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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today

In UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. JAMA MIRE and HASSAN RAFLE (SD Ind. Lawrence), a 33-page opinion, Judge Bauer writes:

This case introduces a new drug culture to the Seventh Circuit: the underground world of “khat.”

Jama Mire and Hassan Rafle became involved in a conspiracy to distribute khat in the Indianapolis area. Mire’s business, the Somali House of Coffee, served as a place where people could get the “stuff” and enjoy it in comfort. Government agents received a tip from a concerned Somali man about this khat-distribution conspiracy and launched an investigation into it. Mire and Rafle were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cathinone, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) and 846. Mire was indicted on two additional counts: (1) knowingly using or maintaining a place for the purpose of distributing and using cathinone, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 856(a)(1); and (2) possession with intent to distribute a mixture or substance containing cathinone, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a). And after a bench trial, Mire and Rafle were found guilty on all counts.

The Defendants appeal their convictions; the sentences they received are not at issue. Mire and Rafle contend, first, that their due process rights were violated because they were not given fair warning that the possession of khat may be illegal; and second, that the district court erred under Daubert in admitting government expert witness testimony regarding khat plants that were seized at the coffee house and tested for cathinone, a controlled substance. Mire also contends that his conviction for conspiracy to distribute khat and his conviction for maintaining a place for the distribution or use of khat violate the Double Jeopardy Clause; and anyway, that the evidence at trial was not sufficient to support any of his convictions.

Finding each of the arguments without merit, we affirm. * * *

This is the first case involving khat to appear before this Court, so we take the opportunity to explain it. Khat, pronounced “kY+t”—the common name for the plant Catha Edulis—grows in parts of East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It is known as the drug-of-choice among Somali men who chew the leaves or mix them in with tea for the stimulant effects. It is not smoked or eaten in any fashion. The use of khat in Somalia is legal and an accepted pastime, and the plant is readily sold in the marketplace and stores. Estimates put its use among Somali men as being equivalent to caffeine or tobacco use among the American population.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 25, 2013 11:49 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions