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Alfred Anaya Put Secret Compartments in Cars. The DEA Put Him in Prison (2013) (wired.com)
122 points by hippich on Oct 11, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 108 comments



Alfred Anaya is yet another example of magical thinking about how the law works. Just avoiding certain words doesn't prevent rational people (in this case, a judge) from concluding that he did, in fact, know what he was doing when he built hidden compartments for drug dealers.

This isn't a guy who built one thing for the wrong person, but many over the course of multiple years. It blew up in his face, but that is the risk of working with very dangerous people at the edge of the law.


The bottom line is that what he did was not against the law. There are supposed to be laws written against activities that are prohibited, to prevent prosecutions based on the whims of prosecutors and other individuals, outside of the normal legislative process. If one wants to argue that this type of activity should be precluded by law, then that's a valid argument. That still doesn't put Anaya in jail however, because even if it were passed, ex post facto laws are expressly forbidden by the United States Constitution in Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3.

The bottom line is, Anaya didn't play ball with the DEA. They went after him to punish him for not cooperating, not because he broke any laws. It's a travesty and a scathing indictment of the current legal situation in the United States that he could even be charged with this crime at all in a state he'd never set foot in, much less to have a conviction against him.


"The bottom line is, Anaya didn't play ball with the DEA. They went after him to punish him for not cooperating, not because he broke any laws. It's a travesty and a scathing indictment of the current legal situation in the United States"

Exactly. 10,000x this. The fact that 90% of charges don't go to trial means that the whole thing is rigged towards scaring people into accepting guilty pleas. If he had accepted a plea he probably would have gone to jail for a very short amount of time. By protesting his innocence - which he clearly believed - he effectively lost 10x more than if he had just given in. That is horrifying.


Afaik, it's much higher than 90%, more like 98%. Citation needed. And yes, it's horrible. The legal system is all kinds of screwed up.


It's the difference between driving people around and being a dedicated getaway driver. You might be a taxi driver all day and that's fine and legal, but if a reasonable person would know that they're helping criminals flee a heist, you can't just get away with pleading ignorance. Conspiring to commit a crime is a crime itself.


I agree regarding DEA threatening, lack of rights etc.

However, what he did is against the law - building compartments for drugs. He built compartments for drugs. The judge correctly decided that Anaya consciously tried to evade this law by use of codewords etc. all the while his client are traveling with 800K cash in hidden compartments, asking for smell-resistance, making trips to Tijuana. "Oh, technically, no one used the magic word, 'heroine'" is not a defense. He knew what he was doing. This is why you have a jury - to determine intent. His intentions were to build compartments for everyone, which he doesn't deny, and get away with it based on technicalities.


However, what he did is against the law - building compartments for drugs.

Do you have a cite for that?

I'll just tell you. You are mistaken. Building compartments for drugs is not illegal. This fact is not in dispute. That he was sentenced to prison for it anyway is the reason for the debate.


Conspiring to smuggle drugs is illegal, however. And contributing to the commission of a crime is conspiracy.

The law is not code. It is interpreted. It's not some shocking interpretation to say that, when you find yourself looking for circumlocutions and code words to avoid directly saying the word "drugs", you know you're helping drug smugglers smuggle drugs. Which is a crime. And he got rung up for it.

(Which is not to say that the sentence even remotely fits the crime, but to say no crime was committed is disingenuous.)


No, it is a code. It is literally called the United States Code. Criminal laws are laid out in Title 18 of the United States Code.

And contributing to the commission of a crime is conspiracy.

No, this is incorrect. That is not the legal requirement to obtain a conviction for conspiracy. Every single adult in the United States would probably be at risk of criminal liability if it were.


> Building compartments for drugs is not illegal. This fact is not in dispute.

In California it is. Says it about 4 times in the linked article. The debate is whether or not he knew they were being used for drugs.


Directly from the article:

There is no federal law against building hidden compartments, even if they're made with the sole intent of smuggling drugs.

He was charged under federal law. It does not matter what California law is.


Yes, there are laws against activities that are prohibited. These include laws against the distribution of heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana. The government established his knowing conspiracy to distribute these substances, and he was convicted! The system seems to have worked here.

Certainly, he wouldn't be spending 24 years in jail if he had played ball with the DEA. Instead, he decided that his criminal co-conspirators were dangerous enough that he shouldn't play ball and instead risk jail time.

ADDED: To elaborate, conspiring to commit a crime is itself a crime, and has been for a long time in the U.S. There's no need to worry about ex-post facto laws, as the parent claims. You can participate in the commission of a crime doing any number of normally legal activities, such as driving (e.g. driving a getaway car). Your intent to commit a crime is what matters. The prosecution established that Mr. Anaya knowingly assisted the drug smuggling operation in concealing its shipments, hence the conspiracy conviction.

In addition, the physical location of Mr. Anaya isn't relevant to his prosecution in Kansas. He was prosecuted in Kansas because the criminal conspiracy involved transporting drugs into the state, using his modded cars.


Everything which is not forbidden is allowed. A very important principle, however it doesn't seem to really be the case anymore.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everything_which_is_not_forbidd...


It is an important principle, but doesn't seem to apply in this case:

* Distribution of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana are explicitly forbidden by federal law, dating back at least to the mid-1900s.

* Conspiring to violate federal law has been explicitly illegal since 1867. [1]

The prosecution showed that Mr. Avaya knowingly participated in a conspiracy to violate laws related to drug trafficking. He wasn't prosecuted just for making "traps" in cars, but rather for knowingly making "traps" in cars for the specific purpose of transporting illegal drugs.

[1] http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41223.pdf


This thread is a sad reminder of just how irrational HN has gotten when it comes to the government.

Yes, the war on drugs is probably unnecessary and ill-conceived. And no, it's not illegal to put a secret compartment in your car.

But it's patently obvious that Anaya is a criminal and engaged in criminal conspiracy to traffic narcotics. He quoted the capacity of his compartments in "kilos." He witnessed $800,000 in the compartment and subsequently increased his rates specifically because he knew it was a shady affair. Most damningly, he tried to isolate himself from information (if you don't suspect a client of being a criminal, you don't instruct them to avoid talking of their usage). In what world is someone who willfully helps drug dealers to conceal drugs not an accomplice?

Do the people in this thread think that getaway drivers on bank robberies should get off scot free because driving a car is not itself a crime?

Also, the Wired editorializing is way off base. If you are truly operating in an information void from your clients (without suspecting them of being criminals), that's not illegal. (Toyota can't be prosecuted for drug trafficking just because some drug dealers use it for that.) But when you have a personal relationship with clients who make it pretty obvious that they're engaged in criminal activity, you absolutely have an obligation to stop assisting.


>But it's patently obvious that Anaya is a criminal and engaged in criminal conspiracy to traffic narcotics.

Obvious to whom? Neither having nor seeing $800,000 in cash is a crime. While he may have had reason to be suspicious, that is not what the law requires. There must be actual knowledge of illegal use. Professional gamblers carry this kind of cash and more all the time. They could have been on their way to a poker game for all he knew.

>Most damningly, he tried to isolate himself from information (if you don't suspect a client of being a criminal, you don't instruct them to avoid talking of their usage)

You just indicted every criminal defense lawyer, and most accountants, in America. As officers of the court, lawyers are not supposed to knowingly make representations in court that they know not to be true. For precisely this reason, unlike in the movies, most lawyers will not sit down and ask a client to just tell them everything that happened; actual knowledge of certain facts could seriously damage their ability to defend their client. Instead they analyze the discovery given to them by the prosecution and ask the client questions as needed. Isolating yourself from information is certainly not a crime, and is necessary for many people in order to properly do their jobs.


I posted this elsewhere in the comments already, but it seems relevant to the "obviousness" claim.

From the decision of Anaya's 2013 appeal [http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-10th-circuit/1642115.html], here's a synopsis of the evidence that swayed the jury to believe he knew what he was doing. Its not just the 800K.

3. Sufficient Evidence of Knowledge

At trial, the Government presented evidence that Mr. Anaya

• built multiple hidden compartments in vehicles for the DTO that were insulated to mask the smell of drugs;

• witnessed $800,000 in one of his compartments in a DTO vehicle;

• used “kilos” as a unit of measurement for building compartments;

• communicated by phone with the DTO through a secret code to discuss compartment sizes; and

• warned Mr. Crow not to discuss the compartments or how they worked with anyone to avoid police detection.


> But it's patently obvious that Anaya is a criminal

A criminal in what manner? What act did he commit that harmed another person or that was in some way or another unethical or immoral? Whom did he cheat?

He isn't a criminal in that sense at all. He's a criminal for breaking a vaguely worded and open-to-interpretation law that seems unconstitutional on its face.

When the government writes a bad law here and there, it's just the inevitable mistakes that we hope will be eventually corrected. But when the government writes one bad law after another, with never a good one in between, "criminal" ceases to mean anything.

> He witnessed $800,000

And? I find it hilarious how we've been taught and propagandized to think that money is, itself, horrible and incriminating. They have our bank tellers spying on us for the IRS, fuck, I don't even think you can buy a new car with cash without someone phoning it in to the feds. And whatever you do, don't dare drive out-of-state down a highway with money like that... cops are likely to steal it.

> Do the people in this thread think that getaway drivers on bank robberies should get off scot free because driving a car is not itself a crime?

Apparently you're ready to indict the guy that sold him the car, and the gas station attendant that didn't call it in to the police when he saw them filling up the tank.


> But it's patently obvious that Anaya is a criminal and engaged in criminal conspiracy to traffic narcotics.

Who's being irrational here? If a law is "unnecessary and ill-conceived," why is it irrational to complain about the law being enforced? I think that's very rational. I think he should be able to explicitly say, even advertise "I will create a secret compartment in your vehicle where you can put drugs," without risking any legal trouble. 24 years in prison is too harsh a sentence. Spending the night in jail would be too harsh a sentence. A $50 fine would be too harsh a sentence.

> Do the people in this thread think that getaway drivers on bank robberies should get off scot free because driving a car is not itself a crime?

No, because laws prohibiting robbery and theft are reasonable laws.


Irrationality is not a valid defense for violating a law. If a law is unconstitutional, challenging the legality of being charged with the crime is valid. But if the claim is that a law doesn't make sense or should be changed, the method for enacting that change is via the legislative branch.

Put simply: Americans have the laws they have because they were written down by the folks Americans voted for. We can debate forever about how we're mostly made up of sheeple and the election process is biased and all the other things that get in the way of pure, fun-loving democracy, but that doesn't mean we just get to decide at an individual level which laws we don't think are rational and then break them.


> Irrationality is not a valid defense for violating a law.

It's not a valid legal defense in the legal system where that law exists, obviously. But that doesn't mean we should approve of the enforcement of bad laws. That's the Nuremberg defense. If a law is bad, the law should be changed, but it's also bad for the law to be enforced, and not bad to break the law.

> but that doesn't mean we just get to decide at an individual level which laws we don't think are rational and then break them.

Again, I completely disagree. You're making a moral argument that people ought to obey all laws. I find that argument repulsive. What do you think about civil disobedience?


Let's be careful not to put words in my mouth? I said that making decisions at the individual level about which laws are rational and breaking the irrational ones is not feasible.

Civil disobedience is almost never undertaken at the individual level, and more specifically it is never successful at the individual level. It is an exercise undertaken by a society. Society making judgements about the rationality of laws and then using civil and legislative means to affect change on the laws themselves is healthy and valid.

By contrast, making these judgements at the individual level opens up a whole world of danger, because our individual feelings on what is and is not rational vary as widely as our viewpoints on everything else.


> I said that making decisions at the individual level about which laws are rational and breaking the irrational ones is not feasible.

What do you mean by "feasible"? I am certainly capable of deciding which laws I think are rational and choosing which laws to obey.

> Civil disobedience is almost never undertaken at the individual level, and more specifically it is never successful at the individual level. It is an exercise undertaken by a society.

You seem to be conflating civil disobedience with organized protest or resistance. Civil disobedience is just a deliberate refusal to obey a rule one believes to be a bad rule. It doesn't have to be organized.

You seem to have a disdain for all individual discretion about rules and laws. I disagree, and strongly. Only individuals act, and I think only individuals have the ability and responsibility to choose how to act.


They probally have enough information to convict him. But you know that Kilos is just how most of the world handles weight? If I wanted to put lets say a speaker or computer in there, id also be interested in what weight it can hold. If they actually wanted to carry money, they would also need to know as money is pretty heavy.


Dude is american. Outside of science, there are only a handful of things in America measured in kilos or grams. I'm struggling to think of one besides drugs. Certainly coke or heroin. Pot is often sold in eighths, while hash is sold in grams.

Nobody in America discusses weight of speakers, computers, or anything in kilos. Perhaps the only other place I've heard it used is for bumper plates. I'd frankly bet more than 90% of Americans couldn't tell you off the top of their heads if a kilo weighs more or less than a pound.


> But you know that Kilos is just how most of the world handles weight?

Yes, but not Americans. 9/10 times, if an American is talking about kilos they're talking about drugs.


Or they're in science, or engineering, or in a trade business where kilograms are more common than Imperial units, or they're a recent immigrant, or they're being silly because they want to joke that they're a drug dealer, or...


> Do the people in this thread think that getaway drivers on bank robberies should get off scot free because driving a car is not itself a crime?

I think this is more like putting the car salesman in jail for selling them the getaway car ... and that would be wrong.

> But it's patently obvious that Anaya is a criminal and engaged in criminal conspiracy to traffic narcotics.

You can say the same about every bank in America, which facilitates the same. Oh and probably every electric utility for growing all that weed. Water utility too?

I mean, it's not like they ask each of their clients if they're drug dealers or growing dope. They don't exactly look for the criminals either.

Probably because it's not their job.


> I think this is more like putting the car salesman in jail for selling them the getaway car ... and that would be wrong.

They did not go after, or put in jail, the people that sold the cars to the drug dealers, because, as you say, that would be wrong. They went after the person that knowingly made it possible for the drug dealers to commit their crimes.

> You can say the same about every bank in America, which facilitates the same.

Actually, they do stop doing business with you when reasonably believe you are committing a crime.

http://www.denverpost.com/marijuana/ci_25965517/reluctance-b...


> Actually, they do stop doing business with you when reasonably believe you are committing a crime.

Did you read the article? The guy had no idea what they were doing.

The only difference here is that unlike banks, utilities, etc. he's just a small guy who doesn't have friends in the right places, so I guess it's OK to throw him in jail for 24 years.

They had ZERO evidence that he knew what his work was being used for. That's why it's so outrageous.


They had ZERO evidence that he knew what his work was being used for.

That's patently false. You've fallen victim to Wired painting this guy as a saint. If you actually read the details of the case, you'll see that, in addition to the incident with the wads of cash, he also instructed his clients not to talk about the compartments, and also used drug-related code words on the phone to talk about the capacity of the compartments.

After reading the article, I was incredibly sympathetic toward Anaya, because that's what the author wanted us to feel, and wrote the article that way. After reading about some of the actual facts of the case... not so much anymore.


But when you have a personal relationship with clients who make it pretty obvious that they're engaged in criminal activity, you absolutely have an obligation to stop assisting.

This needs a citation for your argument to hold water.

Edit for the down vote:

You made a statement of law on which your argument relied. The burden of proof is on the asserting party. It matters whether the law does actually exists. There is no point in debating the law if what we're talking about is not actually a law.


If Bruce Schneier became aware that a drug cartel was using one of his crypto algorithms, isn't he too an accomplice? In what world is someone who willfully helps the cartel conceal their activity not an accomplice?

Do you really think crypto authors should get off scot free when their software is at the crux of criminal communication? They know exactly what they are doing, don't they?


The article mentions he will appeal. That has happened and he lost. Link to the PDF of the appellate court opinion: http://cases.justia.com/federal/appellate-courts/ca10/12-301...

Something is mentioned there that either was not mentioned in the Wired article or I missed it: Anaya admits that he knew particular customers were buying compartments for illegal purposes. He just didn't know what particular illegal use they were going to be put to. He's basically arguing that to "knowingly" join a conspiracy, you have to know its objectives and scope, and he says he lacked that knowledge.

It's probably a bad idea to do business with people who want to use code words when they talk to you on the phone. The appeals court mentions an intercepted call where Anaya told the drug traders he could put "3 speakers" in a Camry for $2,500, where "3 speakers" meant a compartment to hold 3 kilos.

His sentence is way too long. He's not the lynchpin of the drug trade the prosecution made him out to be, but he does not appear to be quite the innocent bystander Wired makes him out to be either.


> His sentence is way too long. He's not the lynchpin of the drug trade

1. Drugs should be legal and sold out of liquor stores to anyone 21 and older.

2. His sentence isn't about trying to cripple the drug trade, but about punishing someone the government does not like.

3. The same motivation could someday be used to prosecute people who serve cheeseburgers to drug dealers at a restaurant under the theory that they were helping those drug dealers to deal drugs (you can't deal drugs if you're starving).

4. It won't be necessary to passed legislation so fucked up as that, existing legislation can easily be twisted to allow for such travesties, and judges rarely put a stop to it.


> 1. Drugs should be legal and sold out of liquor stores to anyone 21 and older.

I agree (mostly), but they are not. Society has decided that certain drugs are illegal (for now). This point doesn't really have anything to do with anything.

> 2. His sentence isn't about trying to cripple the drug trade, but about punishing someone the government does not like.

How do you figure? Did they just pick him out randomly and decide to find whatever they could on this guy? I would probably think that the people prosecuting him believed he had significant impact in enabling certain drug trades.

> 3. The same motivation could someday be used to prosecute people who serve cheeseburgers to drug dealers at a restaurant under the theory that they were helping those drug dealers to deal drugs (you can't deal drugs if you're starving).

This is ridiculous, and completely undermines everything else you said.

24 years for building hidden compartments is a joke, even if he knew what they were being used for. Current drug laws are a joke. Governments enable a tonne of bad behaviour by denying people access to substances they want that rarely hurt others.

But making outrageous claims about serving food to a drug smuggler helps no one.


> Society has decided that certain drugs are illegal (for now).

An oversimplification, because government has decided that certain drugs are illegal.

> This is ridiculous, and completely undermines everything else you said.

Is it? Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project is a court case where the organization was accused (and ruled against) of providing material support to a terrorist organization because they advised the organization to not use violence. That's the government's other perpetual war, but it shows that something which sounds completely ludicrous can also be very real.


> An oversimplification, because government has decided that certain drugs are illegal.

I don't think it is an oversimplification. Society as a majority, at some point, wanted these drugs illegal. Government passed the law and society allowed it to happen (and to remain).

> because they advised the organization to not use violence

The law says not to aid terrorists organisations. They aided a terrorist organisation. That's pretty far removed (in my opinion) from serving someone a cheeseburger that walks into your store.

The "war" on drugs and the "war" on terrorism and the laws that support them are incredibly unjust and extreme in my opinion. I would bet lots of people here feel the same. But throwing out ridiculous statements as opposition harms more than helps.


> Society as a majority, at some point, wanted these drugs illegal.

Most likely, this is still the case. However, if you polled people on a case-by-case basis, I think you would find that a majority would not support a large number of cases regarding drugs. And, of course, if you suggested that only the people who oppose drug legality should contribute funding to the drug war, you would find a much smaller group of proponents.

> Government passed the law and society allowed it to happen (and to remain).

Isn't that just a blatant appeal to nature? Yes, society has "allowed" it to happen, in the sense that it has happened. But according to that usage, literally everything that has happened since society existed has been "allowed" to happen by society.

> The law says not to aid terrorists organisations. They aided a terrorist organisation. That's pretty far removed (in my opinion) from serving someone a cheeseburger that walks into your store.

They "aided" a terrorist organization by recommending that they cease being a terrorist organization. Giving food to a criminal is much more direct aid to criminal activity than urging a criminal to cease criminal activity.

> But throwing out ridiculous statements as opposition harms more than helps.

And I believe I have thrown out zero ridiculous statements thus far.


Then -- if people polled so believe -- they should get off their lazy goddamn asses and vote. We did have such a vote on marijuana recently in California, and we lost. We'll probably have another vote in 2016. But if all people are willing to do is run their mouths to pollsters, then we're going to have another 40 years of the war on drugs.

Showing that allowing people to smoke a bowl at will doesn't cause society to crumble will help when we discuss harm abatement projects for heroin, meth, etc.


The problem with voting is that the individual benefit of voting is almost certainly less than the individual cost of voting. To expect most people to educate themselves about political issues and vote is to expect most people to act irrationally.

If, on the other hand, individuals were able to choose to decrease their own taxes by whatever portion is used to the fund the drug war, I suspect people would be more educated about how the drug war works, and the drug war would have a lot less funding.

Conversely, if everyone voted on what car to manufacture, and only the winning car could be legally manufactured, I suspect people would do very little research of cars, and the winning car would be an awful car.


> The problem with voting is that the individual benefit of voting is almost certainly less than the individual cost of voting

I wonder if this has something to do with why Washington and Colorado are the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana? Washington switched to almost complete vote-by-mail a few years ago, so voting is pretty convenient [1]. In 2010, 98% of voters voted by mail, the highest percentage of any state. Colorado was the third highest vote by mail state, with 66% in 2010. (Oregon was second, with 97%). California was 45% (which was 4th place, behind Arizona at 52%, and just ahead of Montana at 41%...no other state has more than 25%).

[1] convenient if you have stamps. I have no outgoing mail except my ballot, and so do not stock stamps. For me, standing in line at the polling place has simply been replaced with standing in line at the post office to mail my ballot.


In San Mateo county, postage is prepaid, or you can drop the vote by mail ballot off at any polling location in the county. If you live here, you generally don't live or work far from a polling place.

You can drop vote-by-mail ballots off similarly in santa clara county. I'm not sure about sf.


I don't agree at all with your claim about voting, but even accepting it arguendo, voting to (and california has propositions so you vote directly on many things) legalize marijuana has clear benefits. You don't have to fuck around with stupid prescriptions (I have a serious illness: I don't think pop tarts taste good), and the cops can't hassle you about it.

That said, you can pretty reliably vote a democratic ticket in California and get the last bad option.

Also, CA has vote by mail.


> voting to (and california has propositions you can vote directly on many things) legalize marijuana has clear benefits.

You're conflating the legalization of marijuana, which obviously has clear benefits to many individuals, and the individual act of voting for the legalization of marijuana, which does not have much clear benefit.

> you can pretty reliably vote a democratic ticket in California and get the last bad option.

That's a perfect example of my claim about the irrationality of voting. People often identify with a party, and vote party lines. That's a far cry from actually being educated about each candidate or issue, which plenty of polls demonstrate is rare among voters.

> Also, CA has vote by mail.

That's nice, but the physical process of voting is only a tiny part of the individual cost. Most of the cost is educating yourself by researching issues and following the actions of candidates, which most people (even voters) do not do.


> Society as a majority, at some point, wanted these drugs illegal.

So? There's nothing magical about "the majority" wanting something. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority

http://www.democracyweb.org/majority/principles.php

http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html


>Society as a majority, at some point, wanted these drugs illegal.

Can it be said that a heterogenous network of entities "wants" something if some particular clusters of entities inside the network are able to influence its consensus? I think that the phrase "society wants" is absolutely meaningless in overwhelming majority of contexts.


>I don't think it is an oversimplification. Society as a majority, at some point, wanted these drugs illegal.

Not really. There was an orchestrated campaign, with state support after some point, to get to this.


His punishment is either punitive or hysterically motivated.

In my experience, people who have been threatened by either federal agents or prosecutors feel like they are being punished for personal reasons outside of the crime. Asserting your rights or just merely not accepting a plea deal can be enough. Let alone engaging in a legal technical trade that subverts law enforcement's ability, thus thumbing your nose at them, which is similar to speaking out against them publicly.


> 1. Drugs should be legal and sold out of liquor stores to anyone 21 and older.

What about Rohypnol?


Woah, let's not bring up actual dialogue about the grey areas involved in deregulating substances :)


What about it?

By far, the most common date rape drug is alcohol, and we're okay selling that, even though it also comes with a whole host of other problems. Nor is alcohol the only readily available substance that is legal to obtain and can be used to efficiently date rape someone. (I'm not going to name them here, because I don't support helping rapist, but I used to work in drug production with chemists, and well, you end up talking about morbid things on the late shift.)

You're implying that you think one of the two problematic things will happen: a) increase the ability of people who are interested in having date rape drugs to obtain something that will make them more dangerous than they already are or b) that more people are going to start date raping others.

I don't think that either of these are likely, and they're certainly claims that deserve some evidence to back them up. Studies in countries that have legalized/decriminalized their drug markets seems to hint that pretty much everyone who wanted to obtain drugs already had ready access to them.

So I'm curious, what about rophypnol?


Marijuana should be legal to possess, to produce, and to sell.

Shrooms should be legal to possess, to produce, and to sell.

Cocaine should be legal to possess, and to sell (perhaps licensed).

Heroin (and associated opiates) should be legal to possess, to produce, and to sell (perhaps only licensed sales).

Meth should be legal to possess, to produce (for large licensed companies), and to sell.

When I use the word "drugs" in the context of this conversation, I am referring to recreational drugs. I'm not necessarily saying that antibiotics should be available without prescription.

Rohypnol isn't a typical recreational drug. Considering that its only use seems to be covertly drugging third parties, I do not advocate that it be legal to buy or sell.

You definitely understood what I meant. You're fallaciously trying to find a counter-example that can be used to undermine my arguments.


What about it?

For one, it's not the kind of drug we're talking about.

Second, we sell knives (ocassionally used for murders), rat poison, and all kinds of dangerous stuff.

The crime is using that staff to perform something illegal, not buying them.


This is the most disturbing part of this:

> ...he will likely spend the next two decades in prison for doing something that isn’t specifically forbidden by federal law.

He was prosecuted in a state he'd never set foot in, for doing something that wasn't against the law as contracted by people whose plans he did not know; and he was convicted, and sentenced to twice the term of the actual lawbreakers. That's not how the rule of law works.


First, there is nothing about the rule of law that says you can't be prosecuted in a state you've never been to. In this case, Anaya aided a criminal act that took place in Kansas. The fact that he's never personally been to Kansas is neither here nor there.

Second, the fact that a particular act might be legal does not mean that it is legal to do it in connection with a crime. There is nothing illegal about driving a car. There is something illegal about driving robbers in a car away from a crime scene.

Third, willful blindness is not a defense to any charge that requires showing knowledge. Anaya purposefully profited from criminal activity, and even if he didn't know the specifics of the plan, it's only because he purposefully tried to avoid learning of them. The law simply imposes a higher level of social responsibility than that.

Now, it's a fair criticism that drug enforcement is a waste of resources and drug sentences are too long. But that's quite a separate issue to the points you raise. Say that instead that Anaya was installing traps to help members of child prostitution rings convey cash around. The analysis of his involvement would be the same.


I thought venue was a huge part of US law. Wasn't that how Weev's conviction got overturned?


It is an important part of US law. In conspiracy cases, individuals may be prosecuted in any district in which an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy occurs, by any of the conspirators. In this case, some of his alleged co-conspirators trafficked drugs in Kansas.

In weev's case, the court rejected New Jersey as venue because no overt act in commission of the crime occurred in New Jersey, since neither weev nor the AT&T servers were in the state. The prosecutors argued that NJ was proper since many of the victims (AT&T customers) were in New Jersey, an argument the court didn't buy.


> First, there is nothing about the rule of law that says you can't be prosecuted in a state you've never been to.

It's certainly strongly implied. "Rule of law" implies that governments have clear geographic borders. It's ludicrous to suggest that every person must obey every law that exists anywhere in the world or fear prosecution.


> ""Rule of law" implies that governments have clear geographic borders."

Governments also have treaties. If geographic locations A and B have an extradition agreement, living in A will not protect you from prosecution/conviction/incarceration if you conspire with criminals to commit a crime in B. If the government of A receives the proper request (with whatever degree of evidence that government requires for extradition), it will arrest you and ship you to B to face charges. It happens that Kansas and California have an extradition agreement.

If you read the details of the appeal (others have posted it in these threads) it's clear the guy in the article knew he was conspiring to traffic drugs; you don't describe the volume of a space in "kilos" unless you're referencing a substance which is packed in standard-sized one-kilo packages which other people would catch the reference to if you made it. Whether or not you agree with the drug war in general, don't make this into something it's not by feigning ignorance on the guy's behalf.


I can't agree that the getaway driver scenario is analogous. The difference is attenuation from the illegal act. The getaway drive directly took part in the illegal act itself.

Here, Anaya never saw or touched drugs. He had no hand in planning any drug smuggling operations. He was never told what was going on, and had no legal duty to ask. That is not willful blindness.

I think a better analogy is the store clerk who sells rolling papers and blunt wrappers to the same people who never buy tobacco. Would you say that a store clerk under those facts is also guilty of a crime?


Read a bit more (more than just Wired's ridiculously editorialized article that's written to make you want to love this guy). It's pretty clear to me that he knew full well what his traps were being used for, and even specifically used code words about trap capacity to avoid mentioning drugs.

Seeing the crime being committed or participating in it directly is not necessary for a conspiracy charge. He knowingly helped people smuggle drugs. I think that's a perfectly valid charge.

I think our drug laws are pretty messed up overall, and 24 years is a ridiculously unfair sentence for this sort of thing, but I think the evidence gathered by the prosecution very adequately painted Anaya as a co-conspirator.


> He was prosecuted in a state he'd never set foot in

He was prosecuted for criminal conspiracy in an interstate crime. One end of that crime was Kansas. His physical location when he engaged in the conspiracy is immaterial.

> for doing something that wasn't against the law

criminal conspiracy is against the law. You can take almost any "legal" activity and make the doing of it an element of a crime. For example, saying "Yes" is not explicitly illegal. However, saying "yes" in answer to the question "Would you kill this guy for ten thousand dollars?" would be an element of the crime.

> as contracted by people whose plans he did not know

Except for the fact that he was selling them secret compartments, witnessed one stuffed full of almost a million dollars in cash, and continued doing business with them. Plus, "avoiding talk of illegality" indicates that he knew what service he was really providing.

> and he was convicted, and sentenced to twice the term of the actual lawbreakers

He engaged in a criminal conspiracy, so he was also an actual lawbreaker. His sentence was very harsh though, agreed, but he was knowingly engaging in a commercial enterprise that assisted criminals for a number of years.

> That's not how the rule of law works.

Yeah, actually it is. A judge and jury in this case looked at the overall pattern of facts and correctly determined that this guy was aiding people in breaking the law. That's how the law works.

Its unfortunate that a guy who clearly had developed some interesting skills and otherwise had a kind of messed-up life ended up where he got. But this is not the fault of the criminal justice system, or prosecutors gone wild. This is a guy who made some really stupid choices and got caught.


So is a flight instructor responsible if the guy he is training is most likely intending to buy a Cessna and smuggle cocaine in from Mexico?

Even if I agree with you that he is guilty of conspiracy, the sentence is bananas. Someone I went to high school literally killed 2 people and got a shorter prison sentence than this. If this is the law working, something is completely wrong. I can't fathom how any non-violent, effectively victimless offense, can warrant 2 decades in prison.


If he advertises his services as "Learn to fly over the border in just 3 quick training sessions" and then continues teaching somebody after seeing them plotting courses around border patrol on a map, yes.


Don't forget that they asked if it would be fine to move 10 kilos the size of bricks and had 800 000$ on them.


If the flight instructor has specific knowledge that that's what the guy is going to do, then yes, I'd say the flight instructor is partly responsible.

But I agree that the sentence is completely insane, as our most of our drug-related laws.

Think about it another way, though. Take the flight instructor analogy, and say the guy he's teaching to fly is going to buy a Cessna, pack a bunch of C4 into it, and crash it into a hospital. If the instructor has knowledge of this, is he not partially responsible if the guy follows through?


I agree that the sentence is way too harsh. He's clearly being used as a warning to the rest of the hidden compartment makers. Also, this guy must have had particularly awful representation.

I guess I just don't think that disagreement with the sentence requires disagreement with the findings of fact or with his conviction.

The main reason I'm responding to a lot of comments is not to defend the drug war, but rather to combat an incorrect "slippery slope" argument that regularly comes up in HN discussions like this. Something like, "Person X was convicted of crime Y because of facts A, B, C, D, E and F." and then there's a number of comments that boil down to "They're saying that B is illegal! What's next?!?! I do B all the time! The government is out of control!"


> Except for the fact that he was selling them secret compartments, witnessed one stuffed full of almost a million dollars in cash, and continued doing business with them.

Is having large amounts of cash illegal now? I still don't see where this guy actually broke the law.


"These dudes who don't have particularly noteworthy legal careers have a lot of money and are acting really weird about secret compartments in their cars" almost certainly falls under the reasonable-man test here, though.


I disagree. I think he was trying to be too clever.

The law in California, according to what I read here, is simple: building these things for use in drug activity is against the law. The reasonable man test is essential to the integrity of our legal system. And if you have a couple street thugs with $800k stuffed in their hidden compartment, a reasonable man would know exactly what they were up to. But they offered him more business. He gambled, and he lost.

Though I do find the sentence far too harsh. Give the guy 5 years.


They are only thugs if you assume they are drug dealers. You only know them to be drug dealers because you know them to be thugs...


No, if I see $800k stuffed in a secret compartment, becoming suspicious is reasonable. His actions after that moment are the key thing that make his role conspiratorial rather than just negligent.


After seeing how civil forfeiture works(i.e. cops using seizure of property ,for their own literal slush fund), I would not be so sure it must be FOR TEH DRAUGZ.


There is a joke among DAs "any one get a conviction for the guilty, but its takes a great lawyer to convict the innocent". Its mind boggling how convictions are used as stepping stones for personal ambition and the Prosecutors are getting more ambitious when throwing the kitchen-sink at some of the cases and of course more often than not Judge and the Prosecutor on same party and the defendants are in a up-hill battle.


[deleted]


> You modify a car for better speed and handling. Later it gets used to rob a bank. You go to jail.

People modify cars for speed all the time. Most of them hoon around tracks or country roads, which isn't a crime - or, at least, is nothing more than a traffic ticket.

> You download Tor for a friend of a friend. They use it sell drugs online. You go to jail.

People use software to protect their anonymity all the time. Some just don't like the government, others don't like to respect copyright. Not a criminal matter either way.

> You sell someone a special hunting rifle (out of season). They use it for poaching. You go to jail.

People collect guns all the time. Most of them shoot at paper or clay pigeons or hoon around on the firing range, which isn't illegal.

These scenarios compare pretty poorly to what we've heard the person in this case did: he, for years, aided drug trafficking. In the first paragraph he admits to knowing this - when someone pays you money to install an ultra-secret compartment in your vehicle, and when you pull out nearly a million dollars in cash while trying to fix it, you damn well know what's up.

If I tune your car up, my expectation isn't that you're robbing a bank. On the other hand, if you bring it for repairs and I discover the problem is twenty bags of sequential bills in the trunk throwing off the suspension, my expectation is going to change pretty quickly.

The law isn't a magical thing that you can circumvent with the right incantations, nor should it be. It's better to have this flexibility, not worse.

ED: This is a controversial comment, which surprises me a bit. Let me add I'm not much of a fan of the war on drugs. But my central thesis is that allowing the legal system to apply a dose of common sense prevents such things as mandatory minimums and blind sentencing, which is a good thing all around.


Wait, it's "common sense" to you that we should be sentencing non-violent offenders to 20 years in federal prison? How does that make sense?

What is the cost to tax payers of putting him in prison for 20 years? What did he cost tax payers in helping the drug traffickers move their drugs a tiny bit more effectively? I can not imagine that this nets out positively for society, and it effectively ends this guys productive life.


It's possible to agree with the conviction while disagreeing with the sentence. In this case, no, the punishment is excessive.

But the point of my comment wasn't to address that, but to address the conviction.


These are not equivalent scenarios. They are all one-shot deals and, significantly, there isn't an obvious connection between the sale and the law-breaking. They could probably be altered to match a little more. Here's my take on the third:

You sell special hunting rifles that are designed to kill elephants. Sometimes people need them for self defense, you say when people ask. You insist that purchasers not mention that they will use them to hunt protected species, especially elephants. One of your clients asks you to come out to the field to repair his gun. While there, you see a stack of elephant tusks in the back of his truck. You tell him to get them out of there. Then you sell him and his friends more guns over the next year. They are caught and convicted of poaching, and then you are too.


> This is the most disturbing part of this:

>> ...he will likely spend the next two decades in prison for doing something that isn’t specifically forbidden by federal law.

Do you feel, then, that it's a victory that investment bankers have never served a day in the wake of the GFC?


He was initially denied bail, in part because an illegal assault rifle and a bulletproof vest had been discovered in his house during a police search.

Lovely. This "illegal assault rifle" was likely only cosmetically different than a completely legal rifle. Hell, that rifle is probably legal in most of the other 50 states.

And who cares about a bullet proof vest? Or are those illegal in CA?

The guy certainly isn't a saint, but holy crap this is a great example of the gov't punishing someone using confusing laws against victimless crimes when they can't nail him for what he's actually doing because it's legal.


...when Anaya had glimpsed more than $800,000 in cash. The prosecutor contended that seeing such a large sum was tantamount to seeing drugs, since Anaya surely must have deduced the source of the money.

Wow! It just gets better!

What next? If a friend buys an expensive car when I know he has a low paying job, am I guilty of not turning in a "drug dealer"?

Even if you don't think drugs should be legal, it should be abundantly clear that the War on Drugs has resulted in a significant loss of individual rights.

This article really ruined by evening...


From the decision of Anaya's 2013 appeal [http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-10th-circuit/1642115.html], here's a synopsis of the evidence that swayed the jury to believe he knew what he was doing. Its not just the 800K.

3. Sufficient Evidence of Knowledge

At trial, the Government presented evidence that Mr. Anaya

• built multiple hidden compartments in vehicles for the DTO that were insulated to mask the smell of drugs;

• witnessed $800,000 in one of his compartments in a DTO vehicle;

• used “kilos” as a unit of measurement for building compartments;

• communicated by phone with the DTO through a secret code to discuss compartment sizes; and

• warned Mr. Crow not to discuss the compartments or how they worked with anyone to avoid police detection.


Thanks for posting that info.

I honestly have no idea if he's guilty of conspiracy to traffic narcotics.

What gets me is this incremental loss of rights that is occurring in the name of the War on Drugs.

Let's see where we are now...

1. It is illegal to sell certain drugs - OK seems reasonable (if you think they should be illegal)

2. It's illegal to have drug paraphernalia - umm that seems like a stretch; so legal stuff is now illegal if it's used to administer drugs (i.e. a pipe)?

3. It's illegal to create hidden compartments in cars - now that's just dumb

What is happening here is that the gov't can't really control drugs. Sure they lock up a few big dealers (and a lot of small-time users), but nothing changes! So what do they do? Cast a wider net! Let's start locking people up who are only marginally involved with the drug trade. What will happen? Nothing! Hundreds of tons of drugs will still make it across the border.


Sounds like a great reason for an 18 month prison sentence to me. 24 years? None of your bullet points involve pointing guns at people, destroying property, menacing society, etc etc.


I generally come down strongly on the side civil liberties, but they don't become involved in this case. Anaya knew exactly what his clients where using the compartments for; even asking them not to tell him makes that clear. That's the equivalent of clamping your hands over your ears and singing "lalala". He knew. He kept building them anyway, using them to subsidize his other business. Conscious avoidance does not protect you from the law.

When confronted with the knowledge -- $800k IN CASH -- he then charged more than his normal amount to fix it. Again, don't be bloody daft. That's a decent middle-class net worth, in cash, concealed in a car. Unless someone's a billionaire, there's no reason to have that type of walking money besides illicit drug sales.

Any reasonable person would know what was going on, and in fact, Anaya did. That's why he's in jail.

As for your, well, stupid friend example -- you need to do more than just know. You need to actively aid. Which Anaya did! If you have a friend with a low-paying job and far too much money, I'd advise you to avoid holding "packages" for him, or installing concealed compartments for him, or straw-purchasing weapons for him. Again, don't be deliberately obtuse.

edit: One more point. Anaya's calculated ignorance is like Goodell and the videotape. The only way goodell didn't see that videotape is he didn't want to, and the only way Anaya wasn't confronted with exactly what his customers where doing was he actively avoided it. Also -- as mentioned elsewhere -- the compartments were insulated for odor? Come up with a legit use for that.


I sold a boat once to a guy for $3k. He paid me in cash. Small bills. Is it my business where he got that money from? I counted the money and moved on. He ran a pizza shop or something, I'm not an idiot, I'm pretty sure he was skimming money off somewhere to avoid paying all of his taxes. Am I now responsible for that? Is it my job to call the IRS and say 'hey, this guy just showed up my house with a suitcase full of 5s, 10s, 20s, and bought a boat from me, which no sane person would do unless they were pocketing cash to avoid paying taxes'. I don't think it is.


>>I sold a boat once to a guy for $3k.

___once___, you did it once. Also, $3k < $800k+ cash from some shady folks. Also a boat is way more innocent than secret storage in cars requiring a digital incantation to open.

I agree that the punishment is unreasonably harsh. I would have given him a week in jail & 2 months community service as a wakeup call because he seems like a good man who wouldn't do it again. I'd also make it clear to him that a harsher judge could have put him away for years but I was giving him a break because I trusted him. But let's be real here: There's no way whatsoever Anaya didn't know what was up.


$3k -- close to the amount of cash a middle class family might keep as cash savings in a house. $800k.

A single act vs 15+ a year.

Don't be daft.


I guess my opinion is that if someone is making hidden compartments to transport illegal drugs, I don't care, even if they knew that what they were being used for.

Even if I did support making certain drugs illegal, unless they are directly dealing in drugs, I don't consider their actions a crime.

If the cops want to get drugs off the streets, then they should stick to going after the people who actually handle the drugs. That won't happen, of course, because they are losing the War on Drugs. They need to stack things more in their favor.

And who in the end loses? Everyone, as our rights are eroded day in and day out.


Unfortunately for you and Anaya, the courts -- and America in general -- do count that as a crime. Aiding criminals has long been a crime and will continue to be a crime. In the same way getaway drivers, launderers, and trafficking in stolen goods are criminalized, so too are building tools for criminals, with features only needed by criminals (odor control to avoid drug-sniffing dogs), mostly or exclusively used by criminals, with explicit knowledge they're being used by criminals. (What on earth would Anaya have counted as knowing his clients where selling drugs? From this article and the court documents, nothing short of his clients running up to him and shouting, "Hey everybody! I'm transporting drugs!")

Pretending that criminalizing helping to commit crimes erodes civil liberties is somewhere between silly and stupid. Particularly to anyone sympathetic (as I am) to arguments that we should legalize most drugs and redirect those moneys to harm abatement.


> Aiding criminals has long been a crime and will continue to be a crime.

Not exactly. And saying what will be is a little presumptuous.

Here's what you can find in the wikipedia entry about criminal conspiracy in Common Law:

"There was an additional problem that it could be a criminal conspiracy at common law to engage in conduct which was not in itself a criminal offence (...) Henceforward it would only be an offence to agree to engage in a course of conduct which was itself a criminal offence."

Or, in other words, it would only be an offence if making the tools that helped the criminals was a criminal act in itself.

As an (extreme) example of the problem of criminal conspiracy: you could end up in prison for giving/selling food to someone you know will commit a crime.

With this in mind, it's not really surprising to see people baffled by the possibility of being put in jail for doing something that is, in itself, legal.

Now, it might be illegal under the current US laws, but that's what's surprising. Most people expect to NOT be sent in prison for obeying the laws.

> Pretending that criminalizing helping to commit crimes erodes civil liberties is somewhere between silly and stupid.

Eh no, it's really not. It's pretty much the definition. By criminalizing an action, your are reducing the civil liberties.


>the War on Drugs has resulted in a significant loss of individual rights.

Absolutely. Besides the outrageous sentence for someone who never personally participated in violence, and the injustice of prosecutorial discretion in a world with too many and too complex laws, the war on drugs has led to a presumption of guilt.

Look at the growth in civil asset forfeiture for an example. If the police stop you with large amounts of cash, they can seize it, and then force you to prove the source of the money. Or even the anti-money-laundering restrictions, where withdrawing more than $10,000 from the bank triggers notification to the government.

Things like this are why I'm so pro-cryptocurrency. I think Bitcoin and its ilk have some serious issues today, but I also feel that an open method of money transmission is necessary for a free society.


Don't remind me!

Asset forfeiture is an absolute travesty. There are numerous examples of folks who were clearly not involved in illegal activity who had their person property seized even though the gov't was unable to prove a crime was committed.

I think the worst part about the War on Drugs is the fervor it creates in it's supporters. Folks who on one hand will fight for things like freedom of speech won't even bat an eye at dismantling another right as long as it supports the War on Drugs.


Such is the nature of the war on drugs. It starts with outlawing drugs, and as the tentacles spread, you have laws on drug paraphernalia (basically, laws against whatever we deem illegal, subject to change without notice), millions of wiretaps and cases like United States versus a bucket load of cash. All in the name of the cause.


There will always be legal loopholes that allow federal prosecutors to try someone in a state in which they never set foot, and they'll always have the funds to put together a pro team that's smart enough to convince a jury that you're worse than Hitler because they're the friggin' federal gov't, and even if you aren't already bankrupt, they can freeze your accounts so you can't pay your own team.

The fundamental problem is their incentive for doing this, which is based entirely on convictions and time behind bars, and has nothing to do with fairness. I don't claim to know what the _right_ basis for prosecutor incentive is, but I do know that if it's throwing people in jail, we end up with a lot more people in jail (which has happened/is happening in the US).


It's a shame how much inconsistency there is in applying the letter of the law in different cases.

Did Anaya suspect illegal activity with his traps? Probably. But, perhaps he doesn't agree that drugs should be illegal and was intentionally trying to sidestep the law as written.

That happens all the time for a variety of different laws. Heck, it's the cornerstone of tax avoidance techniques used by the rich and connected.

When Illinois tried to ban payday loans by prohibiting loans less than 120-days in duration, did that get rid of payday loan companies? Nope. Payday loan companies simply offered loans up to 121-days in duration. Was that sidestepping the intent of the law? Yep. But, they got away with it because they're wealthy and connected companies.

We should always strive for consistency in justice. Either everyone should be able to "get off on a technicality" or no one should.

Personally, I'm in favor of restrictive justice where people can get off on technicalities. It's makes convictions harder, slanting the system towards "letting 100 criminals walk free to prevent convicting 1 innocent". It also leads to laws evolving via legislative deliberation, not arbitrary reinterpretation via case law.

Of course, I can also live with the "intent of the law" crowd. But, please, can we consistency apply that to all cases?


Tax avoidance is not illegal.


Tax avoidance is literally synonymous with tax compliance.


I think it's worth highlighting that, even if you think you are doing something entirely legal, when a customer mentions your product or service in the context of their illegal operation, you need to politely ask them to leave and sever the relationship, as a matter of self defense.

Take, as a cautionary tale, the case of people teaching other people to beat polygraph tests. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/08/16/199590/seeing-threats-...

Legal and interesting, but when a "customer" shows up and says "wow, this will really help me beat my government polygraph test", you're apparently supposed to know that that they're talking about an illegal act and that you're being set up. It sucks, but there it is.

Paranoia might lose you some business, but there are worse things.


I run a reasonably successful service buying and selling Bitcoins for cash, an act which is completely legal where I live. I have absolutely no idea where my clients get their Bitcoins or what they use them for and there no way I could find out. It isn't inconceivable that some of these people are using the coins I sell to commit crimes or that the ones I buy are the proceeds of crime. I always fear I could be a victim of this kind of overzealous prosecution for running a legitimate business and it causes a chilling effect in my industry


Because you acknowledge the possibility, the question is now: Do you practice due diligence? It's easy to point the finger.


I have on a few occasions refused to sell Bitcoins to people. One time a man brought $5,000 of crumpled bills in a carrier bag and I told him to take a hike and never try to buy from me again. I refuse to sell to anyone who tells me they're going to use the Bitcoins to buy drugs and I try to buy directly from miners.

I'm doing everything I can reasonably do because I really don't want to get involved with criminals, but all of these safeguards are trivial to sidestep


And that's the difference. You are actively turning away people who you think might be involved in criminal activity. Anaya attempted to be willfully ignorant, but it's clear (to me, at least) that, from gathered evidence, he knew exactly what his clients were doing with his work.

The sad thing is... the government still could go after you if you -- completely innocently and without your knowledge -- sold to someone doing something shady, and if they really wanted to make it stick, it's likely they could, or could at least intimidate you into doing their bidding.


Apparently we hate the metric system so much using kilo as a unit lands you 24 yrs in prison


I don't know why, but I saw parallels with the Aaron Schwartz case.


The gov hates intelligence that doesn't bow to it.


Mainly just that HN is split on whether to vehemently support or vehemently despise.




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