CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.
This opinion addresses the last piece of unfinished business in the consolidated appeal of Michael Spagnola and Robert George: the sufficiency of the evidence supporting George's conviction for attempting to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
George agreed to the CI's proposed scheme, and he recruited his half-brother Spagnola into the scheme sometime around June 11. Spagnola indicated that he was participating only because George had vouched for the CI. Throughout June and early July, the four (George, Spagnola, the CI and the "drug courier" ATF agent) met several times and developed the plan. Spagnola obtained a gun and ammunition. On June 25, in a meeting with the CI, George suggested that instead of robbing the stash house, they could draw out the drug courier and rob him—thereby minimizing the risk of the operation. The CI agreed and this became the revised plan. Also around this time, George indicated that he had a willing buyer for the cocaine, and that George had someone in mind to dispose of five kilos immediately. The three agreed that the robbery would be on July 12: the three would meet and drive together to the scene, a forest preserve.
But on the morning of the planned robbery, George surprised Spagnola and the
Spagnola, armed with two guns, continued on to the scene of the planned robbery. Consistent with the ATF's planned sting operation, he was arrested. George was arrested the next day. After a joint trial, both Spagnola and George were convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, and attempting to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.
The remaining question is whether the evidence was sufficient to support George's conviction for attempted possession of cocaine, notwithstanding his absence on the morning of the robbery. Because this is an appellate review of the evidentiary sufficiency of a conviction, we inquire only into whether, when the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the Government, a rational jury could have found the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. See, e.g., United States v. Woods, 556 F.3d 616, 621 (7th Cir.2009) (citing United States v. Stevens, 453 F.3d 963 (7th Cir.2006)). We often describe this appellate hurdle as "nearly insurmountable." See, e.g., Spagnola, 632 F.3d at 981; United States v. Spells, 537 F.3d 743, 746 (7th Cir.2008).
Another legal principle is pivotal to this appeal: aiding and abetting liability, under 18 U.S.C. § 2.
George's contrary position does nothing to detract from the significance of his acts leading up to the attempted robbery. Rather, his position amounts to an argument that the dispositive fact was his absence on the morning of the robbery. But one need not be physically present at a crime scene to aid and abet the principal, because "one who puts in motion or assists in the illegal enterprise ... is guilty as a principal even though he intentionally refrained from the direct act constituting the completed offense." United States v. Garrett, 720 F.2d 705, 714 (D.C.Cir.1983) (citing to the legislative history of 18 U.S.C. § 2, H.R.Rep. No. 304, 80th Cong., 1st Sess. A5 (1947)). See also United States v. Garcia, 242 F.3d 593, 597 (5th Cir.2001) ("Just as the mere presence at the scene of the crime is not sufficient, by itself, to support aiding and abetting liability, mere absence from the scene does not, by itself, negate such liability.") (citations omitted); United States v. Waters, 461 F.2d 248, 251 (10th Cir.1972). Indeed, requiring physical presence or contemporaneous contributing acts would greatly narrow aiding and abetting liability, conceivably exonerating supportive acts that are indispensable to the principal's crime.
Much of the appeal of George's argument seems to derive from the fact that his nonattendance on the day of the robbery was unplanned. Although the point is never made explicit, there seems to be a subtle invitation to treat George as having "withdrawn" from the enterprise by absenting himself on the day of the robbery. After all, if George and Spagnola had planned all along that Spagnola would commit the robbery without George present, George's position (that his preparatory efforts did not amount to aiding and abetting) would lose much of its force. But his present argument is in fact precisely that weak, because he did not effectively withdraw by failing to participate on the day of the robbery. See Garrett, 720 F.2d at 714 (explaining that withdrawal for aiding and abetting purposes mirrors withdrawal in the context of conspiracy, and "to establish an effective withdrawal [from a conspiracy], the defendant must show that he took affirmative action to defeat or disavow the purpose of the conspiracy."). An abettor cannot withdraw merely by satisfying himself that his participation is no longer needed. Id.
For the foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.
United States v. Amorosa, 167 F.2d 596, 599-600 (3d Cir.1948).