United States v. Ayala, No. 17-2422 (3d Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
A store owner and her son were forced to lie face down, their hands and mouths taped, while Thomas and Emmanuel stole one million dollars’ worth of jewelry. Miller waited outside in a getaway car, listening to a police scanner with Ayala in the front passenger seat. The men testified that Ayala paid for their plane tickets to St. Thomas; reserved and paid for their hotel rooms; and picked up and paid for the rental car. After the robbery, she paid for their work. Based on accomplice liability, Ayala was indicted for Hobbs Act robbery, 18 U.S.C. 1951; conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery; brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A); and first-degree robbery under Virgin Islands law. Ayala claimed that two men told her to participate in the robbery and that she only agreed because she feared for her life and for her brother, who was a cellmate of one of the men. The Third Circuit affirmed her conviction and sentence of 48 months of imprisonment on three counts, to run concurrently, and 84 months on Count Three to run consecutively. The court rejected arguments that the District Court of the Virgin Islands lacked jurisdiction to hear cases to which the United States is a party; that its judges are prohibited from serving beyond 10-year statutory terms; that Ayala’s convictions violated the Double Jeopardy Clause; and that the court erred in limiting her cross-examination and in permitting her to be shackled at sentencing.