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Court found ‘flight’ from state of (un)dress

When police showed up with an arrest warrant, Theophilus Akwei slipped out the back door, wearing only gym shoes, a light shirt and sweat pants with no underwear. He claimed he was headed to work, but a federal court says his departure supported his conviction on drug charges.

Akwei allegedly was involved with the “Macauley” organization, a Ghanaian heroin smuggling operation commanded by Edward Macauley. DEA agents intercepted a delivery from Ghana to Alexandria. Informants identified Akwei as one of the “Director’s ‘boys’.”

On July 14, 2011, federal agents began a series of coordinated global arrests related to the Macauley drug ring. Agents arrived at Akwei’s front door with a six a.m. wake-up call. Akwei’s wife answered the door. She led the officers upstairs, where she said he was sleeping.

Akwei opened the basement door, peered outside and headed out. An agent stationed outside nabbed Akwei, who said he was going to his job.

Alexandria U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris instructed the jury, over Akwei’s protest, that evidence of flight could be an indication of guilt.

On March 14, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Akwei’s convictions. Apparently, “going commando” undermined Akwei’s credibility about his purpose for leaving home, whether it was for work, or to see his mother-in-law, as he also said.

“The fact that Akwei sought to leave the house in sweatpants, a t-shirt, and no underwear at six in the morning after climbing over a large volume of clothing and debris obstructing the path to the basement exit” supported a finding of flight, said Judge Allyson K. Duncan in the panel’s unpublished opinion.
–Deborah Elkins

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