Eleventh Circuit Affirms Convictions of Three Co-Defendants in Large Cocaine Conspiracy

In United States v. Reeves, et al, No. 12-13110 (Feb. 6, 2014), the Eleventh Circuit considered the appeals of three co-defendants, each convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Most notably, co-defendant Halcomb-Reeves contended there was insufficient evidence to sustain her conviction and challenged several evidentiary rulings. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Halcomb-Reeves’s conviction as well as the two other co-defendants’ convictions.

Under 21 U.S.C. § 846, a conviction for drug conspiracy can be sustained if the government “‘prove[s] that 1) an agreement existed between two or more people to distribute the drugs; 2) that the defendant at issue knew of the conspiratorial goal; and 3) that he knowingly joined or participated in the illegal venture.’” United States v. Brown, 587 F.3d 1082, 1089 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting United States v. Matthew, 168 F.3d 1234, 1245 (11th Cir. 1999)).  

While there is nothing in the record demonstrating that Halcomb-Reeves ever distributed cocaine, the Eleventh Circuit concluded the government presented sufficient evidence, which was gathered via court-ordered wiretaps and video surveillance, to demonstrate that she was a co-conspirator. The most damning evidence against Halcomb-Reeves came in the form of a phone call between herself and her husband, co-defendant Reeves. The phone call concerned the impending search of their home that resulted in large amounts of cocaine and firearms being recovered from the residence.

The Eleventh Circuit concluded that based on this evidence a reasonable jury could find that Halcomb-Reeves knew of the cocaine at her home, agreed to dispose of the cocaine prior to police arriving, was not at home out of fear of being arrested, and knew that Reeves wanted her to lie to police on his behalf about his true residence. These efforts to conceal the conspiracy all gave rise to an inference of Halcomb-Reeves’s participation in the conspiracy.

The court also quickly disposed of the other co-defendants’ appeals, concluding there was overwhelming evidence against Reeves, and that Moss’s claim that the government purposefully misstated the facts in their closing argument was meritless.

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