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United States v. Figueroa

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

September 3, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ANTONIO FIGUEROA a/k/a BABY FAT FACE Antonio Figueroa, Appellant

Argued on July 17, 2013

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D. C. No. 1-10-cr-00685-001) District Judge: Honorable Robert B. Kugler

Ralph A. Jacobs, Esquire (Argued) Jacobs Singer Kivitz & Herman LLC Counsel for Appellant

Glenn J. Moramarco, Esquire (Argued) Office of United States Attorney Camden Federal Building & Courthouse

Mark E. Coyne, Esquire Office of United States Attorney Counsel for Appellee

Before: RENDELL, SMITH and ROTH, Circuit Judges

OPINION

ROTH, Circuit Judge

Antonio Figueroa appeals the District Court's September 11, 2012, judgments of conviction and sentence. Figueroa was convicted of civil rights violations under 18 U.S.C. §§ 241 and 242 and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. On appeal, he challenges his conviction on four grounds: (1) the District Court erred by admitting the out-of-court statement of co-defendant Robert Bayard, (2) the District Court erred by excluding, as cumulative, police reports that Figueroa offered into evidence, (3) the District Court erred by allowing improper expert opinion testimony from a prosecution fact witness on issues of constitutional law, and (4) the District Court erred by refusing to give the jury Figueroa's requested instruction concerning specific intent. Figueroa challenges his sentence on two grounds: (1) the District Court erred by applying the drug distribution sentencing guideline to Figueroa's civil rights violations, and (2) his sentence was substantively unreasonable. For the following reasons, we will affirm the District Court's judgments of conviction and sentence.

I. Background

Figueroa joined the police force in Camden, New Jersey, in 2003. In July 2008, he was transferred to a new Special Operations Unit created to target guns, drugs and violence in Camden's most crime ridden neighborhoods. Figueroa was assigned to the "fourth platoon" with his regular partner, Robert Bayard, as well as Sergeant Dan Morris, and officers Jason Stetser and Kevin Parry. On September 6, 2011, Figueroa and Bayard were charged in a six count superseding indictment with a series of civil rights violations.

In addition to five substantive civil rights violations, they were charged with conspiring with Stetser, Parry, and Morris to deprive others of their civil rights. A three week jury trial began on November 15, 2011. Stetser, Parry, and Morris all testified at trial as cooperating witnesses with plea agreements. Other law enforcement officers and citizens who were victims of or witnesses to the activities alleged in the indictment also testified. Over the course of trial, the government presented evidence regarding twelve incidents in which Figueroa allegedly deprived individuals of their civil rights. There are six specific incidents of misconduct described below that are relevant to Figueroa's arguments on appeal.

August 9, 2008:

Figueroa and Stetser were conducting surveillance on an open-air drug market and observed "A.K" sell drugs to "T.C." When they arrested the participants, Stetser found a bundle of crack cocaine and Figueroa found a bag filled with money. Morris, Figueroa, and Stetser took some of this money for themselves. After the arrest, T.C. cooperated with the officers and gave them information about other drug-dealing activity, but A.K. did not. Stetser and Figueroa attributed to A.K. drugs and a gun that were not actually found on him. Specifically, they attributed to him (1) drugs that Stetser had stashed in a nearby tree, (2) a handgun located in a house that T.C. told them about, and (3) the "re-up stash" of drugs they found in a nearby garage. Figueroa wrote the falsified police report about this incident.

September 14, 2008:

Figueroa, Stetser, Parry, and Morris conducted illegal searches in the Winslow Court apartment complex based on information from an informant. The officers broke into Apartment C, where they found between $1, 500 and $2, 000, and then searched, without consent or a warrant, Apartment G, where they found $10, 000. When they found no drugs, they confronted their informant who pointed them to a mailbox in the complex, where they found a large stash of cocaine. Figueroa wrote the police report, in which he falsely claimed that they had seen someone take drugs out of the mailbox, throw a bag in Apartment G and flee through Apartment C. The report stated that they had recovered only $1, 531 in cash.

September 17, 2008:

Figueroa and Bayard arrested "D.B.#1" on the street who then told them that he had a gun at home. The officers then drove to his house, coerced his mother into signing a consent to search form, and found a firearm in a bedroom closet. Figueroa's police report falsely claimed that he found the firearm in plain view after chasing D.B.#1 into the house and arresting him ...


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