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United States v. Luisi

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
482 F.3d 43 (2007)


Ronald Previte was a captain in the La Cosa Nostra (LCN) crime family. When the FBI launched a large-scale investigation into the Philadelphia LCN, Previte became a paid cooperating witness. The FBI learned that Robert Luisi (defendant) was also a captain in the LCN. Luisi supervised the organization’s activities in Boston. In an attempt to incriminate Luisi, Previte introduced Luisi to Michael McGowan, an undercover FBI agent. McGowan attempted multiple times to engage Luisi in an exchange of diamonds for cocaine. Luisi was to acquire the cocaine from Previte. Although Luisi agreed to consider the arrangement in a noncommittal manner, Luisi later claimed he never intended to participate in any exchange involving cocaine. Previte later met with Joseph Merlino, a Philadelphia LCN boss. Merlino was superior to Previte and Luisi in the LCN hierarchy. Previte informed Merlino of Luisi’s business opportunity and informed Merlino that he could benefit financially from the deal. At Previte’s suggestion, Merlino agreed to order Luisi to participate in the exchange with McGowan. While visiting Boston, Previte met with McGowan, and the two initiated a phone call between Merlino and Luisi to deliver the order. As instructed by Merlino, Luisi participated in the exchange with McGowan. Luisi was convicted of (1) conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and (2) possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Luisi raised, and the jury was instructed on, an entrapment defense. However, in response to a jury question, the judge implied that the jury could not consider Merlino’s influence over Luisi in evaluating the entrapment defense. Luisi appealed on the ground that the jury instruction on entrapment, as supplemented, was erroneous.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Lynch, J.)

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