Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Indicment for Conspiracy Must Define Elements of Underlying Offense

US v. Kingrea: This case arose from a raid on a cockfighting venue in Virginia. Kingrea was there as a vendor of equipment and materials used in the fighting, but did not have an animal involved in the fighting. He was charged with conspiracy to sponsor or exhibit and animal fighting venture and illegal gambling business, conspiracy to sell animal fighting equipment, aiding and abetting the animal fighting operation, and conducing an illegal gambling business. The district court dismissed the substantive animal fighting operation count, but Kingrea was convicted on the other three counts and sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home confinement.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed Kingrea's conviction on the conspiracy count, while affirming on the other two. On the conspiracy count, the court concluded that the indictment failed to state a necessary element of the offense - that the underlying conspiracy involve "an animal fighting venture" and that the inclusion of that element in the jury instructions amounted to a constructive amendment. The court rejected the Government's argument that because the missing element was part of the object of the conspiracy was not a constitutional error. The court affirmed Kingrea's other two convictions and remanded his case for resentencing.

No comments: