Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Richardson: Single Conspiracy, not multiple

In U.S. v. Richardson, No. 06-12610 (July 3, 2008), the Court rejected the defendant’s contention that his various illegal agreements with several drug coconspirators constituted not one but multiple conspiracies.
Richardson claimed that the evidence showed unconnected drug conspiracies, not the single conspiracy charged in the indictment.
The Court rejected the argument that a variance occurred, finding that the jury reasonably could have found the existence of an underlying scheme to buy cocaine for relatively low prices in Miami and sell it for relatively high prices in Atlanta, thereby turning a profit.
Further, even if the jury could not have so concluded, the variance would not have engendered substantial prejudice, and thus would not require reversal. The government would not have been precluded from introducing any evidence. In addition, this was not a situation where a defendant on the periphery of one conspiracy was prejudiced by the admission into evidence of separate unrelated conspiracies; Richardson "was the hub."
The Court denied Richardson’s challenges to the failure to give the jury a "multiple conspiracies" instruction. The Court noted that this was not a case where several defendants were tried together for their varying degrees of participation in a single conspiracy. Multiple conspiracy instructions are not typically given in single-defendant cases. Moreover, the instruction that was given adequately informed the jury that it had to find Richardson joined in the charged conspiracy.