Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hough: Defense counsel "opened the door" for question on character witnesses

In U.S. v. Hough, No. 14-12156 (Sept. 9, 2015), the Court affirmed convictions for making false statements to the IRS, but vacated the sentence. The Court rejected Hough’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, finding sufficient evidence that she failed to disclose her financial interest in foreign bank accounts. The Court agreed with Hough that the prosecutor asked her character witnesses a question that presumed the defendant’s guilt, and that ordinarily such questions are improper. However, defense counsel had “opened the door” for these questions when he had asked these witnesses, on direct examination, whether their opinion of Hough’s character would change based on the allegations against her. Turning to sentencing, the Court found that, for tax loss calculation purposes, the district court failed to find “foundational facts” to support its conclusion that Hough’s entities should be treated as partnerships, instead of corporations. The Court therefore remanded for resentencing.