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These appeals arise from the January 9, 1995 gang-related murder of Galiat Santiago. Instead of being tried in New York State Supreme Court for violating the New York Penal Law, defendants-appellants Joanna Pimentel and George Viruet (collectively, the "Defendants") were tried by a jury and convicted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Johnson, J.). The Defendants were charged with violations of various federal laws, including the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering ("VCAR") statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1959. VCAR provides for the federal prosecution of violent crime "when those allegedly responsible participated in the violent crime in order to gain, maintain, or increase a position in an enterprise engaged in racketeering activity." United States v. Feliciano, 223 F.3d 102, 107 (2d Cir.2000). The specific counts of conviction included: (1) conspiracy to murder Santiago for the purpose of maintaining a position in a racketeering enterprise, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5); (2) murder of Santiago in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1959(a)(1) and 2; (3) use of a firearm during and in relation to crimes of violence (i.e., the conspiracy to murder Santiago and the murder of Santiago), in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1) and 2; and (4) murder of Santiago through the use of a firearm during a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(j)(1) and 2. Each of the Defendants was sentenced principally to a mandatory term of life imprisonment.

On appeal, the Defendants do not deny that they participated in Santiago's murder. Rather, they principally argue that their convictions cannot stand because (1) 288*288 the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support a guilty verdict, and (2) in both its charge to the jury and its response to a note from the jury, the District Court declined to define the specific elements of the underlying racketeering acts alleged in the indictment, i.e., murder, attempted murder, and drug trafficking. For the reasons set forth below, we find that (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendants' convictions, and (2) the District Court's jury instructions, while deficient, were not deficient enough to warrant a new trial given the quality and quantity of the evidence underlying the racketeering acts.


346 F.3d 285 (2003)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Joanna PIMENTEL, also known as "La Madrina," George Viruet, Defendants-Appellants, Elvin Cruz; Jorge Aponte, also known as "Cano," also known as "John Doe," Defendants.

Docket Nos. 01-1333(L), 01-1362(CON).

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

Argued: June 10, 2003.Decided: October 8, 2003.New York Law School location: File #3168, Box #147