Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Woodard: Affirming Conviction for Conspiracy to Deprive City of Honest Services

In U.S. v. Woodard, No. 04-12056 (Aug. 8, 2006), the Court affirmed mail fraud convictions.
The indictment charged the defendant with a single conspiracy with two unlawful objects: using the mails to defraud a city and its citizens (1) of money, and (2) of one defendant’s honest services. The jury instruction, however, instructed the jury that it could convict the defendants if it found one, not necessarily both of the objects, though it had to agree unanimously on this object. Rejecting the argument that the instruction in the disjunctive was error, citing its precedent the Court noted that proof as to only one of the means to accomplish a conspiracy suffices.
The Court also rejected the argument that the Pinkerton jury instruction, which provides that a defendant may be convicted of substantive offense based on the conduct of co-conspirators, effectively removed the intent element from the substantive mail fraud counts. Rejecting this argument, and reviewing the issue for "plain error," the Court found that the indictment’s description of the substantive counts did not make the jury’s finding "plainly insufficient."
Again reviewing for plain error, the Court rejected the argument that the jury should have been instructed on multiple conspiracies. The Court found that the evidence established a single conspiracy.
Finally, the Court rejected a defendant’s argument that his misuse of his public office was not unlawful, finding that he used his official position for personal financial gain, and concealed these transactions. The Court also rejected the co-conspirator’s argument that, as someone not employed by the city, she could not have deprived it of her "honest services." Private citizens, acting in conjunction with public officials, can violate the law.
Turning to sentencing, the Court rejected challenges to the loss amount calculation and the restitution ordered. The Court found that "every dollar" a defendant took deprived the City of his honest services and therefore should count as loss amount. The Court also found no error in ordering restitution to the City, instead of the individual citizen-victims, noting that the City was responsible ultimately for reimbursing the victims.