United States v. Goldtooth

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 06-12-2014
  • Case #: 12-10570; 12-10571
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Noonan for the Court; Circuit Judges S. Thomas and Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

The crime of attempted robbery under 18 U.S.C. § 2111 requires proof of specific intent.

On July 31, 2011, defendants Colbert Goldtooth and Myron Tsosie along with another man and woman pulled up to a gas station in Fort Defiance, Arizona, a town in the Navajo Nation. Two teens were sitting on the curb outside the gas station rolling cigarettes. Goldtooth, Tsosie, and another man exited their car carrying a baseball bat and two knives. While the teens remained seated, one of the men with a bat patted down one of the teens, while asking them if they had anything. The other man with a knife, patted down the other teen. The man with the bat took three rolled cigarettes and the remaining tobacco from one of the teens. Then Goldtooth, Tsosie, and the other two left the gas station. The car was later stopped by police and Goldtooth and Tsosie were charged with aiding and abetting the robbery of the tobacco; and, of attempting to rob one of the teens of his money and wallet. A jury found Goldtooth and Tsosie guilty of both counts. The district court denied the defendants’ motion requesting either a new trial or acquittal. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Goldtooth and Tsosie could not have aided and abetted in taking the tobacco. Aiding and abetting requires “foreknowledge of the crime,” which the men could not have possessed. On the charge of attempted robbery, the panel for the first time held that the crime of attempted robbery under 18 U.S.C. § 2111 “requires proof of specific intent.” The government did not provide enough evidence that Goldtooth and Tsosie took enough steps to show intent to rob the teen of his wallet or money, so the panel overturned both convictions. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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