343 F.3d 849 (6th Cir. 2003), 01-2569, U.S. v. Wright

Docket Nº:01-2569
Citation:343 F.3d 849
Party Name:U.S. v. Wright
Case Date:September 12, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 849

343 F.3d 849 (6th Cir. 2003)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Ward Wesley WRIGHT, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 01-2569.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

September 12, 2003

Argued Aug. 5, 2003.

Page 850

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 851

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 852

Joseph J. Allen (argued and briefed), Asst. U.S. Attorney, Detroit, MI, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Richard J. Amberg, Jr. (argued and briefed), Waterford, MI, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before: KEITH, COLE, and COOK, Circuit Judges.

Page 853


COLE, Circuit Judge.

Defendant Appellant Ward Wesley Wright appeals his jury conviction and sentence for the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, interstate travel in aid of a crime of violence, and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine. Wright raises four arguments on appeal: (1) the district court erred in denying his motion to dismiss his indictment based on violations of the statute of limitations and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment; (2) the Government is guilty of prosecutorial misconduct; (3) the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to a search warrant; and (4) the district court erred in admitting hearsay evidence.

For reasons stated below, we AFFIRM the jury conviction and sentence entered by the district court.


A. Factual Background

Brian Chase, Raymond Kelsey, and William Arbelaez met while serving time in a Minnesota prison. After all three had been released in 1992, Chase met Wright while they were both bouncers at a bar in Michigan. Wright was a member of the Avengers Motorcycle Club (the "Avengers") and was involved with cocaine distribution through the club. Arbelaez, a Colombian national who trafficked cocaine, began supplying cocaine to Chase from Colombia, and Chase in turn began selling cocaine to Wright.

In 1992, Arbelaez was arrested on drug charges in New Mexico. He escaped from prison and sought to flee to Colombia. Chase contacted Kelsey, a licensed pilot, and he agreed to fly Arbelaez out of the United States. Kelsey flew Arbelaez to the United States-Mexico border, and Arbelaez fled to Colombia from there.

In 1993, Arbelaez began supplying cocaine to Chase from Colombia and Kelsey became the pilot of the operation. In February, Kelsey flew to Los Angeles to retrieve a fifty-kilogram shipment of cocaine and then flew to Detroit to deliver it to Chase. Chase sold part of the shipment to David "Slap" Moore, a member of the Avengers, who would eventually become Chase's primary distributor. Chase sold the other part of his shipment to Wright, who delivered part of his allotment to Chase's customers and sold part of his allotment to his own customers.

Shortly afterward, Kelsey flew twenty-five kilograms of another shipment to Chase for distribution. Chase and Kelsey decided not to pay Arbelaez for the cocaine and told him that it had been seized by Canadian authorities. In the spring of 1993, Kelsey made another trip to Los Angeles and picked up what was supposed to be seventy-five kilograms of cocaine. However, Chase and Kelsey learned that the shipment contained only sixty-six kilograms. Chase distributed the drugs without notifying Arbelaez of the deficiency and Wright received some of the shipment.

At this point, Moore was no longer distributing cocaine for Chase. Instead, Moore introduced Chase to his main customer in Detroit, and Chase supplied cocaine directly to that customer. Moore wanted a commission from Chase for the sales to his customer, but Chase refused. Moore told Chase that he "knew how to take care of business," and Chase believed that this was a threat and that Moore intended to kill him. Chase then discussed the "Moore problem" with Wright and told Wright that he was willing to give Moore $40,000 to end the dispute. Chase offered Wright $10,000 to broker the deal with Moore, but Wright was unable to arrange

Page 854

a deal. Wright then suggested, "Why don't you just give me the money and I'll kill Mr. Moore." A few days later, Wright told Chase that Moore had given another Avenger a gun and $10,000 for a contract murder and that Chase was the target. Chase and Kelsey then decided to kill Moore to end the dispute and the perceived threat.

In July 1993, William Anderson Burke, a past national president of the Avengers, was involved in a motorcycle accident in Columbus, Ohio. Moore, as an officer in the Avengers, traveled to Columbus to await Burke's release from the hospital. Chase and Wright decided that Wright could kill Moore while he was in Columbus, and Wright agreed to accept $50,000 to commit the murder. Wright's girlfriend, and later wife, Brenda Schneider, called Moore's wife to determine what hotel Moore was staying at in Columbus.

On July 29, 1993, Wright obtained a .22-caliber pistol and a car that had been purchased by Chase and Kelsey, and drove to Columbus. Wright found Moore's hotel room in the early hours of July 30, and asked Moore if he could stay the night. After Moore let him in and went back to sleep, Wright shot Moore in the head twice. Before leaving, Wright "wiped down" everything and took Moore's wallet and pager. He called Chase, told him everything was okay, and returned to Chase's house in Michigan.

Kelsey, who was at the house when Wright returned, used a welding torch in Chase's garage to melt the pager, the wallet, and the gun. Kelsey then piloted a plane, with Chase and Wright as passengers, and the three men dumped the melted objects and Wright's clothes over Lake Huron. Chase paid Wright $50,000 for the murder on the evening of July 30.

On August 10, 1993, Wright married his girlfriend, Brenda Schneider, in Las Vegas using the alias Arthur Anderson. Wright and his new wife stayed in Las Vegas gambling and Larry Joe Powell, another Avenger, good friend of Wright, and FBI informant, wired them money.

After the murder, Arbelaez, who was still living in Colombia, wanted Chase and Kelsey to pay him for the twenty-five kilograms of cocaine "lost" to the Canadian authorities and the nine kilograms of cocaine missing from the seventy-five-kilogram shipment. Arbelaez devised a plan for Chase and Kelsey to repay him for the missing cocaine. He decided that they could steal airplanes and give them to Arbelaez's cocaine supplier, the Medellin Cartel in Colombia (the "Cartel").

In January 1994, Kelsey flew Chase and Wright, traveling under the alias of Arthur Anderson, to the island of St. Martin to meet with Arbelaez to discuss the plane-stealing scheme. When Arbelaez failed to show, the three flew back to the United States. Chase and Kelsey then traveled to Venezuela and Colombia to meet with the Cartel regarding the types of airplanes that they wanted stolen. In the spring of 1994, Chase spoke with Kelsey, Wright and Burke and they decided to steal planes together. Arbelaez also had his relative, Efrain Ruiz, join the scheme. Kelsey scouted planes, and Wright and Burke secured aviation fuel in a hangar for refueling the plane on the way to Colombia. On May 7, 1994, the five of them successfully stole a United States Forest Service plane in Atlanta. They flew the plane to Florida where Chase, Wright and Burke refueled the plane, which Kelsey then flew to the Cartel in Colombia.

On October 6, 1994, Kelsey stole another plane in Arkansas, refueled it in Florida, and flew it to Colombia. Wright did not participate in this theft. In November 1994, Kelsey picked up cocaine from Arbelaez, and flew it to Chase and Burke in Michigan. However, Chase and Kelsey

Page 855

did not pay Arbelaez the entire shipment, and were worried that Arbelaez would retaliate. They decided to steal another plane to make up for the missing payment. On February 18, 1996, Kelsey stole a plane in Florida, and Wright and Burke set up a refueling site. Kelsey and Chase then flew the plane to Colombia for delivery to the Cartel.

In April 1996, while attempting to return from Colombia, Kelsey was arrested in St. Martin and he agreed to cooperate with authorities. He then recorded several conversations with Chase and Burke regarding drug shipments and Wright's involvement in the drug deals. In October 1996, Chase and Burke went to Detroit, believing that they were to meet Kelsey for a drug delivery. Instead they were arrested. Kelsey pleaded guilty to several charges across several states, including drug trafficking, stealing planes, and aiding and abetting a murder for hire. He was sentenced to multiple terms of imprisonment. In April 1997, government agents obtained a warrant to search Wright's Las Vegas apartment where they recovered evidence linking Wright to the Moore murder.

B. Procedural Background

Wright was originally charged in an indictment with: (1) the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1958; (2) conspiracy in the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1958; (3) interstate travel in aid of a crime of violence, in violation of § 1952(a)(2); and (4) conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1). However, the Grand Jury returned a First Superseding Indictment on April 22, 1997, only charging Wright, Chase and Burke with Count Four, participation in the cocaine conspiracy.

On September 9, 1997, the Government moved to dismiss the indictment without prejudice as to Wright, arguing that the prosecution of Wright would jeopardize an ongoing investigation of the Avengers. The motion was granted. On July 23, 1998...

To continue reading