Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, April 24, 2006

Arbane: Insufficient evidence to import cocaine into U.S.

In U.S. v. Arbane, No 04-15277 (Apr. 21, 2006) (2-1, Wilson, J. dissenting), the Court held that insufficient evidence supported a conviction of defendant convicted of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.
The Court first rejected the argument that there was no jurisdiction to prosecute Arbane, because he was arrested, without an extradition process, when his flight from Ecuador to Iran stopped in Houston, Texas, on a stopover. Citing U.S. v. Alvarez-Machain, 504 U.S. 655 (1992), the Court noted that the extradition treaty did not divest U.S. Courts of jurisdiction when a defendant’s presence in the United States was obtained otherwise than through a treaty’s extradition process.
The Court, however, found insufficient evidence. The Court noted that in a drug trafficking conspiracy the government had to prove an agreement to import drugs into the U.S. with someone other than a government informant. Here, there was evidence of another co-conspirator, but no evidence that this person, though aware of the existence of drugs, knew that the purpose of the scheme was to import drugs into the U.S. Hence, the evidence was insufficient. The Court pointed out that in a drug importation prosecution, the destination of the drugs (the U.S.) was an essential element of the crime, particularly when, as here, all of the conduct took place in Ecuador, outside the United States, and not even on the High Seas on the way to the United States. "There can be no meeting of the minds if only one mind contains knowledge of the object of the agreement," the Court noted.