Friday, March 11, 2011
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals examined convictions on five counts of honest services mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 1346 and one count of extortion under color of official right in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) and vacated the convictions and sentences on the honest services counts, See opinion here. The defendant had argued:
"(1) in light of Skilling, the District Court erred in instructing the jury that it could convict him under the [honest services mail fraud] HSMF Counts based on the Concealed Conflict Object; (2) his HSMF convictions must be vacated because the error concerning the Concealed Conflict Object was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt and (3) his Extortion Count conviction should be vacated due to "prejudicial spillover" from the HSMF Concealed Conflict Object error. Alternatively, [the defendant] contends that his convictions should be vacated because the District Court erroneously charged the jury in several other respects."
The court held:
"Upon careful review of the record below, it is not possible for us to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would have convicted [the defendant] based solely upon the Bribery Object. At trial, the Government inextricably intertwined evidence of bribery and concealment. The District Court itself specifically charged the jury that it might convict [the defendant] on either the Bribery Object or the Concealed Conflict Object, and the District Court's evidentiary rulings throughout the trial may have been affected by the existence of the Concealed Conflict Object charges. Moreover, there is no escaping the fact that, while understandably emphasizing the Bribery Object to a greater degree, the United States did argue that the Concealed Conflict Object alone was a sufficient basis for conviction."