Friday, March 1, 2024

Hunter Biden Testifies

Here is the transcript of Hunter Biden's testimony before a joint session of the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Accountability Committee on February 28, 2024.

Hunter Biden House Testimony Transcript.

(wisenberg)

March 1, 2024 in Celebrities, Congress, Contempt, Corruption, Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Fraud, Investigations, Legal Ethics, Money Laundering, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Robert Hunter Biden Motion to Dismiss Federal Gun Charges: The Briefs Are In.

The briefing is now complete on Hunter Biden's Motion to Dismiss Based on Immunity Conferred by his Diversion Agreement. This motion was filed in the District of Delaware where three felony gun counts are pending against Biden. Biden contends that the Diversion Agreement was a binding contract once signed by the parties to it, and that the only parties to it were Biden and the U.S. Attorney's Office. DOJ disagrees on both points. Biden also argues that U.S. Probation's approval was not necessary and that, even it was necessary, U.S. Probation in fact approved the Agreement.  A similar motion will no doubt be filed in the federal tax case now pending in the Central District of California, with respect to the aborted tax-related Plea Agreement, but Biden's chances of success are much better at getting the federal gun charges in Delaware dismissed, since Diversion agreements do not require approval by the district court. The Diversion Agreement was related to the overall Plea Agreement that blew up last July in Judge Maryellen Noreika's Delaware federal courtroom. Here are Biden's original brief, the Government's Response, and Biden's Reply. Attached also is the Declaration of Christopher Clark, who was Biden's attorney involved in the negotiations surrounding the Plea and Diversion Agreements.

U.S. v. Robert Hunter Biden-Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Indictment Based on Immunity Conferred by Diversion Agreement.

U.S. v. Robert Hunter Biden-Government's Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Indictment Based on Immunity Conferred by Diversion Agreement.

U.S. v. Robert Hunter Biden-Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss the Indictment Based on Immunity Conferred by Diversion Agreement.

U.S. v. Robert Hunter Biden--Declaration of Christopher J. Clark.

(wisenberg)

 

 

February 1, 2024 in Celebrities, Corruption, Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Deferred Prosecution Agreements, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Media, News, Privileges, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Opening Supreme Court Brief in Fischer v. United States

As I noted last week, "the U.S. Supreme Court recently granted the Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed in Fischer v. United States, one of three cases in which the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit interpreted 18 U.S.C. Section 1512(c) in the context of the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. In addition to its importance in the prosecution and conviction of January 6 protesters and Donald Trump, the case has potentially broad implications for federal white collar criminal law. This is because it involves the proper interpretation of the word 'corruptly', a term that appears frequently in federal white collar statutes. On Monday of this week, Petitioner Josph Fischer filed his opening merits brief. Here it is."

Fischer v. United States-Petitioner Fischer's Opening Merits Brief.

(wisenberg)

January 31, 2024 in Arthur Andersen, Congress, Corruption, Current Affairs, Enron, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, News, Obstruction, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

A Tale of Two Sentencing Memos

Peter Navarro, former Presidential Advisor to Donald J. Trump, will be sentenced tomorrow in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He was found guilty by the jury of two misdemeanor counts alleging violation of Title 2, U.S. Code, Section 192, which criminalizes the refusal of a witness to testify or produce documents to either House of Congress when summoned to do so. Navarro refused to appear or testify in front of the January 6 Committee, and refused to produce documents. He asserted Executive Privilege. Defendant Navarro has asked for two concurrent 6-month probationary sentences, a $100 fine on each count, and to remain free on bond during the pendency of his appeal. The government seeks a sentence of six months on each count, the Guidelines maximum, and a fine of $200,000. Here are the respective sentencing memos.

U.S. V. PETER NAVARRO-DEFENDANT'S SENTENCING MEMO.

U.S. V. PETER NAVARRO-GOVERNMENT'S SENTENCING MEMO.

(wisenberg)

January 24, 2024 in Congress, Contempt, Current Affairs, Investigations, Prosecutions, Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Supreme Court Grants Cert. Petition in Fischer v. United States

The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted the Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed in Fischer v. United States, one of three cases in which the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit interpreted 18 U.S.C. Section 1512(c) in the context of the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. In addition to its importance in the prosecution and conviction of January 6 protesters and Donald Trump, the case has potentially broad implications for federal white collar criminal law. This is because it involves the proper interpretation of the word "corruptly", a term that appears frequently in federal white collar statutes. Title 18, U.S.C. Section 1512 is titled, "Tampering with a witness, victim, or informant." Section 1512(c) provides that:

"(c) Whoever corruptly-

(1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object's integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or

(2) otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so,

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both."

The immediate question in Fischer was whether Section 1512(c)(2) applied to January 6 protesters who delayed Congressional counting and certification of electoral votes from the 2020 Presidential election.  Section 1515 of Title 18 defines an "official proceeding", as used in Section 1512, as "a proceeding before the Congress." The government argued that the January 6 riot obstructed an official proceeding, because it obstructed a proceeding before the Congress. To the government, it was a matter of straightforward textual interpretation. The defense argued that that the history and structure of 1512(c)(2), passed as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (in response to the Enron scandal) to fix a loophole in the federal obstruction of justice statutes, showed that the statute only applied to classic efforts to obstruct evidentiary proceedings. More to come on this important case.

Attached is the Petition for Writ of Certiorari that was granted by the Supreme Court. Fischer v. United States-Petition For A Writ Of certiorari.

(wisenberg)

January 23, 2024 in Arthur Andersen, Congress, Corruption, Current Affairs, Enron, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, News, Obstruction, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 11, 2023

Hunter Biden Tax Evasion Indictment

The Hunter Biden Indictment for tax evasion, filing false tax returns, and failure to pay and file taxes was handed down last Thursday in the Central District of California. There were nine counts--three felonies and six misdemeanors. The felonies were for willfully filing a false 2018 personal tax return, willfully filing a false 2018 corporate return, and willful evasion of the 2018 tax assessment.  Presumably, no major new investigative steps were taken after the original plea deal blew up in July of this year. Here is the Hunter Biden Central District of California Tax Evasion Indictment. Although this appears to be a well-crafted and aggressive speaking Indictment brought by Special Counsel David Weiss, Hunter has an outstanding criminal defense team, lead by Abbe Lowell, and potentially better defenses than the typical tax evasion defendant.

(wisenberg)

 

 

December 11, 2023 in Current Affairs, Investigations, Music, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Gratuities and 18 U.S.C. Section 666: Will The Supremes Finally Slay The Mark Of The Beast?

On December 8, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to grant the Petition for Writ of Certiorari in United States v. James Snyder, a case out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. There is a split in the federal circuit courts over the question of whether 18 U.S.C. Section 666 criminalizes gratuities as well as bribes. The majority of circuits have held that 666 criminalizes both bribes and gratuities. A minority of circuits have held that the statute only criminalizes bribes. The case has enormous implications for the federal prosecution of public corruption at the state and local level in the United States. Attached are the relevant filings by the government and the defense, plus a brilliant amicus brief filed by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

U.S. v. James Snyder Petition for Writ of Certiorari

U.S. v. James Snyder Government Brief in Opposition to Cert. Petition

U.S. v. James Snyder Defense Cert Reply

NACDL Amicus Brief in Snyder v. U.S.

 

(wisenberg)

 

 

November 28, 2023 in Corruption, Fraud, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 20, 2023

Judge Chutkan Denies Trump's Motion To Strike Allegedly Inflammatory Portions of the Indictment

On Friday, D.C. United States District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, unsurprisingly, denied former President Donald Trump's Motion to Strike Inflammatory Allegations from the Indictment in U.S. v. Trump. At issue were the portions of the Indictment covering the January 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by some of Trump's supporters, which, according to the defense, constitute irrelevant and prejudicial surplusage. Motions to strike surplusage are disfavored under U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit case law and need not be granted by the trial court unless a defendant can establish that the challenged  language is both irrelevant to the charges and prejudicial. Judge Chutkan did not reach the question of relevance, finding that Trump had failed to show that the alleged surplusage would prejudice the jury, particularly in light of her practice, which she intends to follow in this case, of not sending indictments back to the jury room during deliberations. Chutkan also promised to weed out prejudice in the jury panel, caused by the government or Trump, during the voir dire process. Here is the opinion.  U.S. v. Donald Trump - Order Denying Defendant's Motion to Strike Inflammatory Allegations from the Indictment

(wisenberg)

November 20, 2023 in Celebrities, Current Affairs, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, News, Obstruction, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Trump Gag Order Appeal: Oral Arguments Are Next Up In D.C. Circuit

The parties' briefs are all in and the case is set for oral argument on Monday, November 20, at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Gathered together here are: Former President Trump's Opening Brief re Appeal of Judge Chutkan's Gag Order; the Government's Answering Brief; Trump's Reply Brief; and the Gag Order itself.

10-17-23 Trump Gag Order in DC Case

U.S. v. Trump - Donald Trump's Opening Brief re Appeal of Gag Order

U.S. v. Trump - Answering Brief of the United States re Donald Trump's Appeal of Gag Order

U.S. v. Trump - Reply Brief of Defendant-Appellant Donald Trump re Trump's Appeal of U.S. District Court Chutkan's Gag Order

(wisenberg)

November 18, 2023 in Celebrities, Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Legal Ethics, Media, News, Privileges, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Hunter Biden's Motion for Issuance of Rule 17(c) Subpoenas Before Trial

Today Hunter Biden's lawyers filed a Motion for Pretrial Issuance of Subpoenas Duces Tecum, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(c)(1), to Donald Trump, William Barr, Jeffrey Rosen, and Richard Donoghue. The proposed subpoenas demand documents relating to decisions involving the investigation or prosecution of Hunter Biden in both the Trump and Biden Administrations. The defense maintains that the documents are highly likely to be relevant to its contention that the Hunter Biden Indictment is an example of a constitutionally impermissible vindictive or selective prosecution. Defendants are entitled under the Sixth Amendment to present a defense and to  compulsory production of witnesses and documents in aid of that right. Here is the motion. U.S. v. Hunter Biden - Defense Motion for Issuance of Subpoenas Duces Tecum Pursuant to Rule 17(c) and Memorandum in Support.

(wisenberg)

November 15, 2023 in Corruption, Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Deferred Prosecution Agreements, Fraud, Investigations, News, Privileges, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

D.C. Circuit Grants Administrative Stay in Trump Gag Order Appeal

On Friday afternoon, November 2, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted an administrative stay of Judge Chutkan's 10-17-23 Gag Order in U.S. v. Trump. The Court was careful to point out that, "[t]he purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for a stay pending appeal and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion." In other words, the Court issued an administrative stay while considering, on an expedited basis, Trump's Motion for a Stay of the Gag Order pending appeal of that Order. The granting of the administrative stay did not involve any analysis of the likelihood of Trump's ultimate success on the merits of the Gag Order. Trump's brief on the Motion for Stay Pending Appeal is due today, 11-8-23, as is the Joint Appendix. The Government's Response is due 11-14-23. Trump's Reply is due 11-17-23. Oral argument is set for 11-20-23.

Here is Defendant-Appellant Donald Trump's Emergency Motion for Stay Pending Appeal and Request for Temporary Administrative Stay of Gag Order.

Here is the Circuit Court's Friday Order Granting an Administrative Stay.  U.S. v. Donald Trump - U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Order Granting Administrative Stay of Trump Gag Order.

Stay tuned for more.

(wisenberg).

November 8, 2023 in Contempt, Corruption, Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Fraud, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, News, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 8, 2023

How To Think About The Hunter Biden Whistleblowers’ Disclosures And The Hunter Biden Plea Agreement. Part I.

There are three key elements to the recent disclosures by IRS Criminal Investigation Division whistleblowers concerning the DOJ’s criminal investigation of Hunter Biden: 1) the false and/or conflicting statements by Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss and Attorney General Merrick Garland about the degree of authority and independence conferred upon Weiss by DOJ; 2) the alleged efforts of Delaware AUSAs and DOJ Tax Division prosecutors to slow-walk the case and block or delay avenues of investigation; and 3) the alleged underlying criminal conduct of Hunter Biden.

Part I

Let’s start with the false and/or conflicting statements by Garland and Weiss. AG Garland has repeatedly made public statements, sometimes sworn, indicating that Trump-appointed Delaware U.S. Attorney Weiss had (and still has) complete independence and authority to bring charges against Hunter Biden in any federal district where venue might lie, free of political interference.  Note that there is a difference between being able to run your investigation free of political interference and having the authority to bring charges in a federal district outside of Delaware. You can give Weiss all of the freedom to investigate he wants and still deny him the ability to bring charges in the District of Columbia or the Central District of California. But Garland recently reiterated that Weiss had (and has), “complete authority to make all decisions on his own,” had, “more authority than a special counsel,” and was “authorized to bring a case anywhere he wants in his discretion.” Garland has also stressed that Weiss never came to him asking for special counsel authority.

But here is a key contradictory fact we now know, thanks to the transcribed interview of IRS-CID Supervisory Special Agent (“SSA”) Gary Shapley, a/k/a Whistleblower #1 and the documents Shapley provided. Delaware U.S. Attorney Weiss told a roomful of IRS and FBI special agents and DOJ attorneys, on October 7, 2022, "that he is not the deciding person on whether charges are filed." He then revealed that, months before, he had sought and been denied the authority to bring felony tax evasion charges against Hunter Biden in the District of Columbia by District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves. Weiss further told the agents at the same October 7, 2022, meeting that he had requested special counsel status from Main Justice in order to bring charges in the District of Columbia but had been rebuffed. (Weiss also told the agents and prosecutors in the October meeting that the case was then at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California awaiting its decision on whether to file. He stated that if CDCAL rejected his request he would go to Main Justice again to ask for special counsel status.)

Weiss’s October 7, 2022, statement to the roomful of agents and prosecutors is clearly at odds with Garland’s public comments that Weiss had all the authority he needed to bring charges in any federal district. Garland has not indicated how he conferred this authority on Weiss. Was it reflected in a written authorization giving Weiss special attorney status under 28 USC §515(a)? Was it orally conveyed? If orally conveyed, did Garland merely invite Weiss to ask in the future for any authority he needed? Is this all a shell game in which Weiss asked Deputy Attorney General (“DAG”) Lisa Monaco for special attorney or special counsel status which she rebuffed and never reported to Garland?

Weiss’s June 7, 2023, letter to Congressman Jim Jordan, purported, “to make clear that, as the Attorney General has stated, I have been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges and for making decisions necessary to preserve the integrity of the prosecution, consistent with federal law, the Principles of Federal Prosecution, and Department regulations.” This statement had to be clarified once the Shapley transcript and supporting documentation were released to the public. So on June 30, 2023, Weiss wrote again to Jordan, setting out his geographically limited charging authority but noting his ability to request special attorney status under 28 U.S.C. § 515 in the event that a U.S. Attorney in another federal district does not want to partner with him on a case. Then the kicker: “Here, I have been assured that, if necessary after the above process, I would be granted § 515 Authority in the District of Columbia, the Central District of California, or any other district where charges could be brought in this matter.” Translation? I never asked Main Justice for special attorney status or authority. But if Weiss was being truthful in his June 30, 2023 letter to Jordan, he certainly lied to federal agents on October 7, 2022 when he told them that he had asked for special counsel authority to bring the Hunter Biden case in the District of Columbia and been denied.

Honest prosecutors running a legitimate criminal investigation do not need to lie to their case agents or prevaricate in their public pronouncements. And Garland surely realizes that his public statements to date, for whatever reason, have left a misleading impression. Yet he has done noting to get to the bottom of what happened. It’s time for him to lance the boil. More to come in Parts II and III.

(wisenberg)

 

July 8, 2023 in Corruption, Current Affairs, Fraud, Government Reports, Grand Jury, Investigations, Legal Ethics, Money Laundering, Privileges, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Another Post-Ruan Acquittal: Dr. Lesly Pompy Found Not Guilty On All Counts in E.D. Michigan

Congratulations to Dr. Lesly Pompy, acquitted on all counts (illegal distribution and health care fraud) on January 4, 2023, in the Eastern District of Michigan.  Kudos as well to his outstanding team of defense lawyers, Ronald Chapman II (Chapman Law Group), Joe Richotte (Butzel Long), and George Donnini (Butzel Long). Here is a recap from Ron's Federal Defense Blog. Attached below is Defendant's Proposed Jury Instruction. The proposed illegal distribution charge should serve as a model for other defense attorneys practicing in this area.

U.S. v. Lesly Pompy M.D. Defendant's Proposed Jury Instructions.

I don't yet have a copy of the district court's final jury instruction, but will post it as soon as it becomes available on PACER.

This is one of several post-Ruan acquittals that have come down in the last six months. In each of these cases the government's evidence was weak and the strengthened scienter requirement established in Ruan v. United States no doubt played a major role in facilitating the not guilty verdicts.

(wisenberg)

January 5, 2023 in Defense Counsel, Fraud, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Ruan and Kahn on Remand: Supplemental Briefs and Reply Briefs

Last June, in the consolidated cases of Ruan v. United States and Kahn v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court considered the mens rea required to convict a physician charged with illegal distribution of narcotics under the Controlled Substances Act. The Court held that: "After a defendant produces evidence that he or she was authorized to dispense controlled substances, the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew that he or she was acting in an unauthorized manner, or intended to do so."  A health care professional acts in an authorized manner under statute's controlling regulation when he or she acts in the "usual course of professional practice for a legitimate medical purpose." The vote was 9-0 on the need to reverse the judgments of the 11th Circuit (in Ruan) and the 10th Circuit (in Kahn), because both courts "evaluated the jury instructions under an incorrect understanding of [Title 18 U.S. Code] §841's scienter requirements," but the vote was 6-3 on the majority's specific holding. Justice Alito, joined by Justice Thomas and, far the most part, Justice Barrett, concurred in the result only. They did not join the majority's holding that, once the defendant meets the burden of producing any evidence that he or she was authorized to write prescriptions, the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to act, or knew he or she was acting, "in an unauthorized manner" falls on the government. But all nine Justices agreed that at least a portion of the jury instructions in each trial were defective because they injected objective reasonableness requirements into their good faith definitions. The Court sent the cases back to their respective circuits to determine, under the correct scienter requirements, whether: 1) the offense instructions as a whole were correct as a matter of law, and 2) whether any error in the instructions was harmless.

The supplemental briefs and replies have now been filed in each case, and are attached below. In Ruan, the harmless error analysis is complicated by the defendant's conviction on counts other than illegal distribution. In Kahn, a key focus of the government and defense briefs is the difference, if any, between knowingly or intentionally acting in an unauthorized manner (that is, outside the usual course of professional practice without a legitimate medical purpose) and knowingly or intentionally acting outside or beneath the relevant standard of care. The government maintains that there is no difference between the two concepts, which is an extremely doubtful position in light of the language and reasoning of both the majority and concurring opinions. This issue is really the elephant in the room in the post-Ruan/Kahn world. The Supreme Court originally granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split, but a split still exists, because some circuit courts have long approved instructions equating standard of care with authorized practice, while others have held that an intentional violation of the standard of care is not the same as acting with no legitimate medical purpose outside the scope of a medical practice. Attached below are the briefs on remand in Ruan and Kahn.

Shakeel Kahn's Supplemental Brief on Remand U.S. v. Shakeel Kahn-Government's Supplemental Brief on Remand U.S. v. Shakeel Kahn-Appellant's Supplemental Reply Brief Ruan Supplemental Brief on Remand Ruan and Couch Supplemental Brief of Appellee United States  Ruan CA11 Supplemental Reply Brief on Remand (10.13 final)  

(wisenberg)

January 1, 2023 in Fraud, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Post-Ruan Acquittals and Dismissals

Last June, in the consolidated cases of Ruan v. United States and Kahn v. United States (hereinafter Ruan) the U.S. Supreme Court considered the mens rea required to convict a physician charged with illegal distribution of narcotics under the Controlled Substances Act. The Court held as follows: "After a defendant produces evidence that he or she was authorized to dispense controlled substances, the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew that he or she was acting in an unauthorized manner, or intended to do so." The stunningly broad ruling was 9-0 on the final outcome, but 6-3 on the majority's reasoning. Justice Alito, joined by Justice Thomas and, far the most part, Justice Barrett, concurred in the result only. They did not join the majority's holding that, once the defendant meets the burden of producing any evidence that he or she was authorized to write prescriptions, the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to act, or knew he or she was acting, "in an unauthorized manner" falls on the government. But all nine Justices agreed that at least a portion of the jury instructions in each trial were defective because they injected objective reasonableness requirements into their good faith definitions. It is too early to predict with any certainty how the case law will develop in the post-Ruan world. Never underestimate the willingness of individual U.S. Attorney offices to find ways around inconvenient Supreme Court opinions. The convictions of Dr. Ruan and Dr. Kahn were not even overturned. Instead, the appellate judgments were vacated and the cases were sent back to their respective Courts of Appeals to determine whether the faulty instructions were harmless.

But here are some recent developments. In United States v. Bothra, et al. an Eastern District of Michigan case that went to the jury the very day Ruan came out, all Defendants were acquitted on all counts, 54 in total. In U.S. v. Given, in the Northern District of Florida, the lone Defendant was acquitted on all 33 counts. It should be noted that the government's evidence in each case was weak.

In United States v. Kim, in the Western District of Oklahoma, the the court granted the government's motion to dismiss without prejudice. The government seemed to concede that, in light of Ruan, the Indictment was defective.

Finally, in United States v. Brian August, a case in which I represented the Defendant, the United States filed, and the trial court promptly granted, a Motion to Dismiss, conceding that, among other things, the case could not go forward under the Ruan standard.

While these are promising signs, the dust has not yet begun to settle on post-Ruan developments. As I will explain in subsequent posts, the Ruan opinion leaves many questions unanswered. Is a physician-Defendant entitled to a subjective good faith instruction or no good faith instruction? Does the Defendant meet his or her burden of presentation merely by showing that he/she is authorized to prescribe narcotics? Must the government prove that a physician-Defendant had no legitimate medical purpose for his/her prescription and that he/she was operating outside the usual course of his/her medical  practice or only one of these two factors? What should a proper jury instruction look like?

I will be posting more on these issues in the coming days, weeks, and months.

(wisenberg)

 

October 8, 2022 in Fraud, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions, Verdict | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 5, 2022

Appointment of a Special Master - Court Order in Trump Case

When the affidavit on the warrant was released, albeit redacted, it was clear that this was a situation where the government asked for materials for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) but received only some of the materials, and that a search was conducted to get the rest of the materials, although it remains to be seen whether they obtained everything initially requested. The Search Warrant referenced the Obstruction of Justice statute 18 U.S.C. 1519. (see here).  As a backdrop to this search was the fact that there exists a Presidental Records Act that controls Presidential records. (44 U.S.C. 2201 et. seq.) So irrespective of the former President's claim that he declassified these documents (a mindboggling admission), they were still subject to be returned to the National Archives. (see here).

Now we see a  court discussion as to whether these documents that he allegedly declassified are subject to executive privilege. Despite President Trump no longer being the executive, the court leaves that issue open for further legal argument (see here). 

It is one thing to find that alleged attorney-client privilege material may be interspersed with folders marked classified information and/or personal clothing, and appoint a special master to keep the attorney-client material from anyone's view. Appointing a special master for potential attorney-client privileged material, whether it be the lawyer or the client is a better way to review attorney-client privileged material than a government filter or taint team. (see here)

It is hard to imagine that someone would have classified material, and would nevertheless allow that material to be left in an unsecured location amongst other material.  We are not dealing with a teenager needing to clean their room - but rather the former top head of this country possessing what might be highly sensitive information. And it is good to see the judge allowing the classification review and/or intelligence assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to continue, not impeded by her restraint of the government using other materials. 

But the executive privilege claim discussed by the court is confusing me. On one hand the court is saying there might be  privileged material and on the other hand former President Trump has stated that he declassified the material. Clearly, these are two different concepts, but is it privileged material or has it been declassified and should it be open to the public.  If it is privileged material that was not turned over when the first request was made, then the Trump team should have been in court arguing to retain information as privileged material well before the search.  If it was all declassified than why was it not turned over to the Archives upon the government's request. Will the former president really argue that all this alleged declassified material is now material subject to an executive privilege? And irrespective of whether it was declassified or it is executive privileged material, why was it not turned over under NARA.

(esp)

 

September 5, 2022 in Investigations, Judicial Opinions, News, Obstruction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 26, 2022

Obstruction of Justice - A Topic in the Release of the Search Warrant Affidavit

Not surprising, the release of the Affidavit in Support of an Application Under Rule 41 for a Warrant to Search and Seize items from Mar-a-Lago is heavily redacted.  This is necessary, as it is clear that individuals and information need protection. Equally important is that we are dealing with classified material and whatever that information may be, it needs protection.  It is frightening to think that some of this nation's security secrets may have been compromised.

But what is also noteworthy here, is that there is concern about a possible obstruction of justice.   

  1. We asked you for it. It looks like the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has been trying to get this material for some time - " NARA had ongoing communications with the representatives of former President Trump throughout 2021." (p. 8) 
  2. You gave us some of it. It looks like the Former President gave up some information. (15 boxes were received on Jan. 18, 2022) (p. 1)
  3. You didn't give us all of it. It looks like the Former President failed to provide all the information. And here we are 6 months later and the rest of the materials have not been provided.  

And so the question is whether there has been an obstruction of justice. As stated in the Affidavit - "Further, there is probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified NDI or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the PREMISES.  There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at the PREMISES." (p. 2)

Former President Trump is in a catch-22 position. He is saying he declassified the info, mind boggling as that admission may be, and thus admitting that information was still there. But if there are documents still there than you have a violation of the Presidential Records Act.  And on the other hand, if there is information there and the government was not given that information under a lawful request, you have a possible obstruction of justice. (18 U.S.C. 1519). 

This is not a case of fish being thrown overboard when a fisherman was instructed to bring it back to shore (Reversed in Yates v. United States).  This is a case of sensitive government documents.  

This is also not a case of dealing with a politician who did not want to disclose personal tax returns.  This is a case of determining whether presidential documents that require preservation under law were not properly preserved and whether there was an obstruction in failing to give these documents when requested by the government.  What remains unanswered is what Attorney General Merrick Garland does with all of this. 

(esp)  

August 26, 2022 in Investigations, Obstruction, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 18, 2022

Michael Sussman's Motion to Dismiss

Here is the Sussman Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State an Offense, filed in Special Counsel John Durham's 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 false statement prosecution against former Perkins Coie attorney Michael Sussman. Sussman's argument is that even if the facts laid out in Durham's Indictment are true, they fail, as a matter of law, to allege/establish the essential Section 1001 element of materiality or to establish a sufficient nexus between Sussman's alleged falsehood and the agency (FBI) decision purportedly capable of being affected. Keep in mind that Sussman's alleged false statement to FBI General Counsel James Baker was that he was not acting on behalf of any client in reporting the Alfa Bank tip to Baker, when, in truth and in fact, Sussman was there representing and acting on behalf of Tech-Executive 1 and the Clinton Campaign. The materiality portion of the Sussman Indictment has always struck me as weak, but very little is required of the government in order for it to prove materiality in a Section 1001 prosecution. Sussman's real problem in winning on this motion is decades of case law holding that an indictment setting out the statutory elements of the offense, along with minimal factual allegations, is sufficient to allege an offense as a matter of law.  In other words, the defendant is not allowed to go beyond the indictment's allegations in litigating whether it alleges an offense. There appears to be no recognition of this case law in the Sussman brief. Durham was not required to put much meat on the skeletal elements of the offense. But he chose to do so, presenting a 27-page speaking indictment to the grand jury. There is some scattered authority for the proposition that an indictment setting out in detail what appear to be the full  and undisputed facts behind the offense, in addition to the statutory elements, can be defeated by accepting those facts as true and arguing that the do not constitute the purported offense being charged. See for example, U.S. v. Ali, 557 F.3d 715, 719-20 (6th Cir. 2009). That's what Sussman is up to here. Durham's response will surely be that he has set out the required statutory elements plus additional contextual detail and that the Government must be allowed to show its full factual case to the jury in order to prove why, under said factual particulars, Sussman's alleged lie was material. 

(wisenberg)

February 18, 2022 in Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Fraud, Government Reports, Grand Jury, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 7, 2022

Naming Conventions And Naming Convictions

What’s in a name? Several of the individuals indicted in connection with the January 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol have been charged under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(c)(2). Subsection (c) of 18 U.S.C. §1512 seeks to punish: “Whoever corruptly--(1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or (2) otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so.” 18 U.S.C. §1515 supplies definitions for some of the terms used in §1512 and defines “official proceeding” to include, among other things, “a proceeding before the Congress.” Many of the motions to dismiss filed by January 6 defendants, and judicial opinions denying these motions, center around whether  §1512(c)(2) was meant to be confined to proceedings that are quasi-judicial or evidentiary in nature, even if the proceedings take place in Congress. I previously posted three of these judicial opinions. That is not my focus here. 

18 U.S.C §1512, a lengthy statute with several subsections, has a title as well. The official title is: “Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant.” That is the only title the statute has. None of the subsections of §1512 contains an additional or separate subtitle. Note, however, that none of the persons charged under 18 U.S.C. §1512(c)(2) has been literally charged in his or her Indictment, or in any press coverage that I have seen, with, “tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant,’ which, again, is the only title of §1512. To take one example, in U.S. v. Nordean et al., the defendants are charged in the First Superseding Indictment with “Obstruction of an Official Proceeding and Aiding and Abetting.” This makes sense. The facts alleged against the defendants appear to align with the literal language of §1512(c)(2) and do not involve witness tampering.

Fast forward to the recent indictment of Oath Keeper Elmer Steward Rhodes III and others for “Seditious conspiracy,” pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2384. The defendants are also charged with violating several other statutes, including 18 U.S.C. §1512(c)(2). While 18 U.S.C. § 2384, unlike §1512(c)(2), does not have separately numbered subsections, it clearly sets out several different ways in which the crime can be committed. For example, one cannot “conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them.” I believe something like this formulation is what most people think of when they think of sedition. But Rhodes and his Oath Keepers were not charged under that "overthrow the Government" portion of the statute. They were charged with conspiring “by force to prevent, hinder, and delay the execution of any law of the United States.” (The laws allegedly being hindered were the Electoral Count Act and the Twelfth and Twentieth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.) The caption in the Indictment could have set the charge out in this fashion, as a “conspiracy to by force prevent, hinder, and delay” particular laws of the United States, with a citation to 18 U.S.C. §2384. That is not what Department of Justice officials decided to do, however. They captioned the charge as “seditious conspiracy.” There was nothing improper about their decision, just as there was nothing improper about their decision to list §1512(c)(2) in the caption of Nordean as “obstruction of an official proceeding” rather than “witness-tampering.”

But the effect in the wider media culture was predictable. Several pro-Trump television commentators had been making the point that none of the January 6 defendants were seditionists, because none had been charged with seditious conspiracy. They could not say this anymore in light of the Rhodes Indictment and their prior comments were thrown back in their faces by progressive commentators. So be it. That’s politics. But, at least with respect to the indicted January 6 rioters, conspiring by force to prevent, hinder, and delay the execution of the Electoral Count Act (“seditious conspiracy”) is not substantially different than corruptly obstructing or conspiring to corruptly obstruct the very Congressional proceeding in which the Electoral Count Act is being executed. They are both serious charges that should be prosecuted vigorously if the facts so warrant. And if any Congressperson, Executive Branch official, or podcast host aided and abetted or joined a conspiracy to violate either statute, under traditional criminal law principles, he or she should be prosecuted as well.

Sloppy language, however, invites sloppy thinking and prosecuting someone for aiding and abetting a violent mob intent on forcefully stopping a critical Congressional proceeding or the execution of a statute, is quite different than prosecuting someone for seditious conspiracy because he told a crowd that the election was stolen, invited them to peacefully protest the vote count, or tried to convince Mike Pence that he had the power to refuse to certify certain slates of electors. (I wrote about John Eastman's potential criminal exposure, in the context of the Fifth Amendment's Privilege Against Self-Incrimination, here.) Likewise, prosecuting anyone for delaying the vote count by using the procedures set out in the Electoral Count Act, is without more, doomed to fail under rather basic constitutional and criminal law tests. The devil is always in the details of the purportedly criminal acts under examination.

The people intent on federally prosecuting Trump and his cohorts for the events on and surrounding January 6, 2021, need to think small and in terms of traditional criminal law principles. We witnessed a riot. We witnessed criminal assaults. We witnessed people invading Congressional offices and threatening to “Hang Mike Pence.” Some of the people who committed these acts were attempting to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden. There are statutes in place that appear to criminalize this conduct. The quest to use the criminal law to “go after the higher-ups” should focus on who, if anybody, aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced or procured the commission of these specific criminal offenses--not on people engaged in protected First Amendment political activity. In the words of the standard pattern aiding and abetting instruction, “whoever intentionally associated himself in some way with the crime and intentionally participated in it as he would in something he wished to bring about,” is punishable as a principal. My guess is that some pretty well-known people are sleeping uneasily these days. My further guess, and it is no more than a guess, is that the DOJ has been looking at these people for some time. But I seriously doubt, based on currently known information, it will go much beyond these folks.

(wisenberg)

February 7, 2022 in Congress, Current Affairs, Government Reports, Investigations, Media, Obstruction, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Eastman Letter and the Fifth Amendment

Here is the Eastman Letter to January 6th Select Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson from Eastman's attorney Charles Burnham, invoking Eastman's Fifth Amendment Privilege Against Self-Incrimination and raising other issues as well. The letter is in response to a Committee subpoena for Eastman's testimony and documents. Burnham's letter  leaves open the question of whether Eastman will appear at all, although that is clearly the proper course. As I noted here, in order to successfully invoke the Fifth Amendment Privilege Against Self-Incrimination the client must appear and invoke it on a question by question basis. This will be easy for Eastman to do, as Burnham's letter makes clear, because so many public figures and office-holders have expressed their belief that he has serious criminal exposure. Federal judges, most recently U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, have suggested that January 6 rally speakers have exposure as well. Chairman Thompson wants to "test" the assertions of witnesses invoking the privilege and Norm Eisen, E. Danya Perry, and Joshua Perry argue here in the Washington post that he should vigorously do so with witnesses such as Eastman and former DOJ Civil Division Chief Jeffrey Clark. But a Fifth Amendment assertion by either man is a no-brainer. All Burnham has to do is point to the public record, as he amply does in his letter. Almost any question after name, address, age, and current occupation could furnish a link in a potentially incriminatory chain. The Committee also demanded from Eastman a broad array of documents, and Burnham has invoked the Fifth Amendment "Act of Production" Privilege, a part of the Privilege Against Self-Incrimination, with respect to these documentary demands.  Eastman arguably does not even have to provide a Privilege Log, because the very act of listing the documents might bring into play the "foregone conclusion" exception to the Act of Production Privilege. Of course, the Committee may be able demonstrate that the existence and possession of such documents by Eastman is a "foregone conclusion" based on testimony and documents it has received from other witnesses. Stay tuned. 

(wisenberg)

December 7, 2021 in Congress, Contempt, Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Investigations, Legal Ethics, Privileges | Permalink | Comments (0)