Wednesday, January 4, 2012
A 5th Circuit panel (including Chief Judge Edith Jones!) unanimously reversed two Section 1956 money laundering convictions based on insufficient evidence. The case is U.S. v. Harris (5th Cir. 2012) (Section 1956 money laundering evidence insufficient). The reasoning? The government conflated the underlying crime with the separate crime of money laundering. The proven transactions were not proceeds of specified unlawful activity. The evidence only showed "payment of the purchase price for drugs. Money does not become proceeds of illegal activity until the unlawful activity is complete. The crime of money laundering is targeted at the activities that generally follow the unlawful activity in time."