Saturday, April 13, 2013

United States v. Carona case brief

United States v. Carona case brief summary
660 F.3d 360 (9th Cir. 2011)

-Carona was elected as the Sheriff of Orange County from 1/99 until 2008, when he resigned following his indictment.
-During his initial campaign for sheriff in 1998, Carona received financial support from Donald Haidl.
-Haidl testified at trial that Carona "offered [him] the complete power of the sheriff's department for raising money and supporting him."
-After Carona took office, Haidl testified that he continued to make payments to Carona.
-Haidl became concerned that Carona was jeopardizing his position as well as Haidl's arrangement by accepting small amounts of money from other people.
-Haidl stated that he offered Carona as well as the assistant sheriff a bribe to not take bribes in the amount of $1000 paid monthly, which they both accepted. 
-A speedboat was also given to Carona in 2001 as a result of a sham transaction.
-In 2004, the federal government began an investigation. In early 2007, Haidl admitted his own criminal misconduct and signed a cooperation plea agreement with the government. Following this plea agreement, government attorneys instructed Haidl to meet with Carona and to make surreptitious recordings of their meetings.
-At this time, Carona was represented by attorney Dean Stewart, who had notified the government that he was representing Carona.
-Haidl met with Carona on July 7, 2007, and July 15, 2007, but these meetings did not provide enough evidence to satisfy the prosecutors.
-In preparation for a subsequent meeting, the government equipped Haidl with two fake "subpoena attachments" that identified certain records that Haidl was to tell Carona he had been subpoenaed to produce.
-These documents referred to cash payments Haidl provided to Carona and to the sham transaction they used to conceal the gift of the speedboat.
-Haidl and Carona met again on August 13, 2007, and in their conversation, Carona made statements that suggested both that he had received payments and gifts from Haidl and that he wanted Haidl to lie to the grand jury about these transactions.-Carona was subsequently charged with tampering with a grand jury witness in two separate counts of the indictment.
-Carona was also charged with conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud, and with three counts of mail fraud depriving the public of the right of honest services of a public official.
-Carona moved before trial to suppress his statements to Haidl because they allegedly were obtained in violation of Rule 2-100 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct.
-Rule 2-100 prohibits an attorney from "communicating directly or indirectly with a party that the attorney knows to be represented by another lawyer."
-Defendant appealed from the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where the jury acquitted him on most counts but found him guilty on one count of witness tampering in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 1512(b)(2)(A).

Did the prosecutors violate the California Rule?

HOLDING: No.  The court disagreed with defendant's conclusion that the prosecutors violated Cal. R. Prof. Conduct 2-100.

-There were no direct communications between the prosecutors and defendant.
-The indirect communications did not resemble an interrogation.
-Nor did the prosecutors' use of fake subpoena attachments make their informant the alter ego of the prosecutor.
-The court affirmed the district court's decision not to suppress evidence obtained through the use of the fake subpoena attachments. -The court noted that defendant's state of mind appeared to have involved both the intent to "influence" a witness's testimony and the intent for the witness to "withhold" testimony, based on the dictionary definitions of these words.
-Defendant intended to "modify" or "affect" the testimony by encouraging the witness to testify that no bribes occurred, as well as to "omit" testimony regarding the bribes.
-Accordingly, the court agreed with the district court's conclusion that defendant violated 18 U.S.C.S. § 1512(b)(2)(A) by attempting to persuade the witness to withhold testimony about particular topics in the course of giving false testimony.

OUTCOME: The court affirmed the judgment.

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