Submitted: September 28, 2018
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Little Rock
WOLLMAN, KELLY, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.
Solis was convicted of conspiring to possess with intent to
distribute methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846 (Count 1);
possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine in
violation of §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A) (Count
2); and misprision of a felony in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 4 (Count 3). She appeals, arguing that the evidence
was insufficient to support her convictions, that the Fifth
Amendment bars her misprision conviction, and that the
district court erred in refusing to give her proposed
"mere presence" jury instruction. We affirm in part
and reverse in part.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began investigating a
methamphetamine trafficking ring in Batesville, Arkansas, in
December 2014. Solis held title to one of the four houses
under DEA surveillance. She lived in the house with five
individuals: her three children; her boyfriend, Ivan Pedraza
(Pedraza); and her boyfriend's brother, Fredy Pedraza
(Fredy), who served as the methamphetamine "cook."
Solis was also the registered owner of four vehicles used by
the Pedrazas in conducting drug deals and investigated by the
DEA. During a controlled purchase on May 13, 2015, Solis sat
in the passenger's seat of a car with Pedraza while he
exchanged methamphetamine for money with a confidential
informant through the passenger's window.
evidence of Solis's involvement in the conspiracy
included a package addressed to Solis's house containing
an air conditioning unit stuffed with methamphetamine,
surveillance of Pedraza and Fredy leaving Solis's house
to sell drugs and later returning to the house, and
intercepted calls between Pedraza and Solis discussing
Solis's plan to purchase acetone, which is a cleaning
product used to remove adulterants from methamphetamine.
one of Solis's vehicles, Pedraza drove Solis and two of
her children to Dallas, Texas, on July 17, 2015, where he
planned on purchasing ten kilograms of methamphetamine.
Before they left, Pedraza called Fredy and asked for some car
seats. Fredy responded that the car seats were filled with
"stew," a slang term for drugs. Pedraza at first
asked him to "take the stew out of them," but later
said that he would instead purchase car seats before driving
Pedraza, Solis, and the children arrived in Dallas, DEA
agents intercepted a phone conversation in which Solis asked
Pedraza if he had "fix[ed] everything there." An
agent testified that Solis was asking whether Pedraza worked
out all the details of the drug deal. Solis and Pedraza drove
back to Batesville on July 19, 2015. DEA agents informed
local law enforcement that Solis's vehicle likely
contained cash and methamphetamine, and a state trooper
stopped the car for a traffic violation. Solis consented to a
search of the vehicle. After the trooper found a cordless
screwdriver with a single Phillips bit and a suitcase
containing Ziploc bags, he examined the car seats and found
them abnormally heavy. Using the cordless drill and the
Phillips bit, he disassembled the car seats and found $19,
000 in rubber-banded cash and 2.5 kilograms of
methamphetamine. He found another $1, 796 in rubber-banded
cash in Solis's purse.
local law enforcement agents executed search warrants on the
four houses associated with the drug trafficking ring. Agents
found $18, 000 in cash stashed in various places in
Solis's residence. Searches of the sparsely furnished
stash houses revealed distributable amounts of
methamphetamine, along with Ziploc bags, digital scales,
acetone, and a car seat.
was indicted on the counts set forth above. Before trial,
Solis requested a jury instruction stating that mere presence
in a jointly occupied vehicle would be insufficient to
establish possession of illegal substances. The district
court declined to include the instruction, finding it
duplicative and slightly inaccurate. The jury convicted Solis
on all three counts. The district court sentenced Solis to
235 months' imprisonment on the drug distribution
offenses and 36 months' imprisonment on the misprision
offense, to run concurrently.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
argues that the evidence is insufficient to support her
convictions. We review de novo the sufficiency of
the evidence to sustain a conviction, "viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's
verdict and reversing the verdict only if no reasonable jury
could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable
doubt." United States v. Ramos, 852 F.3d ...