United States v. David Chkuaseli

Case: 17-11507 Date Filed: 04/24/2018 Page: 1 of 25 [DO NOT PUBLISH] IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT ________________________ No. 17-11507 ________________________ D.C. Docket No. 1:16-cr-20662-KMW-2 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee, versus DAVIT CHKUASELI, NILOLOZ TSKITISHVILI, Defendants - Appellants. ________________________ Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida ________________________ (April 24, 2018) Before JORDAN and JILL PRYOR, Circuit Judges, and DUFFEY, * District Judge. PER CURIAM: * Honorable William S. Duffey, Jr., United States District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia, sitting by designation. Case: 17-11507 Date Filed: 04/24/2018 Page: 2 of 25 In this appeal, Niloloz Tskitishvili and Davit Chkuaseli challenge their convictions for alien smuggling charges on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to support their convictions. They also contend they are entitled to a new trial based on the cumulative effect of errors that occurred during the trial. After careful consideration and with the benefit of oral argument, we conclude that there was no reversible error and therefore affirm. I. BACKGROUND Tskitishvili and Chkuaseli were indicted for conspiring to encourage and induce an alien to come to the United States, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(1), and on seven counts of encouraging and inducing an alien to come to the United States, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv). They pled not guilty. The evidence presented at trial showed that one summer day Tskitishvili and Chkuaseli, citizens of the country of Georgia residing in the United States, rented two 24-foot lake deck boats in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Tskitishvili and Chkuaseli claim they rented the boats for recreation. The government’s evidence showed that they rented the boats for a different purpose—as part of a scheme to smuggle a group of Georgian citizens into the United States.1 1 We set forth the facts viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government and drawing all reasonable inferences and credibility choices in favor of the jury’s 2 Case: 17-11507 Date Filed: 04/24/2018 Page: 3 of 25 Tskitishvili and Chkuaseli rented the boats from Lady Pamela Boat Rentals in Fort Lauderdale. They paid $350 for each boat for three hours, paying for both rentals with one credit card. The boats were designed to be used in lakes and rivers, not the ocean, and were not equipped with navigational equipment or lights. The rental agreement prohibited taking the boats into the ocean or traveling more than 15 miles from Fort Lauderdale. Contrary to the rental terms, Tskitishvili and Chkuaseli drove the boats to Bimini, Bahamas, and failed to return them at the end of the rental period. When the boats were not returned, Lady Pamela’s owner reported to Customs and Border Patrol that the boats were missing. In Bimini, Tskitishvili and Chkuaseli met a group of Georgian citizens who wanted transportation to the United States (the “passengers”), and agreed to take them to the United States in their boats. The passengers paid to refuel the ...

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