Aider and Abettor:
Let’s see how this general definition works with a hypo below. [Note: This hypo is taken from Judge Richard Posner in the case cited above.]
Red Dress Hypo:
Suppose you own a women’s clothing store. Every month—an attractive young woman comes in and buys a red dress. You happen to know that she’s a prostitute and wears the dress to signal her occupation to prospective customers.
By selling her the dress at your regular price, you are assisting her illegal activity—and you also want her to succeed. If she succeeds, she will buy more dresses. If she fails, she will stop buying dresses and you will lose money.
But according to Judge Posner, you are not an aider and abettor of prostitution because you are not really helping her. If you did not sell to her, then she would go somewhere else to buy her dress. It would be different if you recommended customers to her in exchange for a commission. Then—you crossed a line and would be guilty as an aider and abettor.
The Wire Hypo:
Going back to our hypo from the previous post–similar to the red dress hypo–the guy who sells tracfones to drug dealers is not guilty of aiding and abetting. Even if he knows the buyers are drug dealers. Like the red dress hypo–if the seller of the tracfones also refers buyers to the drug dealers and asks for a cut of the profits–then he too–has crossed a line and would be criminally liable as an aider and abettor.
Conspiracy and aiding and abetting are common charges in drug trafficking offenses. They are powerful tools Congress granted to prosecutors to help stop drug trafficking.
If you are facing a federal drug trafficking offense–it is important to read your indictment carefully to determine which theories the Government will use in its case in chief against you. It is also important that you contact a qualified attorney who has experience in federal court defending people charged with drug trafficking.
Genaro R. Cortez