The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge
Presently before the Court for disposition are numerous pre-trial motions (Document Nos. 591, 592, 594, 596) which have been filed by Michelle Jimenez, the sole remaining Defendant in this large heroin conspiracy case.*fn1 The government, with the Court's permission, filed an Omnibus Response to the motions filed by all Defendants (Document No. 655) and the motions filed by Jimenez are ripe for disposition.
Factual and Procedural Background
The charges in this case stem from a lengthy investigation of heroin trafficking. Agents received information from confidential sources regarding heroin purchases dating back to January 2008. In June 2009, June 2010 and July 2010, agents utilized confidential sources to conduct controlled purchases of heroin. Beginning on August 31, 2010, the government obtained Title III wiretap intercepts on cellular telephones utilized by Defendants Terrell Bennett, James Green, Robert Vaughns, Michelle Jimenez and others. Numerous authorizations to extend and broaden the wiretap intercepts were obtained.
On March 1, 2011, the government filed a one-count indictment in Criminal No. 11-53, which charged nine Defendants, James Green, Terrald Bennett, Richard Hutson, Robert Vaughns, Bonita Bey, Brandon Massie, Jose Hidalgo-Mendoza, Michelle Jimenez and Tyson Barron, with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one (1) kilogram or more of heroin, from March 2009 through April 2011, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 846. On July 15, 2011, the government filed a 3-count Superseding Indictment, which named nine additional persons as Defendants. Count 1 of the Superseding Indictment charges seventeen Defendants (including Jimenez) with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one (1) kilogram or more of heroin, from March 2009 through April 2011, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 846. Count 2 of the Superseding Indictment charges Defendants Bennett and Jimenez with money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h).*fn2 As of this date, sixteen of the eighteen Defendants have pled guilty and the seventeenth Defendant has indicated to the Court that a plea of guilty will be entered in the near future.
The principles of law governing an alleged drug conspiracy can be difficult to understand and appreciate. A review of the Third Circuit Model Jury Instructions regarding the crime of "Conspiracy" illustrates the vast scope of the liability to which even a minor or tangential member may be exposed. "Conspiracy" is a criminal offense separate and apart from the underlying heroin distribution offenses that were the alleged objectives of the conspiracy charged in this case. It is a federal crime for two or more persons to agree or conspire to commit any offense against the United States, even if they do not ultimately achieve their objective.
A conspiracy is a type of criminal partnership. If this case goes to trial, the jury will be instructed that the government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to establish the crime of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance:
1. That two or more persons agreed to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance;
2. That Defendant was a party to, or member of, that agreement; and
3. That Defendant joined the agreement or conspiracy knowing of its objective to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance and intending to join together with at least one other alleged conspirator to achieve those objectives; that is, that Defendant and at least one other alleged conspirator shared a unity of purpose and the intent to achieve those objectives.
The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that two or more persons knowingly and intentionally arrived at a mutual understanding or agreement, either spoken or unspoken, to work together to achieve the overall objective of the conspiracy. The government does not have to prove the existence of a formal or written agreement, or an express oral agreement spelling out the details of the understanding. The government also does not have to prove that all the members of the conspiracy directly met, or discussed among themselves their unlawful objective, or agreed to all the details, or agreed as to what the means were by which the objective would be accomplished. The government is not required to prove that all members of the alleged conspiracy were named, or that all members of the conspiracy are even known to one another. What the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that two or more persons in some way or manner arrived at some type of agreement, mutual understanding, or meeting of the minds to try to accomplish a common and unlawful objective.
The government must prove that each Defendant knew the goals or objectives of the agreement or conspiracy and voluntarily joined it during its existence, intending to achieve the common goals or objectives and to work together with the other alleged conspirators toward those goals or objectives. However, the government does not have to prove that a Defendant knew everything about the conspiracy or that he/she knew everyone involved in it, or that he/she was a member from the beginning. The government also does not have to prove that he/she played a major or substantial role in the conspiracy. On the other hand, evidence which shows that Defendant only knew about the conspiracy, or only kept "bad company" by associating with members of the conspiracy, or was only present when it was discussed or when a crime was committed, is not sufficient to prove that he/she was a member of the conspiracy, even if he/she approved of what was happening or did not object to it.
The acts or statements of any member of a conspiracy are treated as the acts or statements of all the members of the conspiracy, if these acts or statements were performed or spoken during the existence of the conspiracy and to further the objectives of the conspiracy. Therefore, the jury may consider as evidence against a Defendant any acts done or statements made by any members of the conspiracy, during the existence of and to further the objectives of the conspiracy. The jury ...