Seventh Circuit Week in Review, Part II: Illinois Corruption, Prior Acts Evidence, 911 Calls, and 30 Rock

In my earlier “Week in Review” post, I discussed the Seventh Circuit’s new sentencing decisions.  This post rounds out my review of the Seventh Circuit’s busy week.

In United States v. Turner (No. 07-1062), a jury convicted the defendant of wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI.  Turner was a supervisor in the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.  In that position, he assisted three janitors in a scheme to obtain compensation for work they did not perform.  (Insert your favorite joke about corruption in Illinois state government here.)  On appeal, Turner argued there was no evidence to establish that the fraud was committed by use of the wires.  However, the Seventh Circuit (per Judge Sykes) held it was enough that the janitors’ fraudulently inflated paychecks were direct-deposited in their accounts.  Turner also argued that, since he himself derived no benefit from the fraud, the evidence was insufficient to convict him of “honest services” fraud.  However, the court indicated that the benefit received by the janitors would suffice, and, in any event, “honest services” was only one of two alternative wire fraud theories submitted to the jury.  Finally, Turner argued that the evidence was insufficient to support the false statements conviction because, although he lied to FBI investigators, the investigators were not fooled by what he said.  Again, the court disagreed:

A false statement neen not actually influence the agents to whom it is made in order to satisfy the materiality requirement for this offense; it need only have the possibility of influencing a reasonable agent under normal circumstances.

Turner’s convictions were thus affirmed in all respects.

Continue ReadingSeventh Circuit Week in Review, Part II: Illinois Corruption, Prior Acts Evidence, 911 Calls, and 30 Rock

Seventh Circuit Week in Review, Part I: Sentencing Issues

The Seventh Circuit had a busy week, with seven new opinions in criminal cases.  In this post, I will discuss just the three cases that focused on sentencing issues; a later post will cover the other cases.

In United States v. Alldredge (No. 08-2076), the court considered the reach of §2B5.1(b)(5) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which increases sentence length in counterfeiting cases if “any part of the offense was committed outside the United States.”  In return for forging forty checks for a Nigerian, Alldredge received $3,000 in fake currency from Canada.  She had not expected to receive fake currency, but decided to spend it anyway, resulting in her conviction for distributing counterfeit currency.  The district court increased her sentence based on the international dimension of the case.  However, as the Seventh Circuit (per Chief Judge Easterbrook) pointed out, none of Alldredge’s conduct occurred outside the United States, and the Guidelines generally make a defendant responsible only for the foreseeable conduct of others.  She did not anticipate that her international connections would provide her with counterfeit currency; indeed, she was in a sense a victim of their crime.  Bearing in mind that Alldredge was only convicted of distributing counterfeit currency (and not check forgery), no part of her offense was committed outside the United States, entitling her to a remand and resentencing.

Continue ReadingSeventh Circuit Week in Review, Part I: Sentencing Issues

Seventh Circuit Week in Review: Limiting the Reach of the Adam Walsh Act (a Little)

The Seventh Circuit had two new opinions in criminal cases this week.  The first, United States v. Sims (No. 07-3798), presented a routine Fourth Amendment issue, with the court upholding a challenged search warrant over the defendant’s objection that police officers failed to disclose important information when they obtained the warrant.

The more notable case of the two was United States v. Dixon (No. 08-1438), which considered the sex offender registration provisions of the Adam Walsh Act.  Passed in 2006, the Walsh Act did not invent sex offender registration (which was first done at the state level), but it did substantially increase federal regulation in the area.  Among the most controversial (and heavily litigated) features of the Walsh Act has been its creation of a new federal crime for sex offenders who cross state lines and fail to register in the new state.  Concerns focus on the retroactive reach of the new law, with some cases indicating that offenders can be punished on the basis of interstate travel that occurred prior to the statute’s enactment.

In Dixon, the Seventh Circuit took its turn grappling with the retroactivity issues.

Continue ReadingSeventh Circuit Week in Review: Limiting the Reach of the Adam Walsh Act (a Little)