Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Challenge to Indictment’s Failure to Charge Sufficient Nexus to United States Was Waived By Guilty Plea

United States v. Yousef, No 12-4822-cr (2d Cir. Apr. 29, 2014) (Sack, Lynch, and Lohier), available here

Jamal Yousef pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (18 U.S.C. 2339B). Judge Keenan sentenced him to 12 years in prison.
On appeal, Yousef argued, as he had before pleading guilty, that the indictment failed to allege a sufficient nexus between his alleged conduct – directing an arms trafficking organization in Honduras – and the United States. Though a guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional defects in the indictment, he contended on appeal that the due process requirement of a territorial nexus to this country was a jurisdictional defect that could not be waived.
The Circuit rejected the defendant’s argument, holding that the absence of a territorial nexus between a defendant’s alleged conduct and the United States did not implicate the authority of a federal court to decide a case presented by an otherwise valid criminal indictment where, as here, the nexus requirement is not mentioned anywhere among the elements of the charged offense. In other words, because the indictment unambiguously alleged all of the elements of the charged crime, it conferred subject-matter jurisdiction on the district court. 
Accordingly, because the defendant’s guilty plea was valid, and the district court had the authority to hear his prosecution, his guilty plea waived his challenge to the indictment’s failure to alleged a sufficient nexus between his conduct and the United States. The Court therefore affirmed Yousef’s conviction.
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