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Government failed to prove man intended to sell unstamped cigarettes in Indiana

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday reversed the denial of a man’s motions for judgment of acquittal on a charge that he brought cigarettes from Kentucky to sell in Indiana without paying an Indiana tax on them. The government couldn’t show that Haitham Mohamed intended to sell the 1,170 packs of cigarettes in Indiana.

A Speedway police officer pulled Mohamed over in June 2012 after he ran a red light. Mohamed’s van contained 23,400 cigarettes he purchased in Kentucky and they did not contain Indiana tax stamps. State law requires a tax on all cigarettes sold, used, consumed, handled or distributed within the state. He was indicted with one count of knowingly transporting and possessing contraband cigarettes in violation of the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act.  

Mohamed filed a motion for judgment of acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, which the District Court denied. A jury convicted him of the charge.

Mohamed only challenged that the portion of the cigarette trafficking charge that says the government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the cigarettes were shipped, transported, received, possessed, sold, distributed or purchased under circumstances in which Indiana law requires the cigarettes to bear the tax stamps.

“Because Indiana does not tax all cigarettes possessed within the state, the government needed to prove more than Mr. Mohamed’s possession of unstamped cigarettes in Indiana to convict him of violating the CCTA. Rather, the government needed to prove that Mr. Mohamed possessed the cigarettes for the purpose of selling, using, consuming, handling, or distributing them within Indiana in order to establish that they were subject to Indiana’s cigarette tax,” wrote Judge Amy J. St. Eve of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, who was sitting by designation.
 
“We are not persuaded that Mr. Mohamed’s violation of Indiana’s requirements for transporting unstamped cigarettes over Indiana highways alone is sufficient to support his conviction for violation of the CCTA. I.C. 6-7-1-24(d) creates a presumption that a person (apart from the three listed exceptions) possessing more than 1,500 cigarettes not bearing Indiana tax stamps has the cigarettes available and intended for sale within the state. The jury instructions, however, made no mention of the presumption, and the government never argued at trial that it applied. Had the government actually relied on the presumption at trial, Mr. Mohamed may have elected to present evidence rebutting the presumption, rather than rest his defense without presenting affirmative evidence. Thus, unlike in (United States v. Boggs, 775 F.2d 582 (4th Cir. 1985)), the government cannot use the presumption to its advantage on appeal. Without the benefit of the presumption, the government has not presented sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable trier of fact to determine that Mr. Mohamed intended to sell, distribute, or otherwise dispose of the cigarettes within Indiana,” she continued.

The government’s evidence at trial was not sufficient to show that Mohamed intended to sell the cigarettes in Indiana. Without this evidence, his conviction cannot stand. The judges remanded the case, United States of America v. Haitham Mohamed, 13-2368, with instructions to enter the judgment of acquittal.
 

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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