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United States v. Murillo

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

June 14, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
EDGAR JAVIER BELLO MURILLO, a/k/a Payaso, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: January 28, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria. Gerald Bruce Lee, District Judge. (1:13-cr-00310-GBL-3)

         ARGUED:

          John Cady Kiyonaga, LAW OFFICE OF JOHN C. KIYONAGA, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellant.

          Ross Brandon Goldman, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Stacey K. Luck, Human Rights & Special Prosecutions Section, Leslie R. Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General, Sung-Hee Suh, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Appellate Section, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C.; Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney, Richard Cooke, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.

          Before NIEMEYER, KING, and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.

          KING, Circuit Judge:

         Defendant Edgar Javier Bello Murillo appeals his convictions in the Eastern District of Virginia arising from the murder in South America of Special Agent James Terry Watson of the Drug Enforcement Administration (the "DEA"). At the time of his death, Agent Watson - as an Assistant Attaché for the United States Mission in Colombia - was an internationally protected person (an "IPP"). Bello, a citizen of Colombia, has not contested his involvement in crimes against Watson. Indeed, Bello pleaded guilty to offenses of kidnapping conspiracy and murder of an IPP. He reserved the right to pursue this appeal, however, on the ground that his prosecution in this country for offenses committed in Colombia contravened the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. As explained below, we affirm Bello's convictions.

         I.

         A.

         Agent Watson began serving the DEA in the year 2000, having previously worked as a Sheriff's Deputy in Louisiana and as a Deputy United States Marshal in Mississippi.[1] In July 2010, the DEA assigned Watson to its field office in Cartagena, Colombia. That same month, Watson was accredited by the United States and Colombia as an Assistant Attaché for the United States Mission in Colombia. By virtue of his diplomatic status, Watson became an IPP and was thereby protected by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, Including Diplomatic Agents (the "IPP Convention, " or the "Convention"), opened for signature Dec. 14, 1973, 28 U.S.T. 1975, 1035 U.N.T.S. 167.[2]

         Bello drove a taxicab in Bogotá, Colombia, where he conspired with other taxi drivers to mug and rob wealthy passengers through "paseo millionario" ("millionaire's ride") armed robberies. The conspirators would execute their robbery schemes through a series of choreographed maneuvers. First, one taxi driver would pick up an affluent-looking customer and then signal to the others. Next, another taxicab containing additional conspirators would pull in behind the first. Armed with weapons such as tasers and knives, the conspirators from the second taxicab would enter the first and rob its passenger. The assailants would demand from the victim his cash, valuables, credit cards, and personal-identification numbers for bank accounts. Typically, another conspirator - in yet a third taxicab - would support the robbery efforts by blocking traffic, acting as a lookout, or using the victim's bank cards to withdraw cash.

         On or about June 20, 2013, a taxicab operated by one of Bello's coconspirators picked up Agent Watson in Bogotá. Carrying a knife, Bello rode in a second taxicab with his codefendant Edwin Gerardo Figueroa Sepulveda. After travelling a short distance with Agent Watson, the driver of the first taxicab pretended that his vehicle was experiencing mechanical problems and stopped, allowing the second taxicab to pull in behind. Bello and Figueroa Sepulveda then exited the second taxicab and entered the first to rob Watson. Inside, Figueroa Sepulveda tased Watson, and Bello stabbed the American diplomat at least four times. Watson ultimately escaped from his assailants, but he later died from the stab wounds. Within a few days, Bello was arrested in Colombia.

         B.

         1.

         On July 18, 2013, the federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, returned an indictment against six defendants, including Bello and lead defendant Figueroa Sepulveda, for their involvement in Agent Watson's murder. In pertinent part, the indictment charged Bello with four offenses: murder of an IPP, in contravention of 18 U.S.C. § 1116(a) ("Count 1"); murder of an officer and employee of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1114 ("Count 2"); conspiracy to kidnap an IPP, in contravention of 18 U.S.C. § 1201(c) ("Count 3"); and kidnapping an IPP, in violation of 18 ...


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