United States v. Villalobos

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 04-11-2014
  • Case #: 12-50300
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge M. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judges W. Fletcher and Watford
  • Full Text Opinion

A district court's instruction that all threats to testify are produce information are "wrongful" is erroneous if they were made with the intend to induce or take advantage of fear, however when the error is harmless it is overlooked.

Rabbi Abatai Yemeni (“Rabbi Yemeni”) was being investigated by the government because "in his efforts help Israeli nationals obtain work visas to come to the United States Rabbi Yemeni gave the pretext that they would be working at his religious center.” However, they were not working there. Orit Anjel (“Orit”) was one of these Israeli nations. In the scheme, she was given wages, but never worked at the religious center. Her husband, Avraham Anjel (“Avi”) then would deposit the wages his wife received in to a bank account for Rabbi Yemen. In 2009 Orit was fired. Avi sought out Alfred Villalobos, a lawyer, to recover the payments he had made to Rabbi Yemeni. After speaking with Avi, Villalobos approached Rabbi Yemeni and his lawyer, Benjamin Gluck (“Gluck”), demanding payment. Gluck, with the help of the US government, then recorded future conversations with Villalobos as well as payments to Villalobos. Villalobos was then charged with attempted extortion. On appeal, Villalobos contended that the district court “erred when it instructed the jury that all threats to testify or provide information are ‘wrongful’ under the Hobbs Act.” Villalobos also argued that the district court erred when precluding him from presenting a claim of right defense. The panel held that the jury instructions were erroneous if they were made with the intent to induce or take advantage of fear, however here they were harmless. The panel also held it was not error to not provide a claim of right instruction because a claim of right defense would do nothing to shield Villalobos from conviction of attempted extortion. AFFIRMED

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