United States v. Yi

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 01-02-2013
  • Case #: 11-50234
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Goodwin for the Court; Circuit Judge O’Scannlain and District Judge Zouhary
  • Full Text Opinion

A “deliberate ignorance” instruction is appropriate where the evidence establishes “(1) a subjective belief that there is a high probability a fact exists; and (2) deliberate actions taken to avoid learning the truth.”

Charles Yi was convicted and sentenced for conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act. Yi was the CEO of Millennium Pacific Icon Group. Millennium purchased Forest Glen complex, and certain ceilings of the building contained asbestos. Instead of removing the asbestos, Yi ordered that the ceiling be scraped and refinished. On appeal, the Court considered whether the district court erred in giving a "deliberate ignorance" jury instruction, in applying a sentence enhancement for an offense resulting in substantial likelihood of death or serious injury, and in applying a sentence enhancement based on Yi’s role as an organizer or leader. First, the Court determined that the district court did not err in giving a deliberate ignorance jury instruction, because (1) there was testimony that Yi was aware of a high probability that the Forest Glen ceiling contained asbestos, and (2) Yi deliberately decided not to read the reports and, therefore, avoided learning the truth. Second, the Court held that the sentence enhancement applied was not clear error, because the crew’s on-site conduct and the potential harm from inhaling asbestos created a substantial likelihood of death or serious bodily injury. Finally, the district court did not err in applying the enhancement for Yi’s role as an organizer or leader, because Yi had the ultimate approval power for any part of the project, thus making him the organizer or leader of it. AFFIRMED.

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