In United States v. Stapleton, No. 19-12708 (Newsom, Marcus, Covington) (July 12, 2022), the Court affirmed the defendant’s alien smuggling convictions.
First, the Court rejected the defendant’s argument that the government’s four-year delay in extraditing him violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. The district court did not clearly err in finding that the government acted reasonably and diligently (rather than negligently or in bad faith) given the onerous requirements for extradition from the Bahamas and Jamaica, and that the 33 aliens involved in the case had scattered. And the government acted once it learned that the defendant planned to travel to Germany, a country with less demanding extradition requirements. Because the reason for delay did not weigh heavily against the defendant, and he did not argue actual prejudice, his claim failed.
Second, the Court held that the indictment was neither multiplicitous nor insufficiently specific. While two counts charged a violation of the same statute, they charged two separate alien-smuggling conspiracies rather than one. And while it charged three immigration-related offenses for the same conduct, they each required proof of different elements, thus satisfying the Blockburger test. Finally, the indictment was not required to specifically identify the alleged co-conspirators. And it did not need to specify a principal whom he aided and abetted because he was charged with committing the substantive offenses himself.
Third, the district court did not plainly erred by admitting evidence of the defendant’s abuse of migrant women and of an uncharged alien-smuggling conspiracy. The former was probative of his intent to smuggle migrants into the United States, which he placed at issue. And the latter was probative of his modus operandi, and also to refute his trial defense that he did not intend to commit any crimes.
Fourth, the evidence was sufficient to convict him of knowingly aiding the entry of an inadmissible alien who had been convicted of an aggravated felony. The evidence was sufficient for a jury to conclude that the alien was in fact the same person who had been convicted of an aggravated felony.
Fifth, the district court did not clearly err in imposing two sentencing enhancements. As to an enhancement for inflicting serious bodily injury, the court was entitled to credit the testimony of the victim, even though she had illegally entered the country and had a pending petition to remain. As to an enhancement for possession of a firearm in relation to his offenses, that conduct was part of the “relevant conduct,” even though it occurred during an uncharged operation, because it was part of the same common scheme or plan sharing a similar modus operandi.