United States v. Cartagena, No. 12-4910-cr (2d Cir. Nov. 21, 2013) (Newman, Hall, and Lynch) (summary order), available here
Cartagena was convicted by a jury of attempting and of conspiring to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine. At trial, the court admitted testimony that Cartagena had been involved earlier an an uncharged 2009 drug conspiracy.
The panel held that this evidence was properly admitted to provide “relevant background information” that explained the defendant’s relationship to Seyfried, a co-conspirator, and the defendant’s knowledge of Seyfried’s role in a national drug conspiracy. The evidence was also properly admitted under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) because it provided relevant proof of the defendant’s specific knowledge of Seyfried’s drug activities and proof of the relationship between the two men. The evidence was not unduly prejudicial because it did not involve conduct more serious than the charged crime.
The panel also held that the evidence as a whole was sufficient to establish the defendant’s knowledge of the intended objective of the conspiracy. The evidence included Seyfried’s testimony and law enforcement testimony that the defendant was found in a vehicle with drugs, had admitted being involved in the 2009 conspiracy, and had made exculpatory false statements that tended to corroborate his knowing involvement with Seyfried.