Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, May 14, 2007

Johnson: Obstruction convictions and enhancement affirmed

In U.S. v. Johnson, No. 06-13564 (May 11, 2007), the Court affirmed obstruction of justice convictions of a defendant who lied about his communications with a Marathon, Florida landowner about plans to illegally fill the water on his property.
The Court rejected Johnson’s argument that the evidence was insufficient to convict since the government was still able to convict the landowner of environmental violations. The Court noted that the statutes criminalize the interference with the administration of justice, and the tendency to influence the government in its decisionmaking process.
The Court also rejected Johnson’s challenge to his sentence enhancement, under USSG § 2J1.3(b)(2), for perjury which resulted in "substantial interference with the administration of justice." The government’s claim was not that the costs of investigating Johnson’s conduct were high, but that the costs of investigating the landowner’s offense were greater as a result of Johnson’s obstruction. The Court noted that the government was forced to expend additional resources to contact other witnesses. The Court concluded that the sentencing court’s finding was not "clearly erroneous."
Finally, the Court rejected a "reasonableness" challenge to Johnson’s 24-month sentence. This sentence, at the low end of the guideline range, was not unreasonable.