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An attempted robbery in a private home that would have netted cash the homeowner used for his businesses has a sufficient relation to interstate commerce to support a prosecution under the federal Hobbs Act, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. A divided court rejected the argument of defendant Jabri Jamison, who claimed that his bid to rob a drug dealer and clothing retailer at home had no connection whatsoever to interstate commerce. The court’s decision to uphold the conviction in United States v. Jamison, 01-1483, which came over a dissent by Judge Dennis Jacobs, means that Jamison will have to serve 198 months in prison. The victim was Andre Porter, also known as “Boogaloo,” who in addition to being a trafficker in cocaine was part-owner of Digital Underground Fashions in Schenectady, N.Y. Both businesses required Porter to carry large amounts of cash. On the evening of Jan. 8, 2000, Jamison and a second man allegedly knocked on Porter’s front door, and when Porter opened it, Jamison shot him. Jamison and his accomplice then entered the house and tried to locate Porter’s cash. But their plan quickly fell apart when Jamison lost control of his gun in a struggle with Porter’s niece and was subdued by several neighbors until the police arrived. Porter later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and money laundering. Jamison’s trial in the Northern District of New York, and the jury instructions, focused in part on the jurisdictional requirements of the Hobbs Act, which makes it a federal crime to commit robbery or extortion if the conduct “in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce.” The government justified the Hobbs Act prosecution by citing the effect the attempted robbery had on Porter’s businesses, arguing that if Jamison had succeeded, Porter would have had less cash to buy items in interstate commerce to support both his cocaine and clothing ventures. In a ruling that upheld Northern District of New York Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr., 2nd Circuit Judge Pierre N. Leval said: “We have long recognized that the requirement of showing an effect on interstate commerce involves only a minimal burden of proving a connection to interstate commerce, and is satisfied by conduct that affects commerce ‘in any way or degree.’” Porter, Judge Leval said, testified that the $21,000 he had in cash on the night of the attempted robbery was going to be used for “drugs or clothing, whatever.” He also testified that, on the day of the assault, he had visited outlet stores and spent $15,000 in cash on inventory for his clothing business. “Notwithstanding that his use of the word ‘whatever’ permitted some inference that some of the large cash sums he maintained might be used for personal expenses, the clear import of his testimony was that he used those sums primarily to purchase inventory for both businesses,” Leval said. “This evidence fairly showed that the robbery, if successful, would have had a significant effect on interstate commerce.” In dissent, Judge Jacobs lamented, “The government has prosecuted as a Hobbs Act violation the stick-up of a private person in his own home.” Jacobs said the majority recognized that “there is a considerable issue as to whether a de minimis effect on interstate commerce is enough to establish federal jurisdiction in such a case.” But he noted that the 6th Circuit had found that a robbery of a home is insufficient for a federal prosecution because the connection to interstate commerce is too attenuated, and he took issue with the majority’s belief that the Porter robbery involved “commingled” funds. “I see no evidence that the object of the robbery was the capital (or inventory) of a business,” Jacobs said, adding, ” … for all the evidence shows, the $18,000 was just money.” Senior Judge Joseph M. McLaughlin joined Leval in the majority. Alexander Bunin represented Jamison. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barbara D. Cottrell and William C. Pericak represented the government.

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