United States v. Batista, No. 10-3284-cr (2d Cir. May 17, 2012) ( Kearse, Cabranes, Sack, CJJ)
Louis Batista, a former New York City police officer, was convicted by an Eastern District jury of participating in a longstanding drug distribution ring based in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
This long opinion affirms this conviction and sentences, as well as the sentence of one of the cooperating witnesses, and covers relatively little new ground.
However, it has a potentially interesting, if brief, discussion of an issue that does not come up very often, the district court’s handling of a matter under the Court Interpreters Act of 1978, 28 U.S.C. § 1827. At trial, a cooperating witness testified that Batista would warn his co-conspirators of imminent police activity in their area with the Spanish phrase “loco cuidate.” According to the circuit, the meaning of the phrase is ambiguous. It might mean “take care, dude,” which in context would be relatively innocuous, or it might mean “be careful, dude,” a less innocuous spin.
The district court asked the witness, who spoke both English and Spanish, what he understood Batista to mean – he said “be careful,” not “take care” – and then instructed the court interpreter to use that translation. While this might potentially have violated the Act,neither side objected, and the circuit found no plain error.