1571-cr (2d Cir. April 3, 2008) (Miner, Raggi, CJJ, Rakoff, DJ)

David Wexler was a Manhattan dermatologist who ran a prescription mill. He would prescribe painkillers to patients whom he did not examine or treat, often with the understanding that either the prescriptions or the medications would be sold to others. The prescription mill was also the fuel for an ongoing Medicare fraud in which he would, for these same patients, bill the government for multiple procedures that he did not perform. Wexler was convicted after a jury trial of narcotics and fraud counts and was sentenced principally to 20 years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the majority of a divided panel reversed his conviction on the most serious drug count, concluding that the evidence was insufficient, and remanded the case for resentencing.

Wexler had a patient named Barry Abler, for whom he wrote numerous prescriptions for …


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Categories: conspiracy, sufficiency, Uncategorized

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