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  • United States v. AlvaradoUnited States v. Alvarado
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United States v. Alvarado

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
808 F.3d 474 (2015)


Facts

The federal government (plaintiff) prosecuted Fausto Aguero Alvarado (defendant) for conspiring with traffickers in illegal drugs. The federal district court trial evidence established that Alvarado signed a series of short-term contracts with federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents to report on drug operations in several Latin American countries. Like all the agreements, Alvarado's August one-year contract to work undercover in Colombia contained a clause specifying that Alvarado could be prosecuted for any illegal activity not ordered by his DEA handler, Agent Romain. Four months into the contract, Romain bluntly told Alvarado to leave Colombia because Romain no longer wanted to work with him. Alvarado remained in Colombia, and for the next 16 months he was an active member of a Colombian drug-trafficking cartel. Not once during this time did Alvarado attempt to pass information on the cartel's operations to Romain or any other DEA agent. A secret government informant's reports eventually led to Alvarado's arrest. Alvarado moved for a jury instruction on the public-authority defense, arguing that Romain told him that the DEA contract clause prohibiting Alvarado from taking illegal action on his own was a mere formality, that the DEA had the ability to track his activities through wiretaps and GPS, and that the contract gave Alvarado general permission to engage in drug trafficking until the DEA formally revoked that permission. The judge denied Alvarado's motion, and the jury found him guilty. Alvarado appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Carnes, J.)

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