April 11, 2007
Corruption Conviction Overturned at the End of Oral Argument
Television programs occasionally show an appellate court freeing the wrongly-convicted defendant, and we lawyers laugh at the cheap theatrics, knowing that a court of appeals acts quite deliberately and never orders an acquittal during its session. Then again, reality mimics television every once in a while, as shown by the Seventh Circuit when the panel entered an order (here) acquitting Georgia Thompson of corruption charges at the conclusion of oral argument because the government's evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. Thompson had begun serving her sentence, and the order required the government to arrange for her release by the end of the close of business on April 5, the date of the argument (a link to the oral argument is available here). Circuit Judge Diane Wood said that the government's evidence was "very thin."
Thompson was convicted on Sec. 666 and honest services fraud charges for her role in awarding a $750,000 travel contract to a campaign contributor to Governor Jim Doyle. Thompson did not receive any direct pecuniary gain from the award, although the government did introduce evidence that she received a $.50 per hour raise that year. She was a career civil servant, and there was no evidence that she was aware that the recipient of the contract was a campaign contributor; the contribution was legal, and the government focused on Thompson's knowledge of political connections to the Governor. An article in The [Madison]Capital Times (here) notes that Governor Doyle said he would rehire Thompson to her position in the Wisconsin state government. (ph)
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