156 F.3d 916 (9th Cir. 1998), 96-10347, United States v. Medjuck

Docket Nº:96-10347.
Citation:156 F.3d 916
Party Name:D.A.R. 9597 UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Michael MEDJUCK, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:September 03, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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Page 916

156 F.3d 916 (9th Cir. 1998)

D.A.R. 9597

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Michael MEDJUCK, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 96-10347.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 3, 1998

Argued and Submitted May 9, 1997.

Page 917

John J.E. Markham, II, Markham & Read, San Francisco, California, for defendant-appellant.

Lewis A. Davis and Mary E. Pougiales, Assistant United States Attorneys, San Francisco, California, for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California; Eugene F. Lynch, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CR-91-00552-EFL.

Before: HUG, Chief Judge, GOODWIN and HAWKINS, Circuit Judges.

HUG, Chief Judge:

Appellant Michael Medjuck appeals from his jury conviction for conspiracy to possess, and possession with intent to distribute, drugs on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, 46 U.S.C.App. § 1903(j) & (a), and for aiding and abetting, 18 U.S.C. § 2. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.

Background

The facts of the case are set forth in the district court's memorandum opinion. See United States v. Medjuck, 937 F.Supp. 1368 (N.D.Cal.1996) ("Medjuck I "). We will only briefly summarize here. Medjuck was charged with participation in a far-flung conspiracy to ship and distribute some 70 tons of hashish from Pakistan to Canada and the United States on board a ship named the "Lucky Star," in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act ("MDLEA"), 46 U.S.C.App. § 1903. Before trial, the district court ruled that the Government need not demonstrate the existence of a nexus between the alleged drug conspiracy and the United States to proceed with the prosecution and that the Government had proven that the Lucky Star was "a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States" such that the conspiracy fell within the purview of the MDLEA. Medjuck entered a conditional plea of guilty, but reserved for appellate review the issue whether the Government need demonstrate nexus in order to maintain the prosecution.

On review this court reversed Medjuck's conviction after concluding that the district court had erred by (1) failing to submit to the jury the question whether the Lucky Star was a vessel subject to United States jurisdiction, and (2) failing to require that the Government demonstrate nexus between the alleged conduct and the United States. United States v. Medjuck, 48 F.3d 1107 (9th

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Cir.1995) ("Medjuck II "). We remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

On remand, Medjuck argued that the question of nexus is one for the jury to determine, rather than the court. At Medjuck's request, the district court deferred ruling on the issue until Medjuck's Rule 29 motion. Medjuck also objected to the introduction of videotaped testimony of two Canadian witnesses, on the grounds that the admission of such testimony denied him his Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him.

A jury convicted Medjuck on three counts of violation of the MDLEA. The district court denied the Rule 29 motion, concluding that nexus was a question for the court and not the jury, and that the Government had met its burden of demonstrating nexus by a preponderance of the evidence. See Medjuck I, 937 F.Supp. at 1370. This appeal followed.

Discussion

Medjuck presents several arguments for reversal of his convictions. He first contends that the district court erred by deciding the nexus question, rather than submitting it to the jury. He also contends that the district court improperly defined nexus, and erred in determining that the Government had demonstrated a sufficient nexus. Finally, he contends that the district court erred when it allowed the introduction of the videotaped testimony. We address each argument in turn.

I. The Nexus Requirement

The MDLEA prohibits possession, manufacture, or distribution of illicit drugs on board a "vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United...

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