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United States v. Vizcarrondo-Casanova

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 18, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
JOSÉ VIZCARRONDO-CASANOVA, ERIK DÍAZ-COLÓN, and CARLOS APONTE-SOBRADO, Defendants, Appellants

Page 90

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 91

APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Francisco A. Besosa , U.S. District Judge.

Steven A. Feldman, with whom Feldman and Feldman was on brief, for appellant José Vizcarrondo-Casanova.

Paul Camarena, with whom North & Sedgwick Law was on brief, for appellant Carlos Aponte-Sobrado.

Elaine Mittleman for appellant Erik Díaz-Colón.

José A. Contrera, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom John A. Mathews II, Assistant United States Attorney, Nelson Pérez-Sosa, Assistant United States Attorney, and Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, were on brief, for appellee.

Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Howard and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 92

KAYATTA, Circuit Judge.

Criminal defendants José Vizcarrondo-Casanova, Carlos Aponte-Sobrado, and Erik Díaz-Colón appeal from convictions related to the carjacking, robbery, and homicide of Elis Manuel Andrades-Tellerí a, a drug dealer and rival to Díaz-Colón. Vizcarrondo-Casanova argues that admission of evidence of his prior bad acts was impermissible under Federal Rules of Evidence 404(b) and 403. Aponte-Sobrado argues that the prosecutor improperly vouched for the truthfulness of the government's witnesses in his closing argument, and that the government lacked the authority to prosecute him. Díaz-Colón argues that three counts of his indictment were constructively amended, that the government improperly withdrew a plea offer made to him before trial, and that the jury rendered inconsistent verdicts on two counts. Though the district court's treatment of the Rule 403 issue, the government's closing argument, and the government's understanding of how certain statutes should be charged in an indictment were all less than ideal, we affirm all three defendants' convictions.

I. Background

The defendants in this appeal were among twelve people charged in a single indictment in connection with the kidnapping, robbery, and death of Andrades-Tellerí a. The defendants, some of whom were Puerto Rico police officers, were accused of conspiring to pose as law enforcement officers carrying out their legitimate duties in order to carjack, abduct, and rob Andrades-Tellerí a. In May 2008, the defendants, some of whom were in a Puerto Rico Police Department vehicle, allegedly stopped Andrades-Tellerí a in his car, handcuffed him, read him his Miranda rights, and took approximately fourteen kilograms of cocaine from him. According to cooperating government witnesses, they then took him and the car to an auto-body repair shop which was owned by another conspirator and closed for the day for this purpose. Some conspirators then went to Andrades-Tellerí a's house where they stole money, watches, and a ...


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