Attorney Michael Mirer was retained to represent a client, T. Caesar, accused of committing federal drug crimes. He fought hard for our client and secured a not guilty verdict for one of the charges she was facing. The jury declared a mistrial for the other charge. When the Government stated that it was going to retry the client for the second charge, Attorney Mirer filed a motion to have that case dismissed. A U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida agreed that the Government could not pursue another trial.
Federal Drug Crime Charges
Caesar was accused of conspiring with three other people – Milligan, Joseph, and Roach – to bring cocaine from the U.S. Virgin Islands to Florida. The Government claimed that she had planted two packages of the substance on a flight taken by Roach.
For her alleged participation in the plan, Caesar was charged with:
- Conspiracy to import cocaine
- Conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute
What Was the Alleged Incident that Led to the Charges?
The Government stated that Caesar, who worked as a contractor American Airlines in St. Croix, had planted two packages of cocaine in one of the bathrooms of the plane.
Milligan had asked Caesar to give Roach a ride to the airport. During the drive, Caesar allegedly told Roach that she was placing the cocaine in a trashcan in the bathroom on his side of the plane. He just needed to retrieve the packages.
While Roach was taking the cocaine packages out of the trashcan, a flight attendant, who had become suspicious when Roach entered the bathroom, asked him to return to his seat. Because of the interruption, he was only able to get one of the two packages; the flight attendant found the other. When the plane landed, Roach was arrested.
What Happened at Trial?
After his arrest, Roach cooperated with the Government and provided information against Milligan, Joseph, and Caesar. At trial, he testified that Milligan recruited him for the job. She got him an identification card and paid him $1,200. He also said that Caesar had given him a ride to the airport and told him exactly where to find the packages. He stated that he wasn't told what was in them.
During cross-examination, Roach said that he did not initially tell law enforcement that Caesar had given him a ride nor that she told him where to find the packages. He testified that he lied during the interview but was being honest at trial.
Milligan also testified. She said that she asked Roach to take the job and gave his information to her then-boyfriend Joseph, who allegedly supplied the cocaine. Additionally, Milligan stated that she had asked Caesar to give Roach a ride only because her own car had broken down. If her car was running, she would have driven Roach herself. Milligan also said that she didn't ask Caesar to place the cocaine packages on the plane.
At trial, the Government presented as evidence a video recording of Caesar saying that she had strapped the two packages of cocaine on her chest. Then, covering up the drugs with her shirt, she deposited them into the airplane restroom trashcan.
Attorney Mirer questioned the credibility of Milligan's and Roach's testimonies, as they contained inconsistencies. He also noted that the Government did not provide any physical evidence that linked Caesar to the cocaine: There were no fingerprints, nor was there any video surveillance. Attorney Mirer stated that the absence of such evidence would leave jurors with a reasonable doubt that she had ever possessed the cocaine.
What Was the Verdict?
After hearing statements from the Government and the defense, the jury decided that Caesar was not guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute. However, regarding the conspiracy to import cocaine charge, it declared a mistrial.
The Government Sought to Pursue a Second Case
In September of 2019, the Government said it was going to retry Caesar for the conspiracy to import cocaine charge. However, Attorney Mirer filed a motion to dismiss that case under the doctrine of collateral estoppel.
The Fifth Amendment guarantees people the right to be free from being re-prosecuted for a crime that had previously been decided on. However, in some situations, the Government can retry defendants in cases that resulted in mistrials. Basically, the doctrine of collateral estoppel says that if the facts of a case have already been determined, they cannot be heard again.
Attorney Mirer argued that, because the jury found Caesar not guilty of conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute, they determined that she didn’t:
- Agree to put the cocaine on the plane
- Tell Roach where to find the packages
- Physically put the cocaine in the trashcans
Those are the same elements on which the Government's litigation for the conspiracy to import cocaine case would be based. Therefore, it could not be retried.
The U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida agreed that a jury had already made a final decision on the facts of the case, and granted the motion to dismiss.