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United States v. Alvarez

    Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Alvarez (Defendant), was convicted of conspiring to transport marijuana to the United States from Columbia based on his participation in unloading the drugs from a pick-up truck prior to their being put on a United States bound airplane.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Evidence of agreement in a conspiracy may be inferred from indirect evidence such as participation in overt acts that further the conspiracy.

    Facts. The Defendant, prior to unloading drugs concealed in large household appliances from a pickup truck to be put on a United States bound airplane, responded affirmatively to an undercover agent’s inquiry as to whether he would be at the unloading site in the United States. He was convicted of conspiring to transport marijuana on this evidence.

    Issue. Is circumstantial evidence alone sufficient to prove the “agreement” element of a conspiracy charge?

    Held. Yes. Affirmed. A jury may properly have concluded that the Defendant’s intended presence at the unloading site in the United States was evidence of a prior agreement by the Defendant to assist in the criminal conspiracy. The Defendant cannot escape criminal liability solely on the basis that he did not join a criminal conspiracy until well after its inception or played only a minor role therein.

    Dissent. There was no evidence that the Defendant had knowledge that criminal activity was afoot. The evidence only showed that he unloaded a washing machine from a truck and indicated that he would be present at the unloading site in the United States. The majority does not explain how a jury could not accept this scenario over the contention that the defendant was aware of the criminal activity underway.

    Discussion. The majority in this case broadens the net of a conspiracy charge to include those for whom the only evidence of agreement in the conspiracy is an overt act in furtherance of it, even where that act may permit of an inference of innocent conduct unrelated to the conspiracy.


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