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U.S. v. Ellis

September 21, 1998

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CARL D. ELLIS, APPELLANT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ESTER L. CARTER ESTER CARTER, APPELLANT.



(D.C. Crim. No. 95-cr-00435-4), (D.C. Crim. No. 95-cr-00435-5)

Before: Becker, Chief Judge, Rendell and HEANEY*fn1 Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Becker, Chief Judge

On Appeal From the United States District Court For the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Argued: March 19, 1998

OPINION OF THE COURT

Ester Carter appeals from a judgment of the district court convicting him of one count of conspiracy to launder drug trafficking proceeds in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h) and two counts of money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(3)(b).*fn2 Carter's conviction was one of several that arose out of a government undercover operation in which Special Agent Louis Oubre of the Internal Revenue Service posed as a drug dealer named "Louis Richard." The background facts are set forth at length in our opinion in United States v. Nolan-Cooper, Nos. 97-1171 and 97-1298 (3d Cir. filed September 1, 1998) and in the district court's opinion denying Carter's Rule 29 motion. See United States v. Carter, 966 F. Supp. 336 (E.D. Pa. 1997).

The principal issue on the present appeal is whether the district court committed prejudicial error when it admitted two statements by Angela Nolan-Cooper, who was Carter's attorney and was also an alleged coconspirator, pursuant to Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(2)(E). In addition, Carter challenges the district court's failure to charge the jury with his proposed money laundering instruction, and the limits the court placed upon his cross-examination of Agent Oubre. Because all of these challenges are without merit, we will affirm.*fn3

I. The Coconspirator Statements

Carter first argues that the district court erred in allowing the government to introduce two statements made by Nolan-Cooper that were contained in tape recorded conversations she had with Agent Oubre on February 7 and 9, 1994. The challenged statements were made by Nolan-Cooper during her initial two meetings with Agent Oubre. At these meetings Oubre explained that he was a drug dealer and needed assistance in making it appear that his drug proceeds came from a legitimate source.

In the first challenged statement, Nolan-Cooper explained to Oubre how he could launder the drug proceeds by investing in a recording studio run by one of her "clients" (Carter does not dispute that he was the person about whom Nolan-Cooper was speaking):

I have someone who's in a very similar situation with you ... that ... has a recording studio.... In South Jersey.... I'll be very honest with you. He has been in it and he's lost money.... He's lost money because he was involved with somebody he shouldn't have been involved with.... But even in losing the money... it's helped him to legitimize everything else.... So he hasn't had any problems. And he's another person that I'm back and forth. I do the same thing with him.... So I mean, that's the one thing that's already established here, if you wanted to become an investor in something like that.... [App. 244-45].

In the second recorded conversation, Nolan-Cooper again discussed with Oubre the possibility of investing in Carter's recording studio:

[T]he gentleman who's still involved ... in this business now, ... he started out, he bought some bars ... and he put the poker machines ... and he has made millions and millions of dollars on those poker machines... in his bars. And he doesn't show for it, if you saw him... and, I mean, he's an older man. He's just in his sixties .... he drives around in a 1971 Chevy ...


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