Friday, April 13, 2007

Second Circuit Reverses Lawyer's Conviction for Insurance Fraud

The Second Circuit overturned the insurance fraud conviction of personal injury lawyer Solomon Kaplan due to evidentiary error by the district court.  Kaplan was convicted on a seven-count indictment for his role in an insurance scam involving faked accidents and victims with exaggerated injuries in which he served as the plaintiff's counsel.  In addition to the fraud counts, Kaplan was also convicted of witness tampering and making a false statement to a government agent.  The appellate court overturned the conviction (opinion below) because the district judge allowed a cooperating witness to testify about his opinion of Kaplan's knowledge of the insurance fraud scheme, which it found was impermissible lay opinion that usurped the jury's fact-finding role.  As with most white collar crime cases, intent is the key issue, so allowing a witness to testify about what he thought was in the defendant's mind is the type of error that often leads to a reversal.  The Second Circuit rejected Kaplan's challenge to the investigative counts, however, finding that there was sufficient evidence and no error in the jury instructions.  Kaplan received a 27-month sentence, but with the fraud counts overturned, he will be eligible to be resentenced.  The government may decide to retry the fraud counts, which appear to be the more serious charges in the case. (ph)

Download us_v_kaplan_april_11_2007.pdf

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