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United States v. Maldonado

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 21, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JIMMY MALDONADO and MAYRA MALDONADO, Defendants.

          ORDER RE PROPOSED (DISPUTED) JURY INSTRUCTIONS (ECF NOS. 40, 45)

          Lawrence J. O'Neill UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Court has received and reviewed the Government's proposed (disputed) jury instruction, ECF No. 40, and Defendants' objection thereto, ECF No. 47, as well as Defendants' proposed (disputed) jury instructions, ECF. No. 45, and the Government's objections thereto, ECF No. 46. For the reasons set forth below, the Government's request to include the proposed jury instruction regarding co-schemer liability is GRANTED. Defendants' request to include the three proposed jury instructions is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. GOVERNMENT'S PROPOSED JURY INSTRUCTION

         The Government proposes that the Court include an instruction regarding co-schemer liability. The proposed instruction reads in full:

Each member of a scheme to defraud is responsible for the actions of other co-schemers performed during the course of and in furtherance of the scheme.
Before you may consider the statements or the acts of a co-schemer, you must first determine whether the acts or statements were made during the exercise of and in furtherance of the unlawful scheme.
If you have decided that the defendant was a member of a scheme to defraud and had the intent to defraud, that defendant is responsible for what the other co-schemers said or did to carry out the scheme even if the defendant did not know what they said or did.
For the defendant to be found guilty of an offense allegedly committed by a co-schemer as part of the scheme, the offense must be one which would reasonably have been foreseen to be a necessary and natural consequence of the scheme to defraud.

Gov't's Proposed (Disputed) Instruction No. 1, ECF No. 40.

         Defendants do not object to the inclusion of this instruction per se, but argue that it may not be relevant and argue that the “life of the scheme” should only include those acts and dates alleged in the Indictment. ECF No. 47 at 2-3.

         In United States v. Stapleton, the court upheld a nearly identical co-schemer liability instruction in a case involving multiple defendants accused of wire fraud. 293 F.3d 1111, 1115-18 (9th Cir. 2000); see also United States v. Anekwu, 695 F.3d 967, 986-87 & n.4 (9th Cir. 2012) (approving a similar instruction as an accurate statement of the law). Under federal fraud statutes, a defendant is liable for acts committed by a co-schemer in furtherance of the scheme to defraud while the defendant is a knowing participant in the fraud. 293 F.3d at 1118 (“[t]he instructions limited vicarious liability to acts of co-schemers during the life of the scheme and acts that were reasonably foreseeable as a necessary and natural consequence of the fraudulent scheme.”).

         Although the instruction may not be necessary depending on Defendants' theory of the case, the Court agrees with the Government that a co-schemer liability instruction may be appropriate if one or both defendants disclaim responsibility for preparing or submitting the claims and the United States presents evidence that the claims were submitted in furtherance of a scheme during the time that both defendants were participating in the scheme. See Stapleton, 293 F.3d at 1117-18. As to Defendants' concern about the time frame, the instruction sufficiently limits the time frame to the “life of the scheme” as written. See Id. Therefore, the Court GRANTS the Government's request to include the proposed instruction regarding co-schemer liability, subject to a later determination of whether it is relevant in light of the testimony elicited at trial.

         II. DEFENDANTS' PROPOSED JURY INSTRUCTIONS

         A. Proposed Instruction No. 1: Character Evidence - ...


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