Monday, March 20th, 2006

Quattrone Conviction Vacated, and Case Remanded for Retrial before a Different Judge

United States v. Frank Quattrone, Docket No. 04-5007 (2d Cir. March 20, 2006) (Wesley, Hall, Scullin (by designation)): We have not yet had time to read the decision and will do a full summary later. Even a quick look, though, confirms a big (though not total) victory for the defense: The Circuit (1) vacates Quattrone’s conviction because of errors in the district court’s charge to the jury (the charge failed to tell the jury that it had to determine that Quattrone knew that the documents he was asking to be destroyed were the same ones sought by the Government, thus “remov[ing] the defendant’s specific knowledge of the investigatory proceedings and the subpoenas / document requests from the obstruction equation” and “leaving a bare-bones strict liability case”) ; (2) rejects Quattrone’s claim that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the verdict; and (3) remands the case to a different judge (i.e., someone other than Judge Owen) for retrial “in the interests of justice.” More later . . . .

Update: Having now read the decision, this Blog will rely on the commentary provided by the White Collar Crim Prof Blog (click here), which ably summarizes the relevant facts and legal conclusions. I add only my personal observation that (1) if the Circuit’s factual recitation of the trial evidence is accurate, its conclusion that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the verdict is correct, given the low threshold for sustaining jury verdicts against sufficiency challenges (there is quite a bit of smoke, and whether there’s a fire is for the jury to determine); (2) even if a crime was committed, it was a tiny one — one hardly worth the expense and effort of another trial; and (3) how could the learned district judge — and the experienced Government lawyers — have so badly misunderstood a simple issue regarding mens rea?

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