United States v. Spentz

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 07-28-2011
  • Case #: 10-10134 and 10-10180
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Clifton for the Court; Circuit Judges Wallace and Fernandez
  • Full Text Opinion

A defendant is not entitled to a jury instruction unless he offers minimal evidence which satisfies all elements of the defense; a multi-million dollar payoff for stealing cocaine from a drug cartel does not satisfy the inducement prong of entrapment.

In 2007, ATF agents set up an undercover operation in a tattoo parlor. Spentz and Reed were among those that conspired with undercover ATF agents to rob a fictional stash house allegedly containing 2.5 million dollars worth of cocaine. After a few months of planning, Spentz and Reed met agents at a warehouse to prepare for the robbery. Agents arrested Reed and Spentz on arrival. At trial, Reed and Spentz argued that they did not know the purpose of the meeting at the warehouse. They then requested a jury instruction for entrapment. The district court did not issue the instruction citing lack of evidence; Spentz and Reed appealed. The Ninth Circuit reiterated that although the court requires only a showing of “slight” evidence to issue a jury instruction for a defense, Appellants did not meet that burden. Entrapment has two elements. “(1) the defendant was induced to commit the crime by a government agent, and (2) he was not otherwise predisposed to commit the crime.” The Court found that Appellants’ argument that the potential payoff of 2.5 million dollars for stealing cocaine did not satisfy the inducement prong. The Court noted that inducement is usually satisfied by government pressure or non-criminal motivations. “When the motivation presented by the government is the typical benefit from engaging in the proposed criminal act, there is no reason to be concerned that an innocent person is being entrapped.” AFFIRMED.

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