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Showing posts from September, 2011

Honest Services Fraud and Bribery convictions upheld

In US v. Wayne R. Bryant and R. Michael Gallagher, Nos. 09-3243 & 09-3275 (click here) (Aug. 25, 2011), the Circuit affirmed the convictions of Bryant and Gallagher for honest services fraud and bribery in connection Gallagher, dean of a NJ medical school, giving Bryant, a state senator, a "low-show" job in exchange for Bryant funneling state money to the medical school. The Circuit rejected defense arguments that the government interfered with defense access to witnesses, that the evidence was insufficient, and that the jury instructions were defective.

Due Process/Interference with the Defense

The Court rejected a due process challenge to language that the government had placed on the face of every grand jury subpoena issued in the case, warning witnesses that “disclosure of the nature and existence of this subpoena could [and, in at least one case, “would”] obstruct and impede a criminal investigation . . . .” The defense contended that that language interfered with its…

47 year prison terms affirmed for brothers convicted of Hobbs Act robbery of local drug dealer

Brothers Barron and Barry Walker were convicted after trial of various offenses including drug trafficking, firearm and robbery charges. Each was sentenced to a prison term of 47 1/2 years. On appeal, the brothers challenged their convictions and sentences on multiple grounds, including improper joinder, sufficiency of the evidence, improper expert testimony, and an alleged Brady violation. The Third Circuit, in United States v. Walker, 10-3090 (3d Cir. Sept. 13, 2011), quickly disposed of the severance claims, holding that joinder of all counts against both brothers was proper, despite the inclusion of two escape-related charges solely against Barry Walker, where the escape charges arose directly from the earlier drug, conspiracy and gun charges against both brothers. Nor, according to the Third Circuit, did the district court abuse its discretion in declining to grant Barron Walker's motion to sever his trial from his brother's trial where the issues were uncomplicated, the …

General Criminal Venue Provision Applies When Part of Offense Committed in US & Illicit Sexual Conduct Outside the US Statute Constitutional

In United States v. Pendleton, No. 10-1818, September 7, 2011, the Court of Appeals considered: (1) whether the general criminal venue provision of 18 U.S.C. § 3238 applies when a defendant commits part of his offense inside the United States; and (2) whether 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c) and (f)(1) of the PROTECT Act, which criminalize noncommercial illicit sexual conduct outside the United States, are a valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Foreign Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3).

In 2005, Thomas Pendleton boarded a plane in New York City bound for Hamburg, Germany. Six months after his arrival there, he sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy. German authorities arrested him, and a jury in Hamburg found him guilty of "engaging in sexual acts with a person incapable of resistance." After serving nineteen months in a German prison, Pendleton returned to the United States, where he was arrested and indicted in the District of Delaw…

Use immunity for defense witness

In US v. Jamaal L. Mike, No. 10-1394 (Aug. 23, 2010) (click here), the 3d Circuit held that the district court properly denied a defense request for use immunity for a defense witness because the proffered testimony was not "clearly exculpatory" in view of the evidence undercutting both the proffered testimony and the defense theory of the case. (The Court also addressed two other issues unique to the Virgin Islands that are not reviewed here.)

Mike was charged with aiding and abetting the receipt of a gun acquired outside his state of residence. The government's evidence was that another person, Francis, purchased an AK-47 rifle in Florida and had it shipped to a false name in the Virgin Islands. Mike arranged with two others to retrieve it from the Post Office, having them supply the false name. They were arrested once they placed the package in the car. Francis was also arrested, and he pleaded guilty. But he told agents during plea negotiations that Mike and the other…

Self-representation; CCE: and 851 notice

In US v. Prince Isaac, No. 08-4755 (Aug. 23, 2011) (click here) the 3rd Circuit held:

(1) Defendant who was representing himself was not denied his 6th Amendment right of self-representation by judge's failure to include him in two side-bar conferences (at which stand-by counsel did participate) since defendant never objected and seemed to acquiesce in stand-by counsel's participation;

(2) Instruction on CCE was error, as conceded by the government, because several of the counts it listed as counts that could qualify as the predicate drug distribution felony did not qualify; but error, to which there was no objection, did not rise to plain error because jury found defendant guilty on all the drug distribution counts, thus easily satisfying this element;

(3) The requirement of written notice of a prior conviction under 21 USC 851 (to enhance the mandatory sentence) is jurisdictional, and the lack of actual notice prior to trial in this case constituted plain error.  "[T]…

Fumo Sentencing Errors

In US v. Fumo and Arnao, Nos. 09-3388 & 09-3389 (Aug. 23, 2011) (click on link to see decision), the Third Circuit upheld Fumo's conviction, but reversed the sentences for both Fumo and Arnao, finding a number of sentencing errors.  The holdings of broadest significance were that the district court judge failed to follow the 3-step sentencing process, in particular the 2nd step, in which he was required to identify the new Guidelines range after granting a departure, and that he failed to specify whether he was granting a departure or a variance.

Fumo and Arnao were charged with multiple counts of fraud, tax evasion and obstruction of justice, arising from "one of the larges political scandals in recent state history."  Fumo was a powerful PA state senator, and Arnao was a Senate employee.  Fumo required Senate employees to attend to his personal needs and political interests, including housekeeping and political fundraising.  He also arranged state cont…