71 F.3d 1429 (8th Cir. 1995), 94-2585, United States v. Shoffner

Docket Nº:94-2585.
Citation:71 F.3d 1429
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. James P. SHOFFNER, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:December 21, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 1429

71 F.3d 1429 (8th Cir. 1995)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

James P. SHOFFNER, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 94-2585.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 21, 1995

Submitted Sept. 13, 1995.

Page 1430

Monica Allen, St. Louis, MO, argued, for appellant.

Larry Howard Ferrell, Cape Girardeau, argued, for appellee.

Before LOKEN, HANSEN, and MORRIS SHEPPARD ARNOLD, Circuit Judges.

HANSEN, Circuit Judge.

James P. Shoffner appeals his conviction for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Shoffner contends that the district court 1 erred at trial by admitting evidence of Shoffner's prior state court conviction for dealing in marijuana and by denying his motions for judgment of acquittal. Finding no error, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND.

In a superseding indictment, the government charged James P. Shoffner and eight others with conspiring to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. Sec. 846, beginning in or around February 1993 and lasting through April 1993. During the 12-day trial, the government presented extensive evidence establishing the existence of a conspiracy, which may have originated as early as 1986, and its participants, 12 of whom were indicted in the Eastern District of Missouri. For purposes of this appeal, we recite only the evidence relevant to Shoffner's conviction.

Page 1431

During the life of the conspiracy, its participants distributed over 25,000 pounds of marijuana, which had been smuggled into this country from Mexico and transported in loads to various warehouse locations throughout the United States. From the warehouses, the marijuana was distributed to wholesale marijuana dealers who would travel from throughout the country to these warehouse locations to purchase the marijuana. The conspiracy was detected by law enforcement officials on March 9, 1993, when various conspirators began to gather at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to coordinate the distribution of marijuana from a warehouse in southern Illinois.

At trial, Lionel Garcia, a resident of Texas and member of the conspiracy, testified against Shoffner. Garcia testified that he made plans to arrange a purchase of 500 pounds of marijuana from the Illinois warehouse for Daniel Clark, an acquaintance and resident of Kentucky. Garcia arranged the transaction through Jose Trevino, a resident of Brownsville, Texas, who was involved in coordinating the distribution of marijuana from the warehouses. Garcia and Trevino arranged to meet on March 10, 1993, at the Victoria Inn, a hotel at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, which is across the Mississippi River from the Illinois warehouse.

Garcia met Clark and Joseph L. Hagen, Jr., at the Louisville, Kentucky, airport on March 10, 1993. The same day, they drove together in a van to Cape Girardeau. Clark informed Garcia that another group of "his people" would be coming in a van driven by Joseph Hagen, Sr., to help transport the marijuana back to Kentucky.

A few hours after the Garcia vanload arrived at Cape Girardeau, Joseph Hagen, Sr., and James Shoffner arrived in the second van and came to Garcia's hotel room. A conversation took place among all those in the room, including Shoffner, concerning the transportation of the marijuana. Garcia testified that he would never discuss the location or transportation of a drug transaction if anyone not a party to the transaction was present. Garcia testified that at this meeting Shoffner was asked to, and did, approve a sample of the marijuana to be purchased. After the meeting, Garcia, Clark, the Hagens, Shoffner, and Michael Hartwick (the person who had produced the marijuana samples for approval) began the short trek to the Illinois warehouse to load the marijuana.

Meanwhile, local surveillance had begun earlier during the day on March 10, 1993. In the early morning hours of March 11, 1993, law enforcement officials stopped the three vehicles en route to the warehouse. Michael Hartwick was driving the lead vehicle, followed by...

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