U.S. v. Chastain, No. 97-5208

CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
Writing for the CourtALAIMO
Citation198 F.3d 1338
Parties(11th Cir. 1999) THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JAMES GLENN CHASTAIN, LARRY GENE HOPKINS, et al., Defendants, Appellants
Docket NumberNo. 97-5208
Decision Date30 December 1999

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198 F.3d 1338 (11th Cir. 1999)
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JAMES GLENN CHASTAIN, LARRY GENE HOPKINS, et al., Defendants, Appellants.
No. 97-5208
IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
Dec. 30, 1999

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Appeals from the United States District Court Southern District of Florida D. C. Docket No. 96-14035-CR-JCP

Before BIRCH and MARCUS, Circuit Judges, and ALAIMO*, Senior District Judge.

ALAIMO, Senior District Judge:

Appellants, James Glen Chastain, Larry Gene Hopkins, Clyde Morris, and Edwin Berle Rucks, Jr., appeal the jury verdict and the district court's subsequent sentencing for various narcotic offenses in

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connection with the attempted importation of marijuana into the United States. The jury found the Appellants and one additional co-defendant1 guilty of all the crimes charged in the five-count indictment. The counts were as follows: Count I charged all four Appellants and co-defendant Beatty with conspiracy to import marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. 952(a)2 and 9633; Count II charged all four Appellants and Beatty with conspiracy to possess intent to distribute marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1)4 and 8465; Count III charged Appellants Chastain and Hopkins and their co-defendant Beatty with attempt to import marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. 952(a) and 963 and 18 U.S.C. 26; Count IV charged Appellants Chastain and Hopkins and co-defendant Beatty with attempt to possess marijuana with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. 2; and Count V charged Appellant Chastain and co-defendant Beatty with knowingly displaying false and misleading marks on a federally registered aircraft with the intent to conspire to import marijuana into the United States in violation of 21 U.S.C. 963, 49 U.S.C. 46306(c)(2) and (c)(3)7 and 18 U.S.C. 2.

On March 26, 1997, the jury returned a verdict finding Chastain guilty as to Counts I-V; Hopkins guilty as to Counts I-IV; and Morris and Rucks guilty as to Counts I and II. All of the Appellants were sentenced by the district court and are presently incarcerated.8

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Each Appellant appeals several aspects of his trial, conviction, and/or sentence. Appellants present a total of eight different issues for the Court's consideration: (1) whether the district court properly exercised its discretion in denying defense counsel's request to question potential jurors during voir dire about fundamentals of the criminal justice system; (2) whether the district court properly denied Appellants' motion for a mistrial based on the government's violation of F.R.C.P. Rule 16, and whether the district court properly exercised its discretion in allowing a United States Customs Service agent to testify as an expert on drug smuggling; (3) whether Appellants were entitled to judgment of acquittal (or reversal of their convictions) due to an alleged variance between the charges in the indictment and the government's proof at trial; (4) whether there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions of the four Appellants; (5) whether the district court abused its discretion by refusing to give a multiple conspiracy instruction, and a theory of defense instruction proffered by Appellant Morris; (6) whether the district court properly exercised its discretion in denying defense counsel's motion for a mistrial based upon a government witness' answer to a question on cross-examination, and whether the district court properly exercised its discretion in denying Morris' motion for a mistrial based upon the government's attempt to question him about a prior conviction on tax evasion; (7) whether Appellant Rucks was entitled to dismissal of the indictment or a new trial based upon his claim of outrageous governmental misconduct; and (8) whether the district court properly applied the sentencing guidelines in sentencing Appellants Chastain, Hopkins and Rucks.

With respect to the first seven issues, we have examined the record and we affirm the district court's decisions on those issues for the reasons discussed in this opinion. However, with respect to the final issue involving the application of Federal Sentencing Guideline 2D1.1(b)(2), we will reverse and remand.

BACKGROUND

The evidence adduced during the trial discloses that the government first became aware of this conspiracy on February 1, 1996, when an airplane, co-piloted by Appellant Chastain and Co- Defendant Beatty, slid off the runway and crashed at the Placid Lakes Airport in Highlands County, Florida. The plane was carrying several plastic containers of aviation fuel, an illegal fuel transfer system, burlap bags, duct tape, an aircraft global positioning system, a hand-held radio, and aeronautical maps and charts for air travel between Jamaica and Florida. Furthermore, all passenger seats had been removed.

When Highlands County Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Awbrey arrived at the scene, he saw Beatty standing next to the aircraft. Deputy Awbrey noticed that the aircraft's Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") registration number had been altered with duct tape. He stepped away from the aircraft several times during the initial investigation, leaving Beatty alone, and later noticed that the duct tape used to alter the plane's FAA number had been removed.

Soon after the plane crash, a flight instructor saw a man walk from behind the newly constructed hangars and attempt to enter an old pick-up truck. The flight instructor later identified the young man as Appellant Chastain. The pick-up truck

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was locked and Chastain asked the flight instructor to help him locate the keys to the truck and the latter agreed to do so. The flight instructor asked Chastain whether he had been on the plane that had just crashed and Chastain answered affirmatively. At the crash site, the instructor found Beatty sitting on the plane's wing. He asked Beatty for the truck keys and returned to the area where he had left Chastain, but found that Chastain and the truck were gone. Broken glass lay on the ground where the driver's side of the truck had been.

Deputy Ouverson, the crime scene detective, arrived at the crash site and saw Beatty tearing up a business card. Ouverson recovered most of the card, pieced it back together, revealing a partial phone number. Officers subsequently obtained telephone records that indicated that someone from Beatty's home had called a telephone number in Jamaica on January 11, 1996, that was almost identical to the one on the business card that Beatty had destroyed.

A number of items found on the crashed place were owned by or connected to the four Appellants or Beatty. The hand-held radio that was found had been purchased on January 13, 1996 by Eugene Prince, Beatty's long-time casual acquaintance. The Magellan global positioning system found in the plane had been purchased by Beatty on January 16, 1996. Plastic fuel drums in the aircraft were similar to four fifteen gallon fuel drums that Appellant Rucks had obtained in late 1995, as well as three additional fuel drums that Appellant Morris had obtained from the same source in early 1996. On January 23, 1996, Beatty purchased 33.8 gallons of fuel from the Fort Pierce Air Center and ordered an overnight tie-down for an aircraft bearing the same registration number as the aircraft that Beatty and Chastain crashed on February 1, 1996.

In January of 1996, Appellant Hopkins attempted to borrow $50,000 from Lee Clardy in order to purchase an airplane. Hopkins told Clardy that the plane he wanted to buy with the borrowed money would be used to haul drugs and that Clardy would double his investment. Hopkins offered Clardy titles to vehicles and other property as collateral, but Clardy declined to make the loan.

A few days later, Hopkins was able to borrow $40,000 from George Godwin. As collateral, Godwin received title to a race car trailer, two pick-up trucks and a boat. On January 22, 1996, Hopkins purchased a Piper Cherokee aircraft from Lyle Travis for approximately $40,000. About one week later, Beatty and Chastain slid off the runway at Lake Placid Airport.

After the plane crash, Hopkins told Godwin that if anyone were to ask him about the property Godwin received as collateral for the loan, he should say that he had purchased the property from Hopkins. Hopkins also told Godwin that, if he were questioned in court about Hopkins' purchase of the plane, he should say that Hopkins had been interested in planes for years.

Clardy read about the crash in the newspaper and, later, on Godwin's property, saw some of the property that Hopkins had offered to him as collateral when he had declined to lend money to Hopkins. Clardy then informed local law enforcement officials about the offer Hopkins previously had made to him.

Three or four weeks after the crash, Morris and Rucks approached a confidential information ("CI") for the United States Customs Service at Fort Drum Store, a local convenience store and restaurant. Rucks asked the CI whether he could obtain a plane and pilot to fly to Jamaica to pick up a load of marijuana waiting there. The CI answered that he could.

The next day, Rucks and Morris again met with the CI and inquired whether he had contacted a pilot. The CI said he had left a message for the pilot, but had not yet received a response. After this second meeting, the CI contacted Deputy Sheriff

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Larry Williams and informed him of his conversations with Morris and Rucks.

A few days later, Rucks approached the CI and asked him again whether he had made contact with a pilot. The CI said he had not, but added that the pilot would have to be paid $30,000. A week later, Rucks approached the CI for a fourth time and asked about the pilot. Two days later, Morris told the CI "he needed to get a hold of a...

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195 practice notes
  • Stansell v. Revolutionary Armed Forces Colombia, Nos. 13–11339
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • October 16, 2014
    ...must demonstrate denial of due process or a jurisdictional error. Espinosa, 559 U.S. at 271, 130 S.Ct. at 1377 ; Am. Bankers Ins., 198 F.3d at 1338 (“An appeal of a ruling on a Rule 60(b) motion ... does not raise issues in the underlying judgment for review.”). We note that these appellant......
  • Stansell v. Revolutionary Armed Forces Colombia, Nos. 13–11339
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • October 16, 2014
    ...movant must demonstrate denial of due process or a jurisdictional error. Espinosa, 559 U.S. at 271, 130 S.Ct. at 1377; Am. Bankers Ins., 198 F.3d at 1338 (“An appeal of a ruling on a Rule 60(b) motion ... does not raise issues in the underlying judgment for review.”). We note that these app......
  • Stansell v. Revolutionary Armed Forces Colombia, Nos. 13–11339
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • October 16, 2014
    ...movant must demonstrate denial of due process or a jurisdictional error. Espinosa, 559 U.S. at 271, 130 S.Ct. at 1377; Am. Bankers Ins., 198 F.3d at 1338 (“An appeal of a ruling on a Rule 60(b) motion ... does not raise issues in the underlying judgment for review.”). We note that these app......
  • U.S. v. Campa, No. 01-17176.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • June 4, 2008
    ...Under section 2M3.1(a)(2), a base offense level of 37 is appropriate based on this finding. Our precedent in United States v. Chastain, 198 F.3d 1338 (11th Cir.1999), is instructive on this issue. Chastain involved an enhancement under section 2D1.1(b)(2), which provides, "If the defen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
195 cases
  • Stansell v. Revolutionary Armed Forces Colombia, Nos. 13–11339
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • October 16, 2014
    ...must demonstrate denial of due process or a jurisdictional error. Espinosa, 559 U.S. at 271, 130 S.Ct. at 1377 ; Am. Bankers Ins., 198 F.3d at 1338 (“An appeal of a ruling on a Rule 60(b) motion ... does not raise issues in the underlying judgment for review.”). We note that these appellant......
  • Stansell v. Revolutionary Armed Forces Colombia, Nos. 13–11339
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • October 16, 2014
    ...movant must demonstrate denial of due process or a jurisdictional error. Espinosa, 559 U.S. at 271, 130 S.Ct. at 1377; Am. Bankers Ins., 198 F.3d at 1338 (“An appeal of a ruling on a Rule 60(b) motion ... does not raise issues in the underlying judgment for review.”). We note that these app......
  • Stansell v. Revolutionary Armed Forces Colombia, Nos. 13–11339
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • October 16, 2014
    ...movant must demonstrate denial of due process or a jurisdictional error. Espinosa, 559 U.S. at 271, 130 S.Ct. at 1377; Am. Bankers Ins., 198 F.3d at 1338 (“An appeal of a ruling on a Rule 60(b) motion ... does not raise issues in the underlying judgment for review.”). We note that these app......
  • U.S. v. Campa, No. 01-17176.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • June 4, 2008
    ...Under section 2M3.1(a)(2), a base offense level of 37 is appropriate based on this finding. Our precedent in United States v. Chastain, 198 F.3d 1338 (11th Cir.1999), is instructive on this issue. Chastain involved an enhancement under section 2D1.1(b)(2), which provides, "If the defen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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