WHAT CONSTITUTES A CONSPIRACY IN FEDERAL COURT
Conspiracy is one of the most common charges that the federal government will charge as part of an indictment that involves more than one person. It is common for the defense to try and discredit any evidence that a relationship exist between co-conspirators. Every circuit is different, but every circuit has some shared elements of the crime.
The following is some of the case law based on each circuit. A conspiracy must be an agreement between two or more parties and shared a common purpose. United States v. Trainor, 477 F.3d 24, 33 (1st Cir. 2007). The Second Circuit has held that to prove a conspiracy the government must: “in order to prove a single conspiracy, the government must show that each alleged member agreed to participate in what he knew to be a collective venture directed toward a common goal.” United States v. Martino, 664 F.2d 860, 876 (2d Cir. 1981).
In the Third circuit, the court has ruled that three factors must be proven: (1) whether there was a common goal among the conspirators; (2) whether the agreement contemplated bringing to pass a continuous result that will not continue without the continuous cooperation of the conspirators; and (3) the extent to which the participants overlap in the various dealings. United States v. Kelly.
The Fourth Circuit has held that “whether there is a single conspiracy or multiple conspiracies depends upon the overlap of key actors, methods, and goals.” United States v. Strickland.
The Fifth Circuit has ruled that “a single conspiracy exists where a “key man” is involved in and directs illegal activities, while various combinations of other participants exert individual efforts toward a common goal. United States v. Elam, 678 F.2d 1234, 1246 (5th Cir. 1982).
According to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals “[I]f an indictment alleges one conspiracy, but the evidence can reasonably be construed only as supporting a finding of multiple conspiracies, the resulting variance between the indictment and the proof is reversible error if the appellant can show that he was prejudiced thereby.” United States v. Warner. Also, mere association with conspirators is not enough to establish participation in a conspiracy. United States v. Pearce.
According to the Eighth Circuit, whether a given case involves single or multiple conspiracies depends on whether there was one overall agreement to perform various functions to achieve the objectives of the conspiracy.” United States v. Radtke.
The Eleventh Circuit has said “whether a jury could have found a single conspiracy, this Court considers: (1) whether a common goal existed; (2) the nature of the underlying scheme; and (3) the overlap of participants.” Separate transactions are not separate conspiracies as long as the participants act in concert to further the common goal. The finding of a conspiracy is permitted where a “key man” directs and coordinates the activities and individual efforts of various combinations of people. Edouard, 485 F.3d at 1347.
It is clear that every circuit has some different variations and interpretations as it relates to whether a conspiracy exists between two or more parties. If you have been charged with a conspiracy contact me now.
Please contact the Birmingham law office now by calling Joseph A. Ingram with INGRAM LAW LLC at 205-335-2640. My office is located at 3 Office Park Circle Suite 230, Birmingham, AL 35223.
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