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United States v. Levy

filed: January 9, 1989.


On Appeal From the United States District Court For the District of New Jersey (Camden), D.C. Criminal Action No. 87-80.

Collins J. Seitz, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., Dolores K. Sloviter, Edward R. Becker, Walter K. Stapleton, Carol Los Mansmann, Morton I. Greenberg, William D. Hutchinson, Anthony J. Scirica, and Robert E. Cowen, Circuit Judges.

Author: Stapleton


STAPLETON, Circuit Judge:


Appellants Yaffa Levy and Moshe Gozlon-Peretz were convicted by a jury in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on three counts. Count One of the Superseding Indictment charged participation in a conspiracy to distribute more than a kilogram of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846 (1982). Count Two charged distribution of approximately 240 grams of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (1982). Count Three charged possession with intent to distribute in excess of one kilogram of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. Prior to the trial, appellant Ellus Yehuda, a co-defendant, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute two kilograms of heroin.

At trial, the government relied primarily upon the testimony of Special Agent Paul Maloney, an undercover DEA agent, to convict defendants Levy and Gozlon-Peretz of, inter alia, conspiracy to distribute heroin on or about February 26th, 1987. While Maloney was on the stand, the government elicited testimony concerning out of court statements made by Yehuda during the negotiations leading to the sale of the heroin to Maloney. The government tendered much of that testimony as probative of the truth of the assertions made by Yehuda. After Levy and Gozlon-Peretz objected to the admissibility of this evidence on hearsay grounds, the government urged that it was admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E) as statements made "by a coconspirator of a party during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy." The district court applied the then governing circuit precedent, United States v. Ammar, 714 F.2d 238 (3d Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 936, 104 S. Ct. 344, 78 L. Ed. 2d 311 (1983), and admitted the tendered evidence. Its action was premised on a finding pursuant to the Ammar standard that the record evidence, without reference to the purported co-conspirator statements, made it more likely than not that those statements were made in furtherance of a then existing conspiracy of which the defendants were members. Yehuda was available to testify at the trial but neither side chose to call him to the stand.

After the defendants were sentenced and while their appeals were pending before this Court, the Supreme Court of the United States decided United States v. Bourjaily, 483 U.S. 171, 107 S. Ct. 2775, 97 L. Ed. 2d 144 (1987). In that case, the Court disapproved the test articulated in Ammar, holding that a trial judge may consider all evidence, including the tendered out of court statements of the alleged co-conspirator, in deciding whether to admit the statements.

Several issues are raised in this appeal from the defendants' convictions: 1) whether there was sufficient independent evidence under this court's decision in Ammar to warrant the admission under Rule 801(d)(2)(E) of the out of court statements made by alleged co-conspirator Yehuda; 2) whether the false passports of the defendants and their use of false names were properly admitted into evidence; 3) whether, assuming the admissibility of the co-conspirator statements and the evidence regarding false identification, there was enough evidence to support Levy's and Gozlon-Peretz's convictions; 4) whether retroactive application of Bourjaily to this case would violate notions of fundamental fairness inherent in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment; 5) whether, assuming Bourjaily is to be applied retroactively, there was sufficient evidence to permit the admission of the co-conspirator statements; 6) whether there is an unacceptable risk that the sentences imposed on Gozlon-Peretz and Yehuda were influenced by a misunderstanding on the part of the sentencing judge regarding the parole provisions of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, Pub. L. 99-570, §§ 1002, 1003, 100 Stat. 3207-2 (codified at 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1) (Supp. IV 1986)); and 7) whether the district court erred in failing to make factual findings regarding Yehuda's ability to pay the $200,000 fine imposed upon him.

In keeping with the preferred practice of avoiding unnecessary decisions of constitutional issues, we first address the issue of whether the district court properly applied the Ammar standard when it admitted Yehuda's out of court statements. Because we hold that there was enough independent evidence to warrant the admission of these statements under Ammar, we do not reach the issue of whether Bourjaily could be applied here without violating due process. We also hold that the false passports and use of false identities were admissible, and that there was sufficient evidence to support Levy's and Gozlon-Peretz's convictions. We will vacate the sentences of Gozlon-Peretz and Yehuda, however, and remand for resentencing.


In March, 1986, a government informant introduced Special Agent Paul Maloney of the Drug Enforcement Agency to Yehuda. For the next eleven months, Maloney, acting in an undercover role, negotiated with Yehuda in an attempt to purchase large quantities of heroin. During these eleven months Maloney had approximately fifteen to sixteen telephone conversations and half a dozen "face-to-face" meetings with Yehuda. At each of the approximately six "face to face" meetings, Yehuda and Maloney tried to negotiate a heroin transaction. None of these transactions were ever consummated; the main sticking points were Yehuda's demand that Maloney give him money "up front" before delivery of the heroin, and Yehuda's apparent inability to obtain and produce any heroin despite his repeated promises. During these negotiations Yehuda stated that he had one source of heroin in Chicago and two in Thailand.

On February 24, 1987, Yehuda called Maloney at his Atlantic City office and said that "he had something" for Maloney. They agreed to meet the next afternoon at the Pennsylvania railroad station in Newark, New Jersey. They met as arranged. During the meeting Yehuda reported that he had met "a friend" in New York whom he had previously seen in Thailand and that his friend had entered the United States with about five kilograms of heroin. Yehuda then gave Maloney a small package which later analysis revealed contained 23.6 grams of 27 percent pure heroin hydrochloride. Upon receiving the sample, Maloney told Yehuda that he would return with it to Atlantic City and have it tested; he added that if everything worked out well, he would want to buy at least one kilogram. Yehuda responded that the price would be about $200,000 per kilogram and that he would have to check with his friend to make sure everything was all right.

At this point, Maloney and Yehuda proceeded to a pay phone in the sky walk connecting the station and the Hilton Hotel. Maloney asked Yehuda if the transaction could be consummated in Atlantic City because he not only felt safer there but could also guarantee everyone else's safety. Yehuda replied that he would check this with "his man." Upon reaching the phone, Yehuda, referring to a piece of paper, punched in a series of numbers and hung up the phone. In response to Maloney's question as to whether the line was busy, Yehuda said that he had to call a beeper number and that his call would be returned. Maloney read from Yehuda's paper one of the numbers, 401-4532, that Yehuda had used. Several minutes later Yehuda received an incoming call on the pay phone. The call lasted several minutes and was carried out in a foreign language.

After this second call, Yehuda said that it was agreed that the transaction would be done in Atlantic City, but that his friend wanted to do it one pound at a time. Yehuda explained that "his friend" wanted Yehuda to deliver one pound to Maloney, receive $110,000, then go back to get the second pound and deliver it to Maloney in return for the remainder of the purchase price ($90,000). In response to Maloney's concern about completing the transaction anywhere but Atlantic City, Yehuda said that since Maloney was the buyer, "they" would complete it wherever he wanted.

The government subsequently obtained records from a Novotel Hotel in New York City which showed that a phone call had been made to the pay phone in the Newark skywalk at 1:44pm on February 25, 1987 from a room registered to Annette Amar, an alias used by Yaffa Levy.

At 6:55pm the next day, Levy, Gozlon-Peretz and Yehuda arrived together at the Sands Hotel; Levy rented room 1002 using an Israeli passport in the name of Annette Amar. The hotel desk clerk testified that she saw a full red bag among the defendants' luggage. At 7:05pm Yehuda and Maloney met at an arranged spot in the Golden Nugget Hotel lobby; Yehuda was carrying a large red bag. After proceeding to Maloney's hotel room in the Golden Nugget, Yehuda stated that he had come to Atlantic City with "his friend" and asked Maloney if he had a balance that he could borrow as his had been too bulky to bring. Maloney lent Yehuda his electronic scale, and Yehuda put it into his red bag. Yehuda stated he was going to leave the scale with "his friend" while he, Yehuda, brought the first installment of drugs to Maloney. Yehuda was to have returned the scale with the second installment, at which point Maloney would have used the scale to weigh the ...

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