June 21, 2018

Archives for August 19, 2013

Tenth Circuit: Secret Vehicle Compartment Maker’s Conviction for Conspiracy and Witness Intimidation Affirmed

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in United States v. Anaya on Friday, August 16, 2013.

Alfred Anaya built secret compartments in vehicles for a major drug trafficking organization to hide drugs and money. He was indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine (“meth”), and marijuana; and on two counts of intimidation of federal witnesses. A jury convicted him on the conspiracy charges related to cocaine and meth and on both counts of intimidation. The district court sentenced him to 292 months in prison for the conspiracy count and 240 months for the intimidation counts, to run concurrently.

Anaya argued the evidence was insufficient for the jury to convict him of conspiracy. The Tenth Circuit disagreed. To prove Anaya knowingly joined the conspiracy, the government did not need to prove Anaya knew of every type or amount of drug trafficked by the conspiracy. It only needed to prove Anaya knew that conspiracy members “knowingly or intentionally” possessed a “controlled substance” with the intent to distribute it.

Next, Anaya argued prosecutorial misconduct rendered his trial so unfair as to make his conviction a violation of due process. The court set out the possible standards of review and concluded plain error review applied, but none occurred.

Anaya also argued that evidence did not support the willful blindness jury instruction that was given. The court held this was not error given the substantial evidence of Anaya’s guilt. The court also rejected his cumulative error argument and affirmed.

Tenth Circuit: Drug Conspiracy Convictions and Sentences Affirmed

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in United States v. Brooks on Friday, August 16, 2013.

Mark Brooks and Marcus Quinn were arrested after an investigation into a large Kansas City–area drug distribution operation. They were charged with and convicted of various drug conspiracy charges and sentenced to thirty-five years’ and thirty years’ imprisonment, respectively. The Tenth Circuit consolidated their separate appeals because of overlapping factual and legal claims.

Brooks and Quinn both objected to the overview testimony offered by FBI Agent Swanson on how the government’s investigation into the drug conspiracy unfolded and the roles played by individual defendants. Overview testimony can include lay and expert opinion. Agent Swanson was not qualified as an expert by the government, nor was his testimony objected to on that basis by the defense at trial. The court found no plain error in his testimony’s admission and held that the specific testimony objected to on appeal was elicited after the defense opened the door on cross. The Tenth Circuit did, however, discuss the dangers of overview testimony and suggested ways to minimize the danger.

Brooks and Quinn also argued that the government improperly bolstered its cooperating witnesses through the testimony of Agent Swanson. The court found that the defendants had opened the door to the complained-of testimony during cross and that it was not improper bolstering.

Quinn argued there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for conspiracy because there was no evidence of an agreement between himself and the other conspirators nor evidence of interdependence. The court found there was sufficient evidence to support the conspiracy conviction.

Quinn also argued the district court erred in allowing evidence of his prior drug distribution conviction to be admitted at trial. The court found no abuse of discretion in admitting the evidence as it met the requirements of FRE 404(b) and a proper limiting instruction was given.

Quinn argued his sentence was procedurally unreasonable. The court found no merit to his arguments, including his “novel” argument that “because his prior drug dealing conviction was used to determine his guilt for conspiracy, it cannot be used to calculate the applicable sentence — thereby entitling him to a two-level reduction in his offense level.”

Brooks argued that the ten-year disparity between his sentence (35 years) and that of Antonio, who pleaded guilty and received 25 years, made his sentence substantively unreasonable as Antonio was more extensively involved in the conspiracy. The court found no abuse of discretion because Brooks was given a within-guidelines sentence which carries a presumption of reasonableness. The disparity also had a reasonable basis as Antonio’s guilty plea spared the substantial judicial resources of a trial. The court affirmed both convictions and sentences.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 8/19/13

On Monday, August 19, 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued four published opinions and three unpublished opinions.

United States v. James

United States v. Lopez-Carillo

Cordova v. Dowling

No case summaries are provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 8/16/13

On Friday, August 16, 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued two published opinions and three unpublished opinions.

Todd v. Bigelow

Fowlke v. CIR

Sherpa v. Holder

No case summaries are provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.