EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Raising Arizona: Second Circuit Finds Statement Against Interest Was Properly Admitted To Prove Interstate Component Of Hobbs Act Violation

The Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 1951(a), provides that

Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

Usually, the fact that a defendant was charged with violating the Hobbs Act would not play a factor in an evidentiary ruling. But the fact that the defendants were charged with violating the Act possibly played a large role in an evidentiry ruling in United States v. White, 2010 WL 1461645 (2nd Cir. 2010).

In White, O'Kene White and Antonio Scott were convicted of conspiracy to commit and attempted robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act, attempted possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and possession and discharge of firearms during and in furtherance of the charged crimes. One of the victims of the attempted robbery was Christopher Farquharson, a/k/a "Blacks," and

Stacy Roberts, Blacks's girlfriend and one of the victims of defendants' robbery attempt, testified, inter alia, that defendants had asked her, "where's Blacks's stuff," and that Blacks had told her that he bought and sold two types of marijuana: "regular" and "Arizona." Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Craig Phildius testified that “Arizona” marijuana is grown in Mexico (and to a lesser degree in Arizona) and shipped through Arizona, and that “regular” marijuana is also grown primarily in Mexico.

The district court allowed for the admissio of Roberts' testimony, finding that Blacks' statement qualified as a statement against penal interest under Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3).  Among other things, this ruling led to the defendants' appeal, with the defendants claiming that the probative value of Blacks' statement was substantiall outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice under Federal Rule of Evidence 403. The Second Circuit, however, did not address this argument in great detail, finding that Blacks' statement was relevant to proving that defendants' robbery would have had the requisite "slight, subtle or even potential" impact on interstate commerce necessary to prove a violation of the Hobbs Act.



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