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U.S. v. PADILLA

August 6, 1991

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
PAUL PADILLA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amon, District Judge.

CORRECTED OPINION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

On December 18, 1990, a jury convicted the defendant Paul Padilla of conspiring and attempting to possess cocaine with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B) (Counts One and Two); forcibly assaulting and resisting Special Agents John Henderson, Nicholas Maggio, and Rene Robinson of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111 (Counts Three, Four, and Five); and attempted murder of Agents Henderson and Robinson in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1111, 1114 (Counts Six and Eight). The jury acquitted the defendant of attempted murder of Agent Maggio (Count Seven).

Defendant moves for judgment of acquittal pursuant to Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure on Counts Six and Eight. He further seeks a new trial pursuant to Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure on Counts Three, Four, and Five.

BACKGROUND

Special Agents John Henderson, Nicholas Maggio, and Rene Robinson of the DEA testified to the following facts surrounding the arrests of defendants, which formed the basis for the assault and attempted murder charges.

The events commenced with the arrest of Rosa Arias at the airport in Miami, Florida in possession of two kilograms of cocaine. Arias agreed to cooperate with agents of the DEA in making a controlled delivery of the drugs. She advised the agents that she was supposed to deliver the drugs to "Rachel" in New York and was to be picked up at La Guardia Airport by individuals driving a maroon-colored van. She gave descriptions of both Rachel and the other individuals who were involved and likely to pick her up; namely, Rachel's son "Paulie" and her boyfriend, Luis Medina. Arias flew to New York accompanied by Agent Henderson. Sometime after they arrived, Henderson was notified that the maroon van had been spotted on the upper level of the airport.

Officers were sent ahead of Arias and Henderson to position themselves around the van. Arias approached the van with Henderson walking in front of her and Agent Robinson behind her. Arias was initially greeted by her boyfriend, Luis Medina. Padilla was in the driver's seat of the van and his co-defendant Juan Torres was in the passenger's seat. The sliding passenger-side door of the van was open. Both Padilla and Torres were looking around the area. Padilla made eye contact with Henderson. When Arias and Medina walked toward the van, Henderson moved in to make the arrests.

Henderson ran towards the van and shouted in English and Spanish "police, don't move." Robinson, who was in front of the van at this point, drew her gun and shouted "police, freeze" several times in English and Spanish. Agent Maggio approached the driver's side of the van, shouted "police, freeze" several times, and pointed his gun at Padilla. Henderson reached through the open door of the van and grabbed Torres by the shirt to pull him out of the van prompting Padilla to put the van into gear. Henderson started to get into the van to prevent Padilla from leaving. Padilla looked at Henderson and then looked at Maggio and cursed. He lunged the van forward at an angle towards Maggio, striking him in the shoulder and forearm and pinning him against a taxi that had pulled alongside the van. The van quickly pulled away from the curb with Henderson partially inside the van holding onto Torres.

As the van sped away, Padilla looked at Henderson then swerved the van to the right towards a parked car. The van struck the car, causing the door of the van to slam shut on Henderson and throwing him to the floor of the van. Padilla drove alongside of the parked car, with Henderson pinned in the van by the door and his feet dragging on the ground. The van proceeded directly at Agent Robinson who was in front of the van. In order to escape injury, Robinson jumped back onto the hood of the parked car. Robinson's legs were struck by the door of the van as it passed the car. Henderson testified that Padilla looked at Henderson several times while the van was in motion.

Henderson raised his gun towards Padilla. Torres reached down towards the gun preventing Henderson from aiming it at Padilla's chest. Henderson fired the gun at Padilla's legs, Padilla slumped in his seat, and the van slowed to a stop. Padilla and Torres were then arrested.

DISCUSSION

I. Attempted Murder Counts

Defendant contends that he is entitled to a judgment of acquittal on the ...


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