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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides Indiana case today

In U.S. v. Griggs, et al (ND Ind., Judge Sharp), a six-page opinion, Judge Posner writes:

The defendants were charged with a variety of federal crimes (wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering, and tax evasion and failure to file tax returns) committed in furtherance of a typical Ponzi scheme, in which investors in the defendants’ enterprises were made false promises of exorbitant profits and lost more than $5 million. The defendants, all but Moore, were tried together to a jury, and convicted; Moore was tried separately, also to a jury, and was also convicted. The defendants received sentences ranging from 30 months for Shroyer to 235 months for Rodger Griggs, the ringleader.

All five defendants challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to convict them. In the case of Rodger Griggs, the challenge is frivolous and so requires no discussion. In the case of the other defendants the challenge borders on the frivolous and warrants only a brief discussion. As is typical in fraud cases, most of the participants claimed not to have known that they were participating in a fraudulent scheme. * * * But avoidance behavior is itself evidence of guilty knowledge—the classic “ostrich” behavior that elicits an ostrich instruction, which the judge gave. United States v. Strickland, 935 F.2d 822, 826-28 (7th Cir. 1991) [remaining cites omitted]

The only other issue that requires discussion concerns omissions in the instructions given to the jury in Moore’s trial. * * * There was never doubt that the conspiracy had involved the use of interstate communications by wire, which may be why the lawyers and the district judge didn’t notice the omission from the instructions.

Nor for that matter was there doubt that the conspirators had committed numerous overt acts; so even if the judge should have instructed the jury that it had to agree unanimously about which overt act or acts had been committed, the error would have been harmless. AFFIRMED.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 24, 2009 12:17 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions