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United States v. Boyce

argued: May 5, 1988.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
AARON BOYCE, APPELLANT



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Criminal No. 84-00108-01.

Gibbons, Chief Judge, Mansmann and Cowen, Circuit Judges.

Author: Cowen

Opinion OF THE COURT

COWEN, Circuit Judge.

This appeal arises from an order of the district court denying appellant Aaron Boyce's motions for a new trial and judgment of acquittal. Boyce was convicted by a jury of conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property. Upon review, we conclude that the district court committed prejudicial error by admitting a statement made by codefendant John McMahon into evidence against Boyce under the declarations against interest exception to the hearsay rule embodied in Rule 804(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Therefore, we will reverse Boyce's convictions, grant his motion for a new trial, and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

During the evening of October 3 and the early morning hours of October 4, 1983, a successful burglary occurred at Bartikowsky's Jewelers in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The burglars circumvented the store's alarm system, entered its vault through a vent in the roof, and stole more than one million dollars worth of rings, watches, bracelets and other jewelry. Following an investigation into the burglary, the appellant, Aaron Boyce, was indicted on July 12, 1984 along with another defendant, John McMahon, and charged with interstate transportation of stolen property in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314, and conspiracy to transport stolen property in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.

At trial, the case against Boyce was built entirely on circumstantial evidence. A registration statement from the Barre Motel in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, indicated that three persons, including an individual calling himself either Aaron Boyce or Aaron Boyle, stayed in room 36 on October 2 and 3, 1983. The motel registration also listed Boyce's or Boyle's address as 11 E. 7th Street, Hoboken, New Jersey and indicated that he was driving a 1974 Mustang with New Jersey license plate number 869 UCI. New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV") records disclosed that an Aaron Boyle of 11 E. 7th Street, Hoboken, New Jersey had registered a 1974 Mustang, to which the DMV assigned license plate number 869 UCI. Further evidence presented at trial revealed that appellant Aaron Boyce, although not residing in Hoboken, resided at 11 E. 7th Street, Brooklyn, New York, with his mother and stepfather. A search of the Brooklyn apartment conducted pursuant to a search warrant approximately three weeks after the Bartikowsky burglary netted a large quantity of stolen jewelry, including jewelry identified as missing from Bartikowsky's Jewelers.

The most damning evidence introduced against Boyce was a prior written statement given by his codefendant, John McMahon. On June 18, 1984, McMahon gave a statement to Robert Rodenberg of the New York City Police Department and Gerald Fornino of the FBI while he was in custody at the Brooklyn House of Detention. At trial, during his direct examination, FBI agent Fornino read to the jury McMahon's statement:

"On September 30, 1983 . . ., I [McMahon] drove to . . . the Barre Motel, rented a room, Number 36. I checked out Bartikowsky Jewelers in Wilkes-Barre.

On September 30, 1983, I and two others went on the roof and checked for alarms, I started opening the roof and got through about 4:00 to 5:00 a.m., covered the hole and came back October 1st, 1983, and made sure no one noticed us.

Went through the roof 11:30 p.m., got into vault 4:00 a.m. and took watches, jewelry/three and one-half pillow cases.

I got back at 6:00 a.m. I went into 1975 Mustang, New Jersey plates. I came back with two others to Brooklyn and fenced goods."

App. at 65. McMahon voluntarily signed the statement which was written on a government "advice of rights" form, indicating that he was fully apprised of his constitutional rights before making the declaration. However, McMahon gave the statement ...


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