United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ALTMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on the Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss Count One of the Indictment (“the
Motion”) [ECF No. 76]. The Court has considered the
Motion, the record, and the governing law. For the following
reasons, the Court GRANTS the
Defendant's Motion and hereby DISMISSES
Count One of the Indictment.
December 18, 2018, a federal grand jury charged the Defendant
with (1) conspiracy to import cocaine, in violation of 21
U.S.C. § 963 (Count One), and (2) conspiracy to possess
cocaine with the intent to distribute, in violation of 21
U.S.C. § 846 (Count Two). See Indictment [ECF
No. 3] at 1-3. On August 26, 2019, the case proceeded to
trial. See Trial Tr. [ECF Nos. 91-94].
trial, the Government sought to establish that the Defendant
had conspired with three other people-Juvanni Roach, Keshia
Milligan, and David Joseph-to transport cocaine from the U.S.
Virgin Islands to Florida. See Trial Tr. at 174-84.
In its opening statement, the Government laid out the
sequence of events: On an American Airlines flight between
St. Croix and Miami, Roach-a passenger on that flight-walked
into the lavatory to retrieve two packages of cocaine, which
had been left there for him by the Defendant. Id. at
174-77. But, as he was pulling one of the two packages out of
the lavatory's trash bin, he aroused the suspicion of a
flight attendant, who ordered Roach back to his seat and
later discovered the second package in the trash bin.
Id. at 175- 76.
after the plane landed, Roach, who was promptly arrested,
began cooperating against Joseph-the St. Croix supplier of
the cocaine-and Joseph's then-girlfriend, Milligan, who
had recruited Roach to take the trip. Id. at 178-80.
But, according to the Government, it was the Defendant-an
American Airlines contractor at the St. Croix airport-who had
received the cocaine from Joseph, carried it onto the plan,
and deposited it into the trash bin so that Joseph, whom she
had driven to the airport, could later retrieve it.
Id. at 183-84. During that car ride to the airport,
the Government told the jury, the Defendant described for
Roach precisely where she planned to hide the cocaine.
Id. at 179.
opening statement, the Defendant did two things:
first, she impugned the credibility of Roach and
Milligan, the Government's cooperating witnesses,
id. at 186-88; second, she argued that,
because the Government would be unable to present any
physical evidence linking her to the cocaine, the
jury would be left, at the end of the case, with a lingering
doubt-a reasonable doubt- as to whether the Defendant had
ever possessed the cocaine or placed it on the plane,
id. at 188- 90.
testified that Milligan had recruited him to board the flight
to Miami, that she had helped him obtain an identification
card, and that she had paid him $1, 200 for his efforts.
Id. at 329-32, 345-46, 378, 386. Turning to the
Defendant, Roach said that she had driven him to the airport
before his flight. Id. at 337. According to Roach,
on this ride, the Defendant instructed him to collect a
package from the trash bin in the lavatory that was at the
back of the plane and on the same side of the aircraft as his
seat. Id. at 337-39. In Roach's telling, when he
entered this lavatory, he saw in the trash bin two packages,
but was able to retrieve only one. Id. at 342-44.
Roach testified that he did not know what was inside the
packages. Id. at 347-48, 376-77.
cross-examination, Roach acknowledged that his testimony was
inconsistent with several statements he had made during his
initial interview with the police. See Id. at
365-68, 386, 394-95. Notably, in that initial interrogation,
Roach did not mention that the Defendant had driven him to
the airport and did not say that the Defendant had given him
any instructions about what to do on the plane. Id.
at 365, 374, 377. Roach acknowledged that he had lied during
that interview- conceding, at one point, that he had been
“beating around the bush”-but he nevertheless
insisted that he was telling the truth at trial. Id.
at 365-66, 374-75. Roach added that he did not want a
sentencing reduction in exchange for his trial testimony.
Id. at 357, 363-64.
testimony went even less smoothly. Milligan testified that
she had asked Roach to take the plane trip and that, after
some initial hesitation, he agreed. Id. at 445-47.
Milligan provided Roach's personal information to Joseph,
a cocaine supplier, who then purchased Roach's plane
ticket for him. Id. at 467-68, 489. Milligan asked
the Defendant to give Roach a ride to the airport.
Id. at 450, 463. After Roach arrived at the airport,
he called Milligan and said that the Defendant had told him
“where it's gonna be”-though Roach did not
explain what “it” referred to. Id. at
Milligan also explained that she had only asked the Defendant
to drive Roach to the airport because Milligan's car had
broken down. Id. at 491-93. If her car had been
working properly, Milligan said, she would have driven Roach
herself. Id. at 504. Milligan claimed that she had
never had any conversations with the Defendant about placing
drugs on the plane. Id. at 502- 03. In fact,
although Milligan knew that the Defendant worked for American
Airlines, she did not know whether any airport
worker-let alone the Defendant-had been involved in the
conspiracy. Id. at 466, 497, 506-07. Milligan
insisted that she had never seen the cocaine and that she did
not know who had brought it onto the plane. Id. at
484, 503, 517-18.
end of its case-in-chief, the Government introduced a video
recording of a statement the Defendant had given to
investigators, during the course of which she had admitted to
strapping the two packages of cocaine onto her body, covering
them up with her shirt, walking them onto the airplane, and
then depositing them into the lavatory's trash bin so
that Roach could retrieve them. See Id. at
644-48. The Defendant declined to present any
evidence or to testify. Id. at 695- 96, 708.
closing argument, the Defendant reemphasized the themes she
had presaged in her opening. She contended that Roach was not
a credible witness and that Milligan's testimony had
“sort of backfired on the government.”
Id. at 750-52, 757. She reiterated her view that the
absence of any physical evidence linking her to the
cocaine-including any fingerprints, DNA, or video
surveillance-should leave the jurors with a reasonable doubt
about whether she had ever, in fact, possessed the cocaine or
brought it onto the plane. Id. at 744-46, 748-49,
768. And she sought to cast doubt on the reliability of her
recorded statement by suggesting that the investigators'
lengthy, leading, and aggressive questioning had broken her
down and coerced her into confessing to a crime she did not
commit. Id. at 743-44. To bolster this theory, she
identified several factual inconsistencies between her
statement and the testimonies of Roach and
Milligan-inconsistencies that, she insisted, would not have
manifested themselves had everyone been telling the truth.
Id. at 750, 754-55, 758.
its deliberations, the jury evidently homed in on the
Defendant's recorded statement. In one note, the jury
requested access to the Defendant's entire, hours-long
interview and asked how much time had elapsed before the
Defendant confessed. See Jury Notes [ECF No. 64] at
2. Noting that the full interview had not been admitted into
evidence, the Court instructed the ...