Regalado Cuellar v. United States - Oral Argument - February 25, 2008

Regalado Cuellar v. United States

Media for Regalado Cuellar v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 02, 2008 in Regalado Cuellar v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 25, 2008 in Regalado Cuellar v. United States

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We'll hear argument first today in Case 06-1456, Cuellar versus United States.

Mr. Beard.

Jerry V. Beard:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: Section 1956, the money laundering statute, requires an intent to minimize the criminal taint of unlawful proceeds.

But the statute does not criminalize concealing money's existence.

In this case, Mr. Cuellar's conviction should be reversed for two reasons.

First, while the method of the transportation involved may have been designed to conceal, the transportation itself was not.

Secondly, while Cuellar may have in fact concealed money itself, he did not conceal the nature, source, location, ownership or control of the unlawful proceeds.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Well, he certainly concealed the location.

They were secreted in the car, under the goat hair and everything else.

The location of the money was certainly concealed.

Jerry V. Beard:

Chief Justice, in the broader sense location was concealed.

The point to be taken here I think is this: An examination of the text itself reveals particular listed attributes, and location numbers among them.

But what this suggests, the requirement that there be a design to conceal or to disguise these particular attributes, necessarily means a plan, if you will, for those... excuse me... for those attributes to be presented either to law enforcement if they intercept the money or inject it into legitimate commerce later.

In other words, they'll be observed later.

Location has independent meaning, but it's also understood within the context of the words that surround it.

All money changes location, whether concealed or not.

Location in this context means more than the location that the money was found in the car.

Stephen G. Breyer:

Maybe I should ask you this now because you've probably thought about it and I can't work it out.

I don't see any problem with the word "location".

I thought what you would say is it isn't the transportation in this instance that concealed the location, it's the method of transportation that sealed the location.

Jerry V. Beard:

Yes, Justice--

Stephen G. Breyer:

And if you read it that literally, then there is no problem in getting to your interpretation of the statute, or is there?

Because since you didn't advance that argument, I thought maybe there's something I've not seen here.

Jerry V. Beard:

--No, Justice Breyer; you're correct.

There is a huge difference between the method of transportation and the transportation itself.

And in this particular case, the difference is certainly implicated.

What we understand the government to be arguing is that the method of the transportation satisfies the listed attributes.

But if that were the case it would effectively render all transportation of funds necessarily to be money laundering.

John Paul Stevens:

May I just ask, what do you mean by method of transportation in this case?

I mean, that it was in a car or the fact it was wrapped up in dirty... in a dirty kind of container, and so forth and so on?