United States v. Place, No. 11-1246 (1st Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Defendant was convicted for illegally trafficking in sperm whale teeth and narwhal tusks. Specifically, the jury found Defendant's whale-tooth dealings violated CITES, an international compact implemented in the United States via the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and regulations authorized by the ESA. Defendant appealed, contending (1) the district judge should have instructed the jury on certain lesser-included offenses because he did not actually know his transactions were illegal, even if he should have known; and (2) smuggling convictions are legally wrong because his conduct violated only regulations, not statutes. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed after quoting a line from Moby Dick, holding (1) the district court did not err in failing to give the requested instructions because a rational jury could not have found that Defendant lacked actual knowledge that his whale-tooth transactions were illegal; and (2) the smuggling statute criminalizes violations of regulations like those implementing CITES because Congress intended the word "law" in the phrase "contrary to law" to include regulatory law as well as statutory law.