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United States v. Place

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20176
Nos. 11-1246, (1st Cir., 08/21/2012)

The First Circuit upheld an individual's conviction for illegally trafficking in sperm whale teeth and narwhal tusks in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). The individual argued that the lower court should have instructed the jury on certain lesser-included Lacey Act offenses because he did not actually know his transactions were illegal, even if he should have known. But no reasonable jury could have accepted his testimony and rejected the "mountain of evidence" that he knew his conduct was illegal. The individual, therefore, was not entitled to a lesser-included Lacey Act jury instruction. He also argued that his smuggling convictions are legally wrong because his conduct violated only regulations, not statutes. He claimed that the smuggling statute—18 U.S.C. §545—does not criminalize violations of regulations like those implementing CITES. But there is simply no indicator of any legislative intent that the smuggling statute applies as narrowly as the individual urges the court to read it. Given the absence of any textual or contextual clues that the smuggling statute should be narrowly construed, his conviction is substantively appropriate.