Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, February 14, 2014

Isnadin: Predisposition to commit a few crimes

In U.S. v. Isnadin, No. 12-13474 (Feb. 14, 2014), the Court affirmed the convictions and sentences of defendants convicted of attempt to possess 500 grams or more of cocaine and of possession of a firearm in connection with a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime. The defendants were charged with attempted Hobbs Act robbery, attempted cocaine possession, and possession of firearms, all arising out of a sting operation involving the robbery of a fictitious drug stash house. During deliberations, the jury asked whether, if it found that the defendants were entrapped as to the robbery of the stash house, this should affect its verdict as to the other counts. Over defense objection, the trial court instructed the jury to consider entrapment separately as to each count. The jury ultimately convicted on the drug and gun counts, and acquitted on the Hobbs Act robbery counts. On appeal, the defendants argued that because the drug stash robbery, the attempted cocaine possession, and the firearms counts involved a single intertwined “course of conduct,” it was reversible error to instruct the jury to consider the defendants’ entrapment defense separately as to each count. Rejecting this argument, the Court explained that even if the defendants were induced as to all counts, “it may well be that the facts of a given case indicate that an individual defendant is predisposed to commit some crimes, but not others.” Here, it was possible that the defendants “were predisposed to conspire to possess the cocaine in some manner . . . even if they were not predisposed to rob [the stash house].” The Court noted that, during discussions with the undercover agent, the defendants raised the question whether they could obtain the cocaine without robbing the stash house, thus making it “permissible for the jury to conclude that [they] conspired to secure the drugs in their possession by some means, even if not by armed robbery.” Similarly, the jury could have concluded that the defendants were predisposed to possess firearms in furtherance of a conspiracy to possess a large quantity of cocaine, even the defendants were not predisposed to possess firearms to rob the stash house.