OCTOBER TERM, 2008
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
ABUELHAWA v. UNITED STATES
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
No. 08–192. Argued March 4, 2009—Decided May 26, 2009
A wiretap of Mohammed Said’s telephone recorded six calls in which
petitioner Abuelhawa arranged to buy cocaine from Said in two sepa-
rate 1-gram transactions. Those two purchases were misdemeanors
under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U. S. C. §844, while
Said’s two sales were felonies, §841(a)(1) and (b). The Government
charged Abuelhawa with six felonies on the theory that each of the
phone calls, some placed by him, some by Said, violated §843(b),
which makes it a felony “to use any communication facility in . . . fa-
cilitating” felony distribution and other drug crimes. The District
Court denied Abuelhawa’s acquittal motion, in which he argued that
his efforts to make misdemeanor purchases could not be treated as
facilitating Said’s felonies. The jury convicted Abuelhawa on all six
felony counts. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that “facili-
tat[e]” should be given its ordinary meaning in §843(b) and that
Abuelhawa’s use of a phone to buy cocaine counted as ordinary facili-
tation because it made Said’s distribution of the drug easier.
Held: Using a telephone to make a misdemeanor drug purchase does
not “facilitat[e]” felony drug distribution in violation of §843(b).
Stopping with the plain meaning of “facilitate” here would ignore the
rule that because statutes are not read as a collection of isolated
phrases, “[a] word in a statute may or may not extend to the oute