from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Texas
SMITH, WIENER, and WILLETT, Circuit Judges.
WILLETT, CIRCUIT JUDGE
case involves two failed attempts to transport
marijuana into the United States. Karl Scott first
recruited Brittini Randle to sneak marijuana across the
border from Mexico. Randle was arrested. Undeterred, Scott
then enlisted Mark Cane, who fared no better. Same plan. Same
checkpoint. Same result.
convicted Scott of (1) conspiracy to possess marijuana with
intent to distribute, and (2) aiding and abetting the
possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. On appeal,
Scott argues that the evidence was insufficient to support
either conviction because he never exercised any dominion or
control over the marijuana.
argument-no possession, no conviction-is uncomplicated. But
it is also unavailing. Put bluntly, possession is not
nine-tenths of the law.
Brittini Randle & the July 8 Run
met Scott in early 2014. Scott was a barber, and Randle was
interested in becoming a hairdresser. Their friendship
blossomed into a relationship. At some point, Scott asked
Randle if she "knew anybody who would want to make a
run." And by "run, " he meant transport drugs
across the border. After telling her that a driver would make
about $1, 500 or more, Randle volunteered. But Scott
suggested that "it would look better if it was you and
another person." So Randle asked her childhood friend,
Heleniah Adams, to accompany her. The three then met in
person to hash out the details.
week later, Randle and Adams met Scott at a gas station in
Beaumont, Texas, where Scott bought them gas. Randle and
Adams followed Scott to Houston where Scott picked up his
uncle, Chris. The group then drove to Edmond Hadnot's
house in Corpus Christi. Scott explained to Randle that Chris
was supposed to drive an 18-wheeler. If they could fit all
the drugs in the truck, Randle would not have to drive, but
she would still get paid.
Scott, Chris, Adams, and Randle then put their plan into
action. They drove to the Rio Grande Valley; Scott drove
Hadnot and Chris in his car, and Randle took Adams in her
car. The group enjoyed a night on the town, drinking first at
a Buffalo Wild Wings and later, at a local strip club. They
then stayed overnight in McAllen, where Scott, Adams, and
Randle shared a hotel room.
next morning, Hadnot called an audible. He told Randle that
she would drive alone while Adams drove separately. Randle
followed Hadnot and another man to a gas station, while Scott
and Adams remained at the hotel. Hadnot and the man left
Randle at the gas station, taking her car.
an hour and a half later, Hadnot called Randle and told her
to get into a different car with a different man. The man
drove Randle to a residential neighborhood where she found
her car waiting for her.
called Randle and told her to follow him. Initially, Scott,
Hadnot, Adams, and Randle had developed a cover story: Randle
and Adams worked as exotic dancers who were "constantly
traveling." But as the plan changed, so did the cover
story. Randle was now a medical student. As such, Hadnot led
Randle to Scrub Mart, purchased scrubs and a stethoscope, and
instructed Randle to change. Randle did so and headed toward
the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint.
Randle drove north, the plan went south. While smoking a
cigarette, Randle tried to roll down her front windows. But
only the driver-side window worked. Randle became anxious.
She was told that the marijuana would be concealed in her gas
tank, but Randle now suspected it was in her door. Seeking
reassurance, Randle exchanged multiple calls with both Hadnot
and Scott. Scott told her to calm down, not to worry, and
that it was okay. Randle hung up on Scott as she approached
the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint.
drove her car into the primary lane where a canine performed
a free-air sniff and alerted. Based on the alert, a Border
Patrol agent directed Randle to secondary inspection. The
agent x-rayed the vehicle and detected three anomalies.
Further search revealed bundles of marijuana in the car's
doors and trunk. Ultimately, agents removed 62 bundles of
marijuana from Randle's car with a net weight of 45.35
kilograms-nearly 100 pounds. Randle was arrested.
initially followed the plan-that is to say, she lied. But she
soon relented and told the Border Patrol agents
"everything." After cooperating with the agents,
Randle was released. She then called Scott who sent
Hadnot's girlfriend to pick her up. Hadnot's
girlfriend took Randle to Hadnot's house, and Scott and
Adams met Randle in Scott's car. Once again, Randle lied.
She told Scott and Adams she told the Border Patrol that she
didn't know anything about the drugs. Scott then drove
Adams and Randle back to Beaumont.
Mark Cane & the August 22 Run
still had high hopes. A few months later, a mutual friend put
Scott in touch with Mark Cane. The friend knew that Cane had
a commercial driver's license (CDL) and that Scott wanted
to transport marijuana using someone's CDL. Cane called
Scott and arranged a meeting. Scott offered Cane $5, 000, or
alternatively ten pounds of marijuana, to transport 200
pounds of marijuana from the Rio Grande Valley through a
border checkpoint. Cane hesitantly agreed.
knew about Scott's drug-run history-specifically,
Randle's "busted" smuggling attempt. Cane
wanted to avoid Randle's fate. Scott gave Cane the same
advice he gave Randle: If he was caught with the 200 pounds
of marijuana at the check point, he should "play dumb,
" act like he didn't know it was in the truck, and
they would let him go. But Cane was still unsure about
whether he wanted to make the run. Scott knew Adams and Cane
were good friends, so he asked Cane if he would like Adams to
join him. Cane accepted, but he was still hesitant.
Cane was on board, Scott picked him up at his apartment in
Beaumont. The pair traveled to Houston, picked up Adams, and
headed to Hadnot's house in Corpus Christi. Cane was
still uneasy-he peppered Scott and Adams with questions on
the drive. He asked about the checkpoint and Randle's
failed attempt. Scott and Adams told Cane to relax. They
explained that Randle "played like she didn't know
nothing about [the marijuana] and . . . they let her
go." They assured Cane that if he did the same, he too
would be released.
Hadnot's house, Hadnot, Adams, and Scott advised Cane
about the specifics of the job and discussed previous runs.
Hadnot told Cane that the truck he would drive had a secret
compartment to store the marijuana. Hadnot and Scott also
provided a cover story: Cane was picking up a one-time load
from Corpus Christi to drop off in McAllen.
next day, Scott drove Hadnot, Adams, and Cane to McAllen. On
the way, they stopped at a Wal-Mart where Scott gave Cane
money to buy a logbook, snacks, and a cooler to stage in
Cane's 18-wheeler. Hadnot and Cane then left in
Scott's car to pick up the 18-wheeler. Meanwhile, Scott
and Adams waited for Hadnot and Cane at a Burger King.
and Cane met two "Spanish guys" in a residential
neighborhood to pick up the truck already loaded with
marijuana. Hadnot gave Cane money for gas, and Cane followed
Hadnot to a gas station. As Cane filled up, Hadnot left to
pick up Adams and Scott.
Hadnot returned, Cane followed Scott's car, driven by
Hadnot, onto the highway. Cane ended up following the wrong
car, and he lost sight of Hadnot. Scott called Cane to
redirect him. In fact, Scott talked to Cane multiple times
before the checkpoint.
Cane reached the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint. Hadnot
drove Scott's car through the checkpoint, and Cane drove
the truck to the primary inspection lane. Once Cane stopped,
an agent conducted a free-air sniff with his canine-and the
predictable happened. Once again, the canine alerted, and the
agent referred Cane to secondary inspection. Agents searched
the truck and found marijuana "in plain sight." All
told, agents found 29 bundles of marijuana with a net weight
of 175.46 kilograms-nearly 550 pounds. Cane tried to
"play dumb like [Scott and Adams] told [him], " but
to no avail-like Randle, he was arrested.
joint conspiracy had failed.