Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, February 01, 2013

Fordham:Skilling Not basis for invaliding bribe scheme

In Fordham v. U.S., No. 12-10299 (Jan. 31, 2013), the Court rejected a § 2255 challenge to convictions for defrauding a mental health center.

The defendants argued that their convictions should be vacated in light of Skilling v. U.S., 130 S.Ct. 2896 (2010), which limited “honest-services fraud” under 18 U.S.C. § 1346 to cases involving bribes and kickback schemes and not mere undisclosed self-dealing, or conflicts of interest.

The Court found that the defendants defaulted these claims by failing to raise them in the district court or on direct appeal of their convictions. The Court rejected the argument that the default could be cured because of “actual prejudice.” The Court found that the sporadic references at trial to “honest services,” and a single jury instruction on this now invalid theory, did not suffice to show prejudice. The record demonstrated that the jury was presented with evidence that they participated in a scheme involving the payment of bribes.

For the same reason, the Court rejected the argument that the defendants were “actually innocent.”