United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION & ORDER
J. NATHAN, DISTRICT JUDGE:
February 21, 2019, following a seven-day jury trial that
began on February 11, 2019, Defendant Tyrone Woolaston was
convicted on two counts of a Superseding Indictment, Dkt. No.
See Trial Tr. at 1370-73. The Defendant now moves,
pursuant to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 29 and 33,
for acquittal or, in the alternative, a new trial. For the
following reasons, the Defendant's motions are denied.
purposes of these motions, the evidence is viewed in the
light most favorable to the Government and all reasonable
inferences are drawn in its favor. United States v.
Glenn, 312 F.3d 58, 63 (2d Cir. 2002).
indictment charged Woolaston with (1) conspiring to
distribute and possess with intent to distribute five
kilograms or more of mixtures and substances containing a
detectable amount of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A) ("Count
One"); and (2) use of a firearm in furtherance of that
narcotics conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
924(c)(1)(A)(i) ("Count Two"). The Government
alleged that these crimes arose out of Woolaston's
participation in a narcotics conspiracy operating in and
around Newark Liberty International Airport (the
"Airport") to organize the smuggling of luggage
containing cocaine shipments from Caribbean islands.
trial, it was largely undisputed that Woolaston had committed
the charged crimes, and the questions before the jury were
whether venue was proper and whether Woolaston was entrapped
by the Government.
The Government's Case
trial, the Government presented evidence in the form of
witness testimony, phone records, recordings of wiretap
interceptions, text message records, consensual recordings
made by the cooperating witness, and law enforcement
testimony relating to the Defendant's actions directly
preceding his arrest. This evidence proved the following
The Homeland Security Investigation
charged conduct arose out of a sting operation. In 2015, a
confidential informant reached out to the Department of
Homeland Security's Homeland Security Investigations
division with information about what he believed to be a
narcotics trafficking network operating out of Newark
Airport. Tr. 199. Agents in the division worked with the
informant to approach Xavier Williams, who they believed was
involved in the network, as a target. They proposed a sting
operation in which Williams would use his contacts at the
Airport to smuggle cocaine through the airport, but Williams
eventually backed out and the proposed transaction never
2017, however, the contours of a new operation began to take
shape. In October 2017, Williams met with a confidential
informant and discussed a new transaction: five kilograms of
cocaine would be smuggled into the United States by being
placed in luggage on an international commercial flight that
would arrive at the Airport, after which a contact Williams
had at the airport could arrange to have the checked suitcase
pulled off the international flight and placed in the baggage
claim for a domestic flight. Tr. 476-80; GX 40IT. During this
meeting, Williams communicated with Woolaston by text
message, and ultimately took the confidential informant to
the firehouse at which Woolaston worked a second job as a
firefighter. Tr. 484-86; GX 204. There, Woolaston got into
the car with Williams and the confidential informant, who
discussed the details of the plan: that the cocaine would be
shipped from the Caribbean through the airport, the price per
kilogram charged for the cocaine, the number of kilograms to
be smuggled, and available flights and dates on which the
smuggling could occur. GX 403T; Tr. 493-99. The confidential
informant asked Woolaston questions about the plan to which
Woolaston responded. Id.; Tr. 493-99. Woolaston made
various remarks in response, including "it is good, if
you're saying it is what it is," stating that he
would need to "talk to my team," noting that he
would need to see if "customs is really watching"
the flight, and remarking that a prior flight had gotten
"bit." GX 403T.
January 2018, the confidential informant again met with
Williams. GX 411, 412. He brought $10, 000 in cash as a
deposit for the anticipated deal. Tr. 546. Williams placed a
FaceTime call to Woolaston in order to show Woolaston this
money. Tr. 546-51. Also during the phone call, the
confidential informant stated that he would be "in the
city" later that day. GX 41 IT. Later that night,
Woolaston came to Williams's house, where Williams gave
Woolaston some of the cash to put in a safe he stored at
Williams's house. Tr. 554-56. Williams told Woolaston
that the confidential informant "was in the city, and he
would try to call us later." Tr. 556. The confidential
informant then called Williams later that evening from his
Manhattan hotel to discuss what Williams described as
"drug trafficking." Id. The next day,
Williams informed the confidential informant that he had
spoken with Woolaston, who had asked if they could move up
the date of the planned flight. GX 810. Further, over the
course of the evening, Williams sent the confidential
informant several text messages updating the confidential
informant on when Woolaston would be coming over.
The Operation and Arrests
the January 6 meeting, the confidential informant engaged in
further telephone and text communications with Williams. In
these communications, they agreed that the confidential
informant would have five kilograms of cocaine transported to
the Airport on an international flight arriving February 10,
2018 and that Williams and Woolaston would smuggle the
cocaine through the airport to deliver it to the confidential
informant. Tr. 563-64. Unbeknownst to Williams or Woolaston,
the Homeland Security Investigations agents planned to
package sham cocaine into the anticipated suitcase on the
agreed-upon flight and to take delivery of the cocaine from
Williams and Woolaston in an undercover operation.
February 10, 2018, this is what they did. They placed the
sham cocaine, concealed in rum cake tins, into the expected
suitcase on an international flight that arrived at the
airport that evening. Tr. 207, 215. After the flight
unloaded, the suitcase did not arrive at the baggage
carousel. Tr. 217. Instead, on a phone call with Williams,
Woolaston stated that he had the bag and the pair discussed
the narcotics and their packaging. Woolaston stated he was
concerned about how the drug transaction would proceed and
both defendants indicated that they would have guns. Tr. 576;
February 11, 2018, the confidential informant and Williams
agreed to meet at a hotel in Secaucus, New Jersey to exchange
the drugs for the cash. In anticipation of this meeting,
Williams and Woolaston debated whether Williams should hold
some of the drugs back as collateral. Tr. 594-602; 409T.
Williams ultimately agreed to deliver only a portion of the
sham narcotics. Tr. 603-04. Woolaston also assured Williams
that he would "come in there blazing" if Williams
had an issue during the exchange with the confidential
informant. GX 413T; Tr. 594-602.
and Woolaston arrived at the hotel separately. Tr. 46-48. Law
enforcement apprehended Williams carrying a duffel bag
containing several kilos of the sham cocaine. They then
attempted to apprehend Woolaston: after they approached him
in the hotel parking lot, Woolaston dropped his bag and fled,
losing his firearm in the ensuing chase. Tr. 48-53, 221.
Woolaston surrendered to law enforcement the following day.
Tr. 221. Law enforcement recovered the bag Woolaston dropped,
which contained tins of sham cocaine, and the firearm, a .40
caliber Glock pistol loaded with an extra-capacity magazine
and outfitted with a laser sight. Tr. 50-56, 65.
his arrest, Williams cooperated with law enforcement,
including consenting to a search of his residence. Tr. 66.
This search revealed a police scanner, money counter, the rum
cake tins agents had placed inside the suitcase to conceal
the sham cocaine, and a safe Woolaston kept in Williams's
basement. The safe contained a pistol, two laser-sights, four
pistol magazines, more than one hundred rounds of ammunition,
and an ammunition speed-loading device. Tr. 76-84.
defense raised the affirmative defense of entrapment. The
defense case consisted of consensually recorded telephone
calls between the confidential informant and Williams;
business records and supporting testimony reflecting the
Defendant's attendance record; testimony from the
confidential informant and contemporaneous email and text
records; and testimony from the Homeland Security
Investigations case agents. In its case, the defense argued
that Woolaston was absent from work during the purported 2015
transaction. Tr. 887-93. It also elicited testimony that the
agents had booked and arranged the Manhattan hotel, and from
there instructed the CI to call Williams multiple times. Tr.
further elicited testimony that the confidential informant
for the most part worked directly only with Williams. Tr.
901. And the defense elicited testimony it argues goes to
Woolaston's resistance to the transaction, including the
fact that at some points in 2016 and 2017, Williams may not
have been responsive to the confidential informant's
overtures, Tr. 910-12, 967, prompting an agent to instruct
the confidential informant to "sell" the plan to
Woolaston and Williams, Tr. 976; as well as that the
confidential informant may have wanted to give deposit money
to Woolaston to "lock" him in to the plan. Tr. 962.
the defense elicited testimony that it argues went to
Williams's credibility, including law enforcement
testimony it contends confirmed inconsistent statements
Williams made regarding the scope of his prior interactions
with Woolaston and his ability to remember his post-arrest
interview. Tr. 626-28; Tr. 1050-52.
Sweet instructed the jury on Woolaston's affirmative
defense of entrapment and included the instruction that as a
matter of law the defense had established the first element,
inducement. Tr. 1324-27. Judge Sweet declined, however, to
instruct the jury on manufactured venue.