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United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.

UNITED STATES of America v. Walter Alston BROWN, Jr., Appellant

No. 15-1531

Decided: March 05, 2018

BEFORE: FUENTES,* SHWARTZ, and BARRY,  ** Circuit Judges Randall Hsia, Esq., Michael S. Lowe, Esq., Office of United States Attorney, Philadelphia, PA, for Plaintiff-Appellee Walter Alston Brown, Jr., Pro Se Russell M. Soloway, Esq., West Conshohocken, PA, for Defendant-Appellant


This case returns to us from the United States Supreme Court, which vacated part of our earlier judgment 1 and remanded for reconsideration in light of Honeycutt v. United States, ––– U.S. ––––, 137 S.Ct. 1626, 198 L.Ed.2d 73 (2017). Honeycutt held that under 21 U.S.C. § 853, which mandates forfeiture of proceeds derived from certain drug crimes, a defendant may not be held “jointly and severally liable for property that his co-conspirator derived from the crime but that the defendant himself did not acquire.”2 Writing for the unanimous Court, Justice Sotomayor explained that the structure and language of § 853(a) “limit[s] forfeiture under § 853 to tainted property[,] that is, property flowing from ․ or used in ․ the crime itself,” and “defines forfeitable property solely in terms of personal possession or use.”3 As a result, only “tainted property acquired or used by the defendant” is subject to § 853(a) forfeiture, preventing the imposition of joint and several liability reaching untainted property as well.4

For the same reasons discussed in our decision on remand of his co-conspirator's appeal,5 the reasoning of Honeycutt applies here to the case of Walter Brown, Jr. The District Court entered a “Forfeiture Money Judgment” against Brown in the amount of $7,213,123, for which he was deemed “jointly and severally liable.”6 At least one of the statutes under which forfeiture was ordered, 18 U.S.C. § 982(a)(2) (“Criminal forfeiture”), shares several features with 21 U.S.C. § 853, such as a reach limited to property “constituting” or “derived from” proceeds obtained “directly or indirectly” from the crime.7 Thus, like § 853, § 982(a)(2) applies to tainted property only.8 The statute's use of “obtained,” meanwhile, suggests that the scope of forfeiture is “define[d] ․ solely in terms of personal possession or use,” and the adverbs “directly” and “indirectly” do not “negate th[at] requirement.”9 Accordingly, we conclude that Honeycutt applies with equal force to § 982(a), and that the imposition of joint and several liability in the forfeiture money judgment was an error which requires remand to correct.

For the above reasons, and in light of Honeycutt, we will vacate the District Court's judgment of sentence in part and remand for resentencing for the sole purpose of determining the appropriate forfeiture amount. The District Court's judgment is otherwise affirmed for the reasons set forth in our original opinion.


1.   Walter Alston Brown, Jr.’s appeal was originally consolidated with that of co-conspirator Cynthia Evette Brown, in C.A. No. 15-1505. We vacated in part the judgment of the District Court as to Cynthia Brown in United States v. Brown, 694 Fed.Appx. 57 (3d Cir. 2017).

2.   Honeycutt, 137 S.Ct. at 1630.

3.   Id. at 1632.

4.   Id. at 1633.

5.   See United States v. Brown, 694 Fed.Appx. 57 (3d Cir. 2017).

6.   JA 6a–7a.

7.   Compare 21 U.S.C. § 853(a)(1), with 18 U.S.C. § 982(a)(2).

8.   See Honeycutt, 137 S.Ct. at 1632.

9.   Id. at 1632–33.

FUENTES, Circuit Judge

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