48 F.3d 1107 (9th Cir. 1995), 93-10507, United States v. Medjuck

Docket Nº:93-10507, 93-10648.
Citation:48 F.3d 1107
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Michael MEDJUCK, and Arthur John Jung, aka Charles Peter Sotirkys, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:February 03, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Page 1107

48 F.3d 1107 (9th Cir. 1995)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Michael MEDJUCK, and Arthur John Jung, aka Charles Peter

Sotirkys, Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 93-10507, 93-10648.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

February 3, 1995

Argued and Submitted Oct. 5, 1994.

Page 1108

John J.E. Markham, III and Elizabeth L. Read, Markham & Read, San Francisco, CA, and Abraham D. Sofaer & Steven Corliss, Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, Washington, DC, for defendant-appellant Medjuck.

Arthur K. Wachtel & Deborah E. Lewis, and Doron Weinberg, Weinberg & Wilder, San Francisco, CA, for defendant-appellant Sotirkys.

Kent Walker & Lewis A. Davis, Asst. U.S. Attys., San Francisco, CA, for plaintiff-appellee U.S.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Before: SKOPIL, SCHROEDER and RYMER, Circuit Judges.

SKOPIL, Senior Circuit Judge:

Michael Medjuck and Arthur John Jung, aka Charles Peter Sotirkys (hereinafter "Sotirkys"), appeal from judgments of conviction for violations of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA), 46 U.S.C.App. Secs. 1903-04. They contend that the district

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court erred by ruling as a matter of law that statutory and constitutional requirements for assertion of subject matter jurisdiction were satisfied in this case. We agree that the district court erred by not submitting the jurisdictional element of the crime to the jury, and by not requiring the government to demonstrate a sufficient nexus between defendants and the United States to satisfy due process. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.


Medjuck, a Canadian citizen, and Sotirkys, an American citizen, were members of an extensive international conspiracy to smuggle drugs. The conspirators owned and operated a ship, the Saratoga Success, in which they attempted to transport 28 tons of hashish from Pakistan to Canada. The Saratoga Success never reached Canada. After a series of incidents, the ship beached in the Philippines. Sotirkys thereafter met with other conspirators in Amsterdam, the Philippines, and Singapore. They agreed to secure the Lucky Star, a vessel registered in St. Vincent, a sovereign island nation in the British West Indies. They arranged to have the Lucky Star loaded with the 28 tons of hashish from the Saratoga Success and an additional 42 tons of hashish from Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Medjuck and others were responsible for securing a ship to rendezvous with the Lucky Star approximately 800 miles northwest of Midway Island, in order to offload and transport the hashish to Canada. Medjuck financed the hiring of the Barbara H., and her American captain and crew. Unknown to Medjuck, the captain and crew of the Barbara H. were U.S. Customs and FBI undercover agents.

On June 23, 1991, the two ships met, but due to inclement weather and rough seas, only 2.4 tons of hashish were offloaded. The captain of the Lucky Star refused to attempt a second rendezvous, and despite the coconspirators' objections, proceeded back to Asia. After tracking the Lucky Star for several days, two United States Navy destroyers intercepted the vessel. A Coast Guard officer assigned to one of the destroyers sought permission to board the Lucky Star. The captain of the Lucky Star consented, and the vessel was boarded, secured, and directed to proceed to Hawaii while the Coast Guard awaited the flag nation's consent to the assertion of United States jurisdiction. Ten days later, as the Lucky Star neared Hawaii, St. Vincent, the flag nation, gave its consent. When the ship arrived in Honolulu, the cargo was seized and the crew incarcerated.

During this time, the Barbara H., still controlled by undercover agents, sailed toward Hawaii, where the 2.4 tons of hashish were offloaded and flown to California. Agents thereafter met with two coconspirators and agreed to transfer the drugs to a location in California. Five individuals were arrested when they arrived to take possession. Medjuck was arrested in Seattle; Sotirkys surrendered to U.S. officials in Singapore.

All seven were charged with violating the MDLEA, 46 U.S.C.App. Sec. 1903(a), conspiring to violate the Act, 46 U.S.C.App. Sec. 1903(j), conspiring to import 70 tons of hashish into the United States, 21 U.S.C. Sec. 846, and possessing 2.4 tons of hashish with intent to distribute, 21 U.S.C. Sec. 841(a)(1). Medjuck was also charged with obstructing justice, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1512, and Sotirkys was charged with fraudulently using a passport, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1544, and making false customs declarations, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1001. The captain and crew of the Lucky Star were prosecuted in separate proceedings. United States v. Rasheed, 802 F.Supp. 312 (D.Hawaii 1992), aff'd, United States v. Khan, 35 F.3d 426 (9th Cir.1994).

In pretrial proceedings, Medjuck and Sotirkys challenged the jurisdiction of the United States to prosecute them under section 1903. The court ruled that it would instruct the jury as a matter of law that the jurisdictional requirements of section 1903 were satisfied, and that no proof of nexus to the United States was required. The court also ruled as a matter of law that flag nation consent may be obtained after law enforcement agents board and control a vessel, and that the Navy's participation in the seizure of the Lucky Star did not violate the Posse Comitatus Act, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1385.

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Based on these rulings, Medjuck conditionally pleaded guilty to violating section 1903, and reserved the right to appeal the trial court's rulings on jurisdiction and...

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