United States v. Morrison, No. 10-1926 (2d Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
A jury convicted defendant of conspiracy, (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(d)), and being a felon in possession of a firearm, (18 U.S.C. 922(g)). The district court upheld the firearm conviction, but vacated the RICO conviction and dismissed the conspiracy count from his indictment. The court stated that the attempt to prosecute conspiracy to violate the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act, 18 U.S.C. 2341, failed for unconstitutional vagueness in New York Tax Law, 471, which delineated the parameters of a CCTA violation. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that a prior decision to certify questions regarding Section 471 to the state’s highest court did not indicate that that statute was unconstitutionally vague. The court rejected a claim that the CCTA was inapplicable to defendant given New York’s “forbearance policy,” under which the state refrained from collecting taxes on cigarette sales transacted on Native American reservations. The forbearance policy did not signal a choice not to enforce tax laws when enforcement would be possible, but represented a concession to the difficulty of state enforcement, complex jurisdictional issues surrounding reservation-based cigarette sales, and the politically combustible nature of bootlegging prosecutions. Congress enacted the CCTA to provide federal support to states struggling with those circumstances.