Drug Offenses

The Federal Docket

United States v. Johnny Benjamin, Jr. (11th Cir. May 2020)

The Court affirmed the conviction of a doctor charged with manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance analogue resulting in a woman’s overdose death. The Court affirmed his conviction on the death count based on expert testimony, co-defendant testimony, and circumstantial evidence, and the Court held that the district court had sufficiently instructed the jury on scienter based on the defendant’s knowledge of the identity of the substance. Nor did the trial court err in declining to investigate juror misconduct based on finding a list of “Do’s and Don’ts of Jury Deliberations” in the deliberation room.

United States v. Bernard Moore, et al. (11th Cir. March 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit rejected a number of challenges in affirming the defendants’ sentences for drug trafficking and unlawful possession of firearms, holding that the district court did not plainly err in shackling the defendants during trial without stating its reasons in the record and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in interviewing jurors in camera regarding their safety concerns and summarizing those interviews for the parties. The Court also concluded that the indictments failure to allege the defendants’ mens rea as required under Rehaif v. United States did not deprive the court of jurisdiction and the plain error of convicting the defendants of unlawful possession of firearm did not warrant reversal where the government would have been able to prove their knowledge.

Fed and Ohio Law Enforcement Arrest 35 Alleged DTO Members

The DOJ announced that it had charged 35 individuals with drug conspiracy charges based on allegations that they were members of an alleged drug trafficking organization (“DTO”) in the Mansfield, Ohio area. Through four separate indictments, the defendants are charged with distributing heroin, meth, cocaine, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, carfentanil, marijuana, oxycodone, and crack. Click …

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Police Departments Try to Trick Drug Offenders Using the Coronavirus

In an attempt to go after some low hanging fruit, or perhaps as a practical joke, several police departments across the country have sent out posts on social media offering to tests methamphetamine and other drugs for the presence of coronavirus. One such post from a Florida police department advises that people who fear that …

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DEA Operation Project Python Results in 750 Arrests

The Justice Department announced the arrest of more than 750 individuals in the DEA-led Operation Project Python, which was charged with investigating a Mexican cartel called Jalisco New Generation Cartel. In addition to the 750 arrests, law enforcement seized over 20 kilograms of drugs and $20 million in cash. The arrests took place across Los …

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United States v. Wesley Scott Hamm (6th Cir. March 2020)

Drug Offenses/Elements – Sufficient evidence existed of a drug conspiracy, as opposed to a mere buyer-seller relationship, where the relationship was ongoing, the quantities involved were large, the transaction involved extensive planning, and the alleged seller taught the buyer how to mix the drugs for resale. Drug Offenses/Death Counts – Sufficient evidence existed that the …

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Shular v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, February 2020)

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held a defendant’s prior conviction under state law qualifies as a “serious drug offense” under the ACCA if the defendant’s conduct involves “manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance” as spelled out under the statute. In doing so, the Court rejected a categorical approach that would require courts to match the defendant’s state offenses to a “generic offense.”

United States v. Francisca Rodriguez-Gamboa (9th Cir. December 2019)

The Court held that the defendant could not be removed and later charged with illegal reentry based on a conviction under California law that was broader in defining methamphetamine than the federal law defining methamphetamine.

United States v. Nowlin Lee Waugh, Jr. (9th Cir. December 2019)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for possession of meth with intent to distribute, holding that the defendant was not entitled to a jury instruction on the lesser included offense of simple possession where the evidence showed that the quantity of meth exceeded the quantity associated with personal use, the meth’s purity suggested that the meth was being used as a cutting agent, and the defendant’s travel indicated possible distribution.

United States v. Martin Johnson (4th Cir. December 2019)

The Court held that a district court does not plainly err by failing to give a limiting instruction when admitting 404(b) evidence in the absence of a defendant’s request for such an instruction. Additionally, the Court held that robbery possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute under Maryland law are predicate “violent felonies” under the ACCA.

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