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Massachusetts v. Camerano

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant had a tenant who owned a substantial amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. When executing a search warrant, the officers found the marijuana. Defendant was convicted of conspiracy to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute it.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Mere knowledge or acquiescence of an illegal activity, absent a showing of an agreement or undertaking by a party, is not sufficient to prove the requisite intent for a conspiracy.

    Facts.

    Drug task force officers engaged in a fly over surveillance over Defendant’s house, Antonio Camerano. The officers saw a green-colored, roofless structure where vegetation appeared to be growing. When the officers returned to the base, some of the officers obtained a warrant to search the open structure. Upon execution of the warrant, the officers learned that the residence belonged to Defendant and his wife. Approximately sixty feet behind the residence, the officers found the roofless structure that they saw when conducting the fly over surveillance. Additionally, approximately one hundred feet behind the roofless structure was a trailer. Behind the trailer, the officers found a blue utility trailer. There were no neighbors within one hundred yards of Defendant’s property. The officers noted that the aroma of marijuana was so strong that they could smell it from a distance of about sixty feet. Defendant’s wife denied knowledge of what was going on in the roofless enclosure. Robert Howell, a tenant of the Defendant that lived in the trailer, was also present was found to be the owner of the marijuana found on the premises. Thereafter, the officers searched Defendant’s residence and found no drugs or drug paraphernalia, no key to the roofless enclosure, or anything to connect Defendant to the marijuana.  Nevertheless, the jury found Defendant guilty of conspiracy to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute it.

    Issue.

    Whether a reasonable jury could find that Defendant was guilty of conspiracy to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute it.

    Held.

    No, a reasonable jury could not find that Defendant was guilty of conspiracy to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute it.

    Dissent.

    Here, the government has showed all the essential elements for conspiracy. Defendant continued to allow Howell to cultivate marijuana on his land, continued to accept monthly rent from Howell, knowing he did not have another source of income, and Defendant continued to allow Howell to use his water supply when he knew or should have known it was used to grow the marijuana.

    Discussion.

    To be guilty of conspiracy, one must have the requisite intent, not mere knowledge or acquiescence. Here, the government has solely proved that Defendant had knowledge that Howell was growing contraband, but not an agreement or any evidence to suggest an undertaking by Defendant. The officer did not present any evidence to suggest that $200 per month, the rent Howell was paying Defendant, was an untoward rent for parking trailer or that Howell used an unusual amount of water to alert Defendant of his actions on Defendants water bill. Also, the officers did not find a key to the enclosure on Defendant’s person or residence. Therefore, a reasonable jury could not find that Defendant was guilty of conspiracy to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute it.


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