Law School Case Brief
United States v. Tyler - 758 F.2d 66 (2d Cir. 1985)
The evidence adduced by the government that merely shows that defendant helped a willing buyer locate a willing seller, standing alone, is insufficient to establish the existence of an agreement between the facilitator and the seller.
Defendant Warren Tyler assisted an undercover police officer purchase heroin from James Bennett. The officer purchased the heroin directly from Bennett. After the sale, Tyler was arrested because the officer identified Tyler as the man who had introduced him to Bennett. Tyler was later charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C.S. § 846 and aiding and abetting the distribution of heroin in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 2 and 21 U.S.C.S. § 841 (1982). After trial in federal district court, a jury found Tyler guilty as charged. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of two years imprisonment on each of the two counts, to be followed by a five year special parole term on the aiding and abetting count. Tyler appealed.
Was Tyler's conviction for aiding and abetting the distribution of heroin proper?
The appellate court reversed Tyler's conviction for conspiracy and affirmed Tyler's conviction for aiding and abetting. The court agreed with Tyler that there was insufficient evidence of an agreement between himself and Baxter to establish the existence of a conspiracy to distribute heroin. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the evidence showed no more than that Tyler helped the officer as a willing buyer find a willing seller, which was insufficient to prove the existence of a conspiratorial agreement between Tyler and the seller. As to the aiding and abetting conviction, the court ruled that there was evidence to indicate that Tyler associated himself with the criminal venture, participated in it as something he wished to bring about, and sought by his actions to make it succeed. The court noted that there was nothing inconsistent in its determination that the evidence was insufficient with respect to the conspiracy count but sufficient with respect to the aiding and abetting count because the two offenses were separate and distinct.
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