Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, December 04, 2020

Graham: Upholding Conviction Under Marinello for Obstructing IRS Collection Action

 In United States v. Graham, No. 18-15299 (Dec. 4, 2020) (Grant, Marcus, Julie Carnes), the Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for obstructing the IRS.

In addition to proving that the defendant knowingly and corruptly tried to obstruct or impede the administration of the tax laws, the Supreme Court’s decision in Marinello also required it to prove a nexus between the defendant’s conduct and a particular administrative proceeding.  The Court held that the IRS’s extensive collection activities qualified as such a proceeding, and there was otherwise sufficient evidence to support the conviction based on the defendant falsifying a bill of exchange to the IRS.

The Court also rejected the defendant’s evidentiary challenges.  It reviewed the exclusion of evidence for plain error because he failed to make a proffer about what the evidence would show.  First, the Court found no plain error in limiting a defense witness’ testimony because  the defendant was permitted to present his defense, and he failed to draw a connection between that defense and the limits placed on the witness.  Second,  there was no error under Rule 404(b) in admitting the defendant’s prior misdemeanor conviction for failing to file a tax return.  Third, there was no plain error in striking an answer the government’s expert gave on cross-examination because it did not affect his substantial rights.  And, finally, there was no error in excluding evidence of the defendant’s other efforts to comply with the IRS because good character evidence is inadmissible.