Sunday, December 22, 2013

United States v. Tran Trong Cuong case brief

United States v. Tran Trong Cuong case brief summary
18 F.3d 1132 (4th Cir. 1994)

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia convicted defendant for knowingly and willfully distributing and dispensing by prescription various quantities of Schedule II through V controlled substances outside the usual course of medical practice and for other than legitimate medical purposes under 21 U.S.C.S. § 841(a). Defendant appealed his convictions, his sentence, and a forfeiture order that was entered against him.

Defendant, a physician registered as a practitioner with the Drug Enforcement Administration, appealed his convictions relating to illegally dispensing controlled substances by description.


  • The court found that the district court erroneously admitted reputation evidence not admissible under Fed. R. Evid. 404(a), because defendant had not placed his character or reputation in evidence. 
  • The district court also did not give a curative instruction, which clearly prejudiced defendant's right to a fair trial. 
  • Thus, his convictions had to be reversed.
  • The court found further that the evidence was sufficient to prove the essential elements of several of the charges. 
  • However, regarding those counts where patients did not testify, the government did not carry its burden of proving defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and defendant could not be retried on these counts on remand. 
  • It was error to allow the government's expert to bolster his opinion evidence by testifying that his conclusions were essentially the same as those of another physician, who did not testify. 
  • The court found that this was unfair to defendant as it denied his fundamental right to cross-examination.

The court reversed all the convictions, set the sentences and the order of forfeiture aside, and remanded for a new trial. There was insufficient evidence to convict the defendant on a number of counts and the court ordered that he was not to be tried again on those counts, nor on the counts for which he was acquitted.

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