FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MAINE [Hon. Jon D. Levy, U.S. District Judge]
Feldman-Rumpler on brief for appellant.
Richard W. Murphy, Acting United States Attorney, and
Renée M. Bunker, Assistant United States Attorney,
Appellate Chief, on brief for appellee.
Barron, Selya and Stahl, Circuit Judges.
his conviction for a drug-trafficking offense,
defendant-appellant Jean Tony Valbrun assigns error to
certain of the district court's evidentiary rulings and
to a jury instruction. Finding his asseverational array
unpersuasive, we affirm his conviction.
case is one of several arising out of the activities of a
sprawling drug-distribution ring operating in Maine. As such,
it implicates one of many spokes radiating from the hub of a
conspiratorial wheel. We briefly rehearse the relevant facts
and travel of the case, directing readers who hunger for more
exegetic details about the drug-distribution ring to consult
our opinion in United States v. Gordon, 871 F.3d 35,
40-42 (1st Cir. 2017).
2014, Joey Brown, an agent of the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA), led an investigation into the
activities of Jacques Victor, the suspected kingpin of a
drug-distribution ring. During this investigation, the DEA
received judicial authorization to intercept calls and text
messages to and from a number of telephones, including
Victor's cellphone. See id. at 41-42; see
also 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510-2522. Through these
intercepts, the DEA learned that Victor was plotting with
Alcindy Jean-Baptiste, Jonathan Duffaud, and the appellant to
obtain drugs in Massachusetts and transport them to Maine.
the plot matured, the authorities were ready: the appellant
was arrested while driving a rental vehicle en route from
Massachusetts to Maine. Concealed within the vehicle were 225
net grams of heroin and 106.2 net grams of cocaine base
course, the appellant and eleven other persons were indicted
on charges associated with the activities of the drug ring.
The appellant was, however, tried separately, on charges of
knowingly possessing with intent to distribute heroin and
crack cocaine, see 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and
of aiding and abetting the same, see 18 U.S.C.
§ 2(a). At trial, the government introduced thirteen
recorded calls derived from the wiretap on Victor's
cellphone. Victor (who had participated in each of the
thirteen calls) testified about these conversations,
identifying specific voices and explaining jargon and other
phrases of uncertain meaning. The appellant's principal
defense was that he did not know that the rental vehicle
contained controlled substances.
conclusion of the trial, the district court instructed the
jury on, inter alia, the doctrine of willful blindness. The
jury found the appellant guilty as charged. The court
subsequently sentenced him to an incarcerative term of
twenty-eight months. This timely appeal ensued.
appellant assigns error in two respects. First, he contends
that the district court erred in allowing parts of
Victor's testimony about the intercepted calls. Second,
he contends that the court erred in instructing the ...