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United States v. Toscanino

decided: May 15, 1974.


Appeal from a judgment of conviction entered after a jury trial in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Jacob Mishler, Chief Judge, for conspiracy to import and distribute narcotics in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 173 and 174.

Anderson, Mansfield and Oakes, Circuit Judges. Anderson, Circuit Judge (concurring in result).

Author: Mansfield

MANSFIELD, Circuit Judge.

Francisco Toscanino appeals from a narcotics conviction entered against him in the Eastern District of New York by Chief Judge Jacob Mishler after a jury trial. Toscanino was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined $20,000. He contends that the court acquired jurisdiction over him unlawfully through the conduct of American agents who kidnapped him in Uruguay, used illegal electronic surveillance, tortured him and abducted him to the United States for the purpose of prosecuting him here. We remand the case to the district court for further proceedings in which the government will be required to respond to his allegations concerning the methods by which he was brought into the Eastern District and the use of electronic surveillance to gather evidence against him.

Toscanino, who is a citizen of Italy, and four others were charged with conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 173 and 174 in a one count indictment returned by a grand jury sitting in the Eastern District on February 22, 1973. The other defendants were Armando Nicolay, Segundo Coronel, Roberto Arenas and Umberto Coronel. Also named as a conspirator but not as a defendant was one Hosvep Caramain. At a joint trial of all the defendants (except for Nicolay who had fled to Argentina), which began on May 22, 1973, the only government witness against Toscanino was Caramian*fn1 who testified that he met with Toscanino in Montevideo, Uruguay, during the summer of 1970 and agreed to find buyers for a shipment of heroin into the United States, which would be delivered by Nicolay. Caramian testified further that in November, 1970, he left Uruguay and came to the United States where he met with Arenas and the Coronel brothers who agreed to buy the heroin. On November 30, 1970, Caramian received part of Toscanino's shipment delivered by Nicolay in Miami, Florida, but ultimate distribution of the narcotics was intercepted by government agents who posed as buyers from Arenas and the Coronel brothers. Toscanino, testifying in his own behalf, denied any knowledge of these transactions. On June 5, 1973, the jury returned a verdict of guilty against him and all the other defendants.

Toscanino does not question the sufficiency of the evidence or claim any error with respect to the conduct of the trial itself. His principal argument, which he voiced prior to trial and again after the jury verdict was returned, is that the entire proceedings in the district court against him were void because his presence within the territorial jurisdiction of the court had been illegally obtained. He alleged that he had been kidnapped from his home in Montevideo, Uruguay, and brought into the Eastern District only after he had been detained for three weeks of interrogation accompanied by physical torture in Brazil. He offered to prove the following:

"On or about January 6, 1973 Francisco Toscanino was lured from his home in Montevideo, Uruguay by a telephone call. This call had been placed by or at the direction of Hugo Campos Hermedia. Hermedia was at that time and still is a member of the police in Montevideo, Uruguay. In this effort, however, and those that will follow in this offer, Hermedia was acting ultra vires in that he was the paid agent of the United States government. . . .

". . . The telephone call ruse succeeded in bringing Toscanino and his wife, seven months pregnant at the time, to an area near a deserted bowling alley in the City of Montevideo. Upon their arrival there Hermedia together with six associates abducted Toscanino. This was accomplished in full view of Toscanino's terrified wife by knocking him unconscious with a gun and throwing him into the rear seat of Hermedia's car. Thereupon Toscanino, bound and blindfolded, was driven to the Uruguayan-Brazilian border by a circuitous route. . . .

"At one point during the long trip to the Brazilian border discussion was had among Toscanino's captors as to changing the license plates of the abductor's car in order to avoid detection by the Uruguayan authorities. At another point the abductor's car was abruptly brought to a halt, and Toscanino was ordered to get out. He was brought to an apparently secluded place and told to lie perfectly still or he would be shot then and there. Although his blindfold prevented him from seeing, Toscanino could feel the barrel of the gun against his head and could hear the rumbling noises of what appeared to be an Uruguayan military convoy. A short time after the noise of the convoy had died away, Toscanino was placed in another vehicle and whisked to the border. There by pre-arrangement and again at the connivance of the United States government, the car was met by a group of Brazilians who took custody of the body of Francisco Toscanino.

"At no time had there been any formal or informal request on the part of the United States of the government of Uruguay for the extradition of Francisco Toscanino nor was there any legal basis to justify this rank criminal enterprise. In fact, the Uruguayan government claims that it had no prior knowledge of the kidnapping nor did it consent thereto and had indeed condemned this kind of apprehension as alien to its laws.

"Once in the custody of Brazilians, Toscanino was brought to Porto Alegre where he was held incommunicado for eleven hours. His requests to consult with counsel, the Italian Consulate, and his family were all denied. During this time he was denied all food and water.

"Later that same day Toscanino was brought to Brasilia. . . . For seventeen days Toscanino was incessantly tortured and interrogated. Throughout this entire period the United States government and the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York prosecuting this case was aware of the interrogation and did in fact receive reports as to its progress. Furthermore, during this period of torture and interrogation a member of the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs was present at one or more intervals and actually participated in portions of the interrogation. . . . [Toscanino's] captors denied him sleep and all forms of nourishment for days at a time. Nourishment was provided intravenously in a manner precisely equal to an amount necessary to keep him alive. Reminiscent of the horror stories told by our military men who returned from Korea and China, Toscanino was forced to walk up and down a hallway for seven or eight hours at a time. When he could no longer stand he was kicked and beaten but all in a manner contrived to punish without scarring. When he would not answer, his fingers were pinched with metal pliers. Alcohol was flushed into his eyes and nose and other fluids . . . were forced up his anal passage. Incredibly, these agents of the United States government attached electrodes to Toscanino's earlobes, toes, and genitals. Jarring jolts of electricity were shot throughout his body, rendering him unconscious for indeterminate periods of time but again leaving no physical scars.

"Finally on or about January 25, 1973 Toscanino was brought to Rio de Janeiro where he was drugged by Brazilian-American agents and placed on Pan American Airways Flight #202 destined for the waiting arms of the United States government. On or about January 26, 1973 he woke in the United States, was arrested on the aircraft, and was brought immediately to Thomas Puccio, Assistant United States Attorney.

"At no time during the government's seizure of Toscanino did it ever attempt to accomplish its goal through any lawful channels whatever. From start to finish the government unlawfully, willingly and deliberately embarked upon a brazenly criminal scheme violating the laws of three separate countries."

The government prosecutor neither affirmed nor denied these allegations but claimed they were immaterial to the district court's power to proceed.

Toscanino alleged further that, prior to his forcible abduction from Montevideo, American officials bribed an employee of the public telephone company to conduct electronic surveillance of him and that the results of the surveillance were given to American agents and forwarded to government prosecutors in New York. According to Toscanino, the telephone company employee was eventually arrested in Uruguay for illegal eavesdropping and was indicted and imprisoned. In connection with these latter allegations Toscanino moved, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3504,*fn2 to compel the government to affirm or deny whether in fact there had been any electronic surveillance of him in Uruguay.

Toscanino's motion for an order vacating the verdict, dismissing the indictment and ordering his return to Uruguay was denied by the district court on November 2, 1973, without a hearing. Relying principally on the decisions of the Supreme Court in Ker v. Illinois, 119 U.S. 436, 7 S. Ct. 225, 30 L. Ed. 421 (1886), and Frisbie v. Collins, 342 U.S. 519, 96 L. Ed. 541, 72 S. Ct. 509 (1952), the court held that the manner in which Toscanino was brought into the territory of the United States was immaterial to the court's power to proceed, provided he was physically present at the time of trial. Concerning the wiretap allegations, the court asked the prosecutor to represent whether there had actually been any electronic surveillance of Toscanino in Uruguay. The prosecutor responded that "in no way was electronic surveillance used or the fruits of electronic surveillance." The court then ruled that no hearing was required on the wiretap allegations and denied the motion to vacate the verdict on that ground. From these rulings Toscanino appeals.

Alleged Forcible Abduction From Uruguay

In an era marked by a sharp increase in kidnapping activities, both here and abroad, see, e.g., New York Times, Jan. 5, 1974, at 25, col. 6, Dec. 13, 1973, at 2, col. 5, Oct. 17, 1973, at 14, col. 5, we face the question as we must in the state of the pleadings, of whether a federal court must assume jurisdiction over the person of a defendant who is illegally apprehended abroad and forcible abducted by government agents to the United States for the purpose of facing criminal charges here. The answer necessitates a review and appraisal of two Supreme Court decisions, heavily relied upon by the government and be the district court, Ker v. Illinois, 119 U.S. 436, 7 S. Ct. 225, 30 L. Ed. 421 (1888), and Frisbie v. Collins, 342 U.S. 519, 96 L. Ed. 541, 72 S. Ct. 509 (1952). For years these two cases have been the mainstay of a doctrine to the effect that the government's power to prosecute a defendant is not impaired by the illegality of the method by which it acquires control over him. This teaching originated almost 90 years ago in Ker. While residing in Peru, Ker was indicted by an Illinois grand jury for larceny and embezzlement. At the request of the Governor of Illinois the President, invoking the current treaty of extradition between the United States and Peru, issued a warrant authorizing a Pinkerton agent to take custody of Ker from the authorities of Peru. The warrant, however, was never served, probably for the reason that by the time the agent arrived there armed forces of Chile, then at war with Peru, were in control of Lima. See Ker v. Illinois Revisted, 47 Am. J. Int'l L. 678 (1953). Instead Ker was forcibly abducted by the agent, placed aboard an American vessel and eventually taken to the United States, where he was tried and convicted in Illinois. The Supreme Court rejected Ker's argument that he was entitled by virtue of ...

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