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United States v. Wilson

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 12, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
PERRY WILSON, Section:

ORDER AND REASONS

SUSIE MORGAN, District Judge.

This is criminal action charging twelve defendants with violations of the Racketeer Influenced Corruption Organization Act ("RICO"), [1] the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering Act ("VICAR"), [2] the Federal Controlled Substances Act ("FCS"), [3] and the Federal Gun Control Act ("FGC").[4] One of the named defendants-Perry Wilson ("Wilson")-moves to quash the indictment on double jeopardy grounds.[5] The questioned presented is whether Wilson's prior guilty pleas in state court prohibit the filing of charges in federal court. As explained more fully below, the answer is no for two reasons. First, prosecution in federal court is proper under the dual sovereignty doctrine. Second, the elements of Wilson's federal offenses differ from the elements of his state offenses.

BACKGROUND

Over the past three years, Wilson has pleaded guilty to several offenses in state court, to wit: possession of marijuana (twice), resisting an officer (twice), illegal use of a weapon, illegal carrying of a weapon, and possession of an unidentifiable firearm.[6] The indictment in this Court charges Wilson and eleven others with (1) conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute crack cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, and (2) conspiracy to possess and use firearms in furtherance of the drug conspiracy.

LEGAL STANDARD

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits successive prosecutions for the same offense after conviction.[7] The defendant bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie claim of double jeopardy.[8] If the defendant carries that burden, the government must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence the crime charged is separate from the crime to which jeopardy has already attached.[9]

LAW AND ANALYSIS

It is well established that the proscription against double jeopardy does not apply to prosecutions by separate sovereigns, [10] unless the defendant can establish that "prosecution by one sovereign is used as a tool for successive prosecution by another sovereign."[11] The State of Louisiana is a separate sovereign from the Federal Government for purposes of double jeopardy.[12] Accordingly, the Double Jeopardy Clause presents no barrier to prosecution in federal court absent evidence of collusion between federal and state law enforcement officials.[13] Wilson has presented no such evidence in this case.

But even if he had, Wilson's motion would fail on the merits. Double jeopardy claims are evaluated under the "same-elements" or " Blockburger " test.[14] A court applying this test focuses on the statutory elements of the offenses charged, [15] specifically, whether "each offense... contains[s] an element not contained in the other."[16] If so, there is no double jeopardy violation.[17] Wilson's federal conspiracy charges require proof of an element his state crimes do not: an unlawful agreement between two or more persons.[18] Accordingly, Wilson is properly charged in federal court.[19]

CONCLUSION

Wilson's double jeopardy argument has no basis in law.

Given the foregoing;

IT IS ORDERED that the Motion is DENIED.


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