United States v. Cabrales Page 2

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Media for United States v. Cabrales

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 29, 1998 in United States v. Cabrales

Malcolm L. Stewart:

They were not... for conspiracy.

They were not alleged to have personally committed an unlawful act in the District of Columbia, or ever to have been there, but it was held that because coconspirators had committed overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy in the District of Columbia, that that was an appropriate venue, and--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, I... it's a little easier to see, isn't it, in a conspiracy context.

Of course, you have a conspiracy charge here.

Malcolm L. Stewart:

--It... you're correct that in some sense the link between the defendant and the coconspirators may be more direct than the link between the money-launderer and the persons who perpetrate the predicate crimes.

Nevertheless, to us the crucial point is that the evil of money-laundering is not that the transactions are per se unlawful or harmful.

The evil of money-laundering consists precisely of the fact that it assists in the concealment and thus the facilitation of the predicate criminal act--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Well, what about receiving stolen property, one of the examples mentioned, I think, in one of the briefs.

Malcolm L. Stewart:

--I--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

You know, the property is stolen in State A, and then it's received and resold in State B.--

Malcolm L. Stewart:

--It certainly is our theory that the prosecution could be brought in State A for much the same reasons, that because the evil of the offense is that it facilitates or conceals the crime that occurred in jurisdiction A, and because the harm of the crime is felt in jurisdiction A, it therefore makes sense to prosecute the offense there.

William H. Rehnquist:

--Well, how does receiving stolen property in New York conceal the existence of a crime, say, in Chicago?

Malcolm L. Stewart:

Well, for one thing, if the person in New York receives it and profits by it rather than, for instance, turning over the evidence to the police, in that sense it conceals the offense.

It certainly facilitates the offense in that the crime of stealing property is more profitable and therefore is more likely to occur if there are people out there who will--

William H. Rehnquist:

I can see how it facilitates it, but to say it conceals it, I really don't follow that.

Malcolm L. Stewart:

--I guess it would be accurate to say it conceals it only if we compare the person who receives the stolen property to the person who becomes aware of the theft and reports it to the authorities.

Stephen G. Breyer:

I take it on your theory... how do you feel about controlled substances?

I mean, there are quite a few that the Attorney General has to put on a list or they're not controlled, so does that mean as to any such substance every drug crime could be prosecuted, wherever it takes place, in Washington, D.C.?

Malcolm L. Stewart:

No, I don't think so, because the Attorney General's act of putting the controlled substance on the list would not in any sense be conduct that the ban on possession--

Stephen G. Breyer:

No, it's not conduct exactly.

Malcolm L. Stewart:

--It would--

Stephen G. Breyer:

But isn't it an element of the offense?

Malcolm L. Stewart:

--It's no--

Stephen G. Breyer:

I mean, if the substance is not on the list, then you can't prosecute the person for the offense.

Malcolm L. Stewart:

--It would not be conduct that it was the purpose of the controlled substance statutes to prohibit or deter, and I think--

Antonin Scalia:

Oh--

--Element of an offense is not a separate justification, as you said in your initial presentation.

Malcolm L. Stewart:

--I--

Antonin Scalia:

Is it or isn't it?

Malcolm L. Stewart:

--Element of the offense is not a universal justification.