Friday, January 31st, 2014

Court Affirms Convictions for Racketeering, Robbery, and Other Crimes

United States v. Krasniqi, Nos. 12-2788-cr and 12-2789-cr (2d Cir. Jan. 28, 2014) (Newman, Hall, and Lynch) (summary order), available here

Bruno Krasniqi (“Bruno”) and Saimir Krasniqi (“Saimir”) were convicted of a substantive RICO count, RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, and other offenses. On appeal, they argued that the evidence was insufficient  to show (1) that the charged criminal enterprise existed; (2) that the charged  murder of Erenick Grezda was committed “in aid of racketeering;” (3) that Saimir participated in the kidnapping of Arben Dinkollari; and, (4) that the defendants participated in an extortion conspiracy. The defendants also argued (5) that the district court improperly limited the cross-examination of an FBI agent; and, (6) that Bruno was denied his right to counsel of his choice. This summary order rejects all of the defendants’ arguments and affirms their convictions.
First, the Court held that the evidence was sufficient to establish that the Krasniqi enterprise existed and had multiple members whose shared purpose was to sell drugs and commit various acts of violence. “Indeed, members of the organization testified that they perceived themselves to be part of a ‘crew’ that was led by Saimir and Bruno.” This evidence alone was sufficient to prove the existence of a RICO enterprise.
Second, the evidence was sufficient to prove that the Krasniqis murdered Grezda to maintain or increase their position in the Krasniqi enterprise. The evidence showed that Grezda was a member of the enterprise and that the Krasniqis believed that Grezda had betrayed them. The jury could infer that the defendants killed Grezda to maintain their positions as leaders of the enterprise and to punish Grezda for disloyalty.
Third, the evidence was sufficient to show that Saimir participated in the kidnapping of Arben Dinkollari. There was proof that Saimir was present for the kidnapping and actively participated by spreading plastic on the living room carpet and giving another participant a pillow to use as a gunshot silencer. 
The Court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by limiting the defendants from cross-examining an FBI agent to elicit his opinions about the leadership of the Krasniqi enterprise. Those lay opinions, the Court ruled, were not a proper subject for cross-examination. 
Finally, the Circuit held that Bruno was not denied his right to his counsel of choice because he knowingly and intelligently waived that right at a hearing before the district judge.
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