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United States v. Hunte

196 F.3d 687 (1999)

tl;dr: Evidence that someone participated in the conspiracy and had constructive possession of drugs is sufficient to support a conviction, even if there was no financial motive to the defendant.

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Defendant Cheryl A. Hunte appealed her conviction and sentence for her involvement in a drug transportation attempt. She argued that there was insufficient evidence against her and that she should have received a sentencing reduction for her minor role in the crime. The trial court made an error in denying the reduction, and the case was sent back for re-sentencing. Hunte accompanied her boyfriend and another person on a trip to California to purchase and bring back narcotics. She stood to gain nothing from the deal and apparently went along for the ride. The person who directed the drug transportation trip made most of the decisions and planned to pick up marijuana in Arizona and bring it back to New York. Hunte was not involved in the business aspects of the deal.

Hunte and others were caught with marijuana while traveling to New York. Richards, Warwick, and Gonzalez pleaded guilty, while Hunte claimed she was not part of the conspiracy. The jury had difficulty understanding the concept of possession, but Hunte was found guilty. At sentencing, Hunte was denied reductions for acceptance of responsibility or for her minor role in the crimes. Hunte challenges her involvement in the crimes and the denial of a reduction for a minor role in the offense on appeal.

The court must determine if there is sufficient evidence to prove the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. To establish conspiracy, the government must prove an agreement between two or more persons to commit a criminal act and a participatory link between the conspiracy and the defendant. The evidence of Hunte's involvement in the conspiracy is weak, but the jury can consider overt acts committed in furtherance of the conspiracy as circumstantial evidence of knowing participation. The question of possession is still unresolved.

To prove possession with intent to distribute marijuana, prosecution must show knowledge, intention, and awareness of the controlled substance. Evidence against Hunte is strong, establishing the necessary nexus between her and the contraband. Hunte's convictions for conspiracy and possession are affirmed. Hunte's participation in the drug trafficking operation was minimal and did not provide anything necessary or essential to the operation. Compared to other participants, Hunte was less culpable.

Hunte's drug trafficking conviction was upheld, but the case was remanded to the district court for re-sentencing because the lower court erred in rejecting a reduction. Hunte's involvement in the operation was deemed less severe and eligible for a reduced sentence.

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Facts & Holding

Facts:Hunte was dating a drug dealer and accompanied him on...

Holding:The court held that the convictions were proper, because a...

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United States v. Hunte

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