United States v. Jarmon

These consolidated appeals presented a fact pattern similar to The Wire. E-Black and Yizzo each ran drug trafficking conspiracies out of a public housing complex in North Philadelphia. Before trial, E-Black moved to suppress recordings of phone calls he made while incarcerated. Yizzo joined the motion because one of the calls was with him. The District Court denied the motion and, after a jury convicted them, sentenced them each to 30 years’ imprisonment.  Although the Government charged the defendants in separate indictments based on different underlying facts, the Third Circuit consolidated the appeals because they raised one common issue: Whether recordings of phone calls E-Black made from prison were admissible at trial. The Third Circuit affirmed. First, the defendants argued that the Third Circuit should apply Carpenter v. United States to prison calls. The Third Circuit declined the invitation to apply. The Court held that Carpenter is inapplicable because inmates have no expectation of privacy in their phone calls — not because a third party retains the recordings, but because of the nature of incarceration. Furthermore, the defendants assumed the risk of surveillance of the calls. After being told their calls were monitored, they continued to discuss drug trafficking. Next, the defendants argued the evidence was insufficient to convict them of conspiracy, claiming the Government proved only the existence of mini-conspiracies to sell small quantities of crack, not overarching conspiracies to sell 280 grams or more. The Third Circuit held there was “plenty of evidence for a rational trier of fact to find proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants orchestrated multi-year conspiracies that trafficked more than 280 grams of crack”.

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