Friday, December 17, 2010

Can You Convict for Honest Services When You Haven't Charged Honest Services?

According to the 8th Circuit Court in the case of United States v. Redzic, the answer to this question is "yes." The defendant was convicted of mail fraud, wire fraud, bribery, and conspiracy.  The mail fraud and wire fraud charges were premised upon sections 1341 and 1343, not 1346. The defendant notes on appeal  that he had been indicted, that the government's argument at trial, and that the jury instructions at trial all pertained to a defrauding of property under 1341 and 1343.  The problem was that the property in this case happened to be licenses and as previously held in the Cleveland case, regulatory licenses are not property for purposes of mail fraud. So the government's response is - well then let's call this honest services.  But there appears to be one problem in doing that - they failed to charge the case this way.

The 8th Circuit holds "[w]hile we believe it would have been preferable in Redzic's case for the indictment to have included the term 'honest services,' its omission was not fatal." 

To put this all in context -  this opinion is a post-Skilling remand. And yes, the 5th Cicuit held in United States v. Griffin, 324 F.3d 330 (2003):

There is no doubt that the district court erred by instructing the jury that a scheme to defraud includes "a scheme to deprive another of the intangible right to honest services" because the indictment did not contain a reference to 18 U.S.C. ยง 1346 or its language. And, that error was obvious. Furthermore, we can not permit the district court to second guess "what was in the mind[ ] of the grand jury at the time [it] returned the indictment." Russell,369 U.S. at 770, 82 S.Ct. 1038. To do so would violate the Appellants' Fifth Amendment right to indictment by a grand jury and undermine the public's faith in the integrity of our judicial proceedings. 

I wonder what Justice Scalia will think about the 8th Circuit's decision in Redzic?

(esp) (with a hat tip to Dane Ball)

Fraud, Judicial Opinions | Permalink

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