United States v. Meredith

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 06-26-2012
  • Case #: 05-50452; 05-50457; 05-50473
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge M. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judge Kleinfeld; District Judge Marbley
  • Full Text Opinion

Evidence supporting convictions for conspiracy and fraud is sufficient where the defendant’s speech underlying the crime was “integral to [the] criminal conduct,” and therefore unprotected under the First Amendment.

Meredith, Giordano, and Bybee (collectively, “Defendants”) were convicted for “conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud, false representation of a Social Security number, passport fraud, and failure to file income tax returns.” These convictions were based on their attempts to help others dodge federal and state income taxes. Defendants appealed their convictions for mail fraud, conspiracy, false representation of a Social Security number, and passport fraud, on the basis of insufficient evidence. This was based on Defendants’ belief that their right to discuss tax evasion was protected under the First Amendment. Giordano further argued that jury instructions 50, 53, and 55 were confusing and contradictory. Finally, Giordano and Meredith appealed the district court’s findings on the amount of restitution owed. First, the Ninth Circuit reasoned that the evidence was sufficient to support all appealed charges, because the First Amendment does not protect speech that is “integral to criminal conduct.” Second, the Court found that jury instructions 50, 53, and 55 accurately represented the law because they referenced jury instruction 52, which defined the confusing terms. Finally, the Court determined that Giordano presented evidence relating to restitution that the district court did not consider in its calculations, but that Meredith lacked supporting evidence for her restitution claim. Thus, the Court held that evidence was sufficient to support conviction on all appealed counts, that the jury instructions adequately represented the law, and that the calculation of Meredith’s restitution was accurate. The Court also held that the calculation of Giordano’s restitution failed to take into account presented evidence and therefore must be reconsidered by the district court. AFFIRMED in part, VACATED and REMANDED in part.

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