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United States v. James

    Brief Fact Summary. Defendants were charged with conspiracy that cumulated with a shoot out with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and local police. Defendant argued that there was no agreement to participate in the shoot out and appeal the convictions for conspiracy.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. It is not necessary to prove an express agreement between the alleged conspirators to violate the law. The common plan can be inferred from a development and collocation of circumstances.

    Facts. Defendants were part of a group called the Republic of New Africa. The group was formed as an independent foreign nation composed of ‘citizens’ descended from Africans who at one time were slaves in the United States. The FBI raided their compound. During the raid, gunshots were fired, an officer was killed and two wounded. Defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to commit assault, using firearms and possessing unregistered firearms. On appeal, Defendants contend that the evidence did not show any agreement to commit the offenses found.

    Issue. Whether there existed an agreement between Defendants that constituted a conspiracy to commit the crimes alleged.

    Held. Affirmed, except with respect to one Defendant, which there is insufficient evidence to show she had any knowledge of the conspiracy.
    To establish the common plan element of a conspiracy, it is not necessary to prove an express agreement between the alleged conspirators to violate the law. The common plan can be inferred from a development and collocation of circumstances.

    The co-conspirators need not know each other, all that is necessary is that each know that it has a scope and that for its success it requires an organization wider than may be disclosed by his personal participation.

    Once the existence of a common scheme of a conspiracy is shown, slight evidence is all that is required to connect a particular defendant with the conspiracy. This may be show with circumstantial evidence and shown to take place beyond the starting point of the conspiracy.


    Discussion. The Court focused on what circumstances could arise that would indicate an agreement and satisfy the common plan element of the crime of conspiracy. The Court stressed that it takes very little to establish an agreement once the prosecution has proved a common plan between the alleged conspirators. Next, the Court devoted analysis to each Defendant and identified the specific actions that lead the court to decide that they were part of the conspiracy. One Defendant was successful. The successful Defendant was not present until two days prior to the shoot out, did not participate in the shoot out and was found to only provide food to the participants after the shoot out.


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