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United States v. Alexander

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

April 7, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MARK MASON ALEXANDER, a.k.a. Musa Mahmood Ahmed, Defendant-Appellant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. D.C. Docket No. 4:11-cr-00036-HLM-WEJ-1.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Tracia M. King, Dahil Dueno Goss, J. Elizabeth McBath, Lawrence R. Sommerfeld, Tulani R. Washington, Sally Yates, U.S. Attorney's Office, Atlanta, GA.

For Mark Mason Alexander, a.k.a.: Musa Mahmood Ahmed, Defendant - Appellant: Drew Findling, The Findling Law Firm, Atlanta, GA.

Before WILLIAM PRYOR and JORDAN, Circuit Judges, and ROSENTHAL,[*] District Judge. JORDAN, Circuit Judge, concurring.

OPINION

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WILLIAM PRYOR, Circuit Judge:

This appeal requires us to decide three issues arising from Mark Alexander's conviction for conspiring to sell cutting machines to companies in Iran, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U.S.C. § 1705, associated regulations, 31 C.F.R. § § 560.203--.204, and the federal conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371: (1) whether the district court abused its discretion when it refused to permit a deposition of one of Alexander's codefendants, a fugitive residing in Iran; (2) whether the district court abused its discretion when it denied Alexander's motion for a mistrial after a juror stated that her car had been impeded temporarily by unknown persons in the parking lot adjacent to the courthouse; and (3) whether the district court erred when it addressed the jury on legal issues that arose during the trial. No reversible error occurred. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

We divide the background in two parts. First, we explain the facts that led to Alexander's indictment. Second, we explain the relevant proceedings at trial.

A. Facts of Alexander's Conspiracy

Alexander was the chief executive officer and part-owner of Hyrdajet Technology, LLC, a company based in Dalton, Georgia, that manufactures waterjet cutting systems. Alexander was also the chief executive officer, manager, and part-owner of Hydrajet Mena, a company located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Hydrajet Mena sold machines made by Hydrajet Technology to customers in the Middle East and provided technical support to those customers.

In 2006, Alexander received a request for prices of cutting machines from Ali Shojale, the managing director of Parand Machine Company, located in Iran. Alexander directed his employees to quote a " reasonable" price, " at least" for the " first system" they sent to Iran, to help build a strong " base," and Alexander advised his employees that Shojale was an Iranian dealer. Shojale then communicated with a representative of Hydrajet Mena about a potential sale for several months. At a meeting in Dubai, Alexander also negotiated the price for the machines with Karim Babakhani, an Iranian businessman. Babakhani was associated with Parand and with the Negin Sanat Sadr Company in Iran. At Alexander's instruction, employees of Hydrajet Mena wrote " Kareem Country" on documents with information about sales to Iran because the United States " was not selling any machines to Iran."

In 2007, Hydrajet Technology shipped two waterjet cutting machines to Hydrajet Mena in Dubai, where the machines then were shipped to Parand and the Negin Sanat Sadr Company, both in Tehran. Alexander also sold a pump system to Babakhani, who then corresponded with an employee of Hydrajet Mena to schedule installation of the machines. Alexander informed two employees of Hydrajet Mena that they would travel to Iran to install the machines and provide training for the users of the machines.

In 2008, Nabil Mansour, a silent partner in Hydrajet Technology, informed a special agent of the Office of Export Enforcement that Alexander had exported machines to Iran without a license. Special agents then executed a warrant to search Alexander's home and the business offices of Hydrajet Technology, where they made copies of hard drives that contained invoices and emails about the sales. The day after the searches, Alexander volunteered to meet with special agents from the Office. At the meeting, Alexander admitted that he knew about the sales and

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had " the final say" in the price of the machines, but he told the special agents that he had been " pressured" into making the sale by one of his employees. In 2011, a special agent arrested Alexander when he entered the United States at the Atlanta airport. A federal grand jury later indicted Alexander on one count of conspiracy to export products to Iran without a license, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U.S.C. § 1705, associated regulations, 31 C.F.R. § § 560.203--.204, and the federal conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371.

B. Proceedings in District Court

Before trial, Alexander moved to conduct six depositions outside of the United States, Fed. R. Crim. P. 15(c)(3), including a deposition of Babakhani, who was named as a codefendant in the indictment. Alexander alleged that Babakhani would not come to the United States to testify, but if deposed would testify that he met Alexander on only one occasion; that his dealings regarding the purchase of the machines were done through a manager of the Dubai office, Parvez Ahmad; and that the shipment was stopped at one point because, according to Ahmad, Alexander did not want to sell to Iran. The district court granted Alexander's motion to depose five other witnesses, including Ahmad, but not the motion to depose Babakhani. The district court ruled that Babakhani's proposed testimony was immaterial or cumulative and that there were countervailing factors that weighed against granting his deposition.

During the trial, a juror informed the district court that she had been treated rudely in the parking lot. The district judge, outside of the presence of the jury, ...


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