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Friday, August 01, 2014

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

In U.S. v. Constantino and Nicholas Cejas (SD Ind., Magnus-Stinson), a 25-page opinion, Judge Williams writes:

Brothers Constantino and Nicholas Cejas’ Valentine’s Day drug dealing activities attracted the attention of law enforcement officials. As a result, they were each convicted of conspiring to distribute drugs, possessing and distributing 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, and possessing a firearm to further their drug activity that day. Constantino was also convicted on charges related to his drug activities on February 8, 2011. The brothers appeal their convictions.

They argue that the video showing them at Brian Denny’s home was inadmissible because the government did not properly authenticate it, but the evidence supports the finding that the video was an accurate depiction of the events that unfolded on February 14 and intermittent skips in the footage did not render the entire video inadmissible. Nicholas urges us to find that the video also should have been excluded because it unfairly prejudiced him, but nothing about the video would cause a reasonable jury to decide the case on an improper basis and the inferences the jury drew from it were reasonable. Nicholas’s remaining arguments also fail because his actions on February 14 provided sufficient evidence to support his convictions. Constantino claims it was error to count his gun possession on February 14 as a second conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) because he continually possessed the gun from February 8, the date of the illicit activities underlying his first conviction, through February 14. But we have held that two predicate drug offenses involving distinct conduct can support two convictions under § 924(c). The jury convicted Constantino of two drug trafficking offenses, and found that he carried a gun during each. So as harsh as a mandatory twenty‐five year sentence for a second conviction may be, it does not violate double jeopardy, and the conviction stands.

We affirm the brothers’ convictions and Constantino’s sentence.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 1, 2014 11:24 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions