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In a conspiracy prosecution under 21 U.S.C.S. § 846, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt not only the existence of an agreement between two or more persons to violate the narcotics laws, but also that each person knew of the conspiracy, intended to join it, and actually participated in the conspiracy. A mere association with persons in the conspiracy or presence at the scene of the crime is not enough. To prove aiding and abetting in a criminal venture, the prosecution must prove that the defendant: i) associated with the criminal enterprise, ii) participated in the venture, and iii) sought by action to make the venture succeed.
This case involved three distinct drug transactions; first, when the DEA special agent met with second defendant Jerry Wayne Mergerson at a parking lot and both of them went to first defendant Uchechukwu Anunaso’s apartment. Second defendant delivered 24.9 grams of heroin on the first drug transaction. On the second transaction, where second defendant sold 100.2 grams of heroin. On the last transaction where second defendant was arrested shortly thereafter, 334.8 grams of heroin were involved. A search warrant was executed at first defendant’s apartment after second defendant was arrested. Police seized number of incriminating evidence including a loaded pistol. The search was also conducted at second defendant’s residence, where, a pistol was also seized and cocoaine.
A grand jury returned a five-count indictment against defendants. Count one of the indictment charged both defendants with conspiracy to traffick heroin. Counts two, three, and four each charged second defendant with unlawful distribution of heroin. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2, first defendant was charged under counts two, three, and four with aiding and abetting second defendant. In count five of the indictment, second defendant was additionally charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Plaintiff-government filed a penalty enhancement information under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) with respect to second defendant. Both defendants were tried and were found guilty of all the charges. Defendants appealed their convictions and corresponding sentences.
Was the conviction against defendants proper?
The court held that there was sufficient evidence to show a conspiracy between defendants because first defendant was the second defendant's heroin supplier. The court also affirmed first defendant's convictions and sentence in the district court because there was sufficient evidence to prove that he was involved in a conspiracy to distribute drugs and his sentence was correctly enhanced because of for their extensive drug activities. The court affirmed most of second defendant's convictions, but vacated second defendant's mandatory life sentence because there was not proof that he actually possessed over one kilogram of heroin.