Sunday, July 08, 2007

Anderson Trial - What does the Jury Have to Decide?

I've been attending this trial as a member of the public. I'm not a lawyer. What I'm going to try to do here is look at the jury instructions - as best as I could take notes on them as they were being read - and see what questions and problems I would have in reaching a decision as the jury is required to do. The jury has the advantage of having a copy of the written instructions, each other to help fill in what any individual missed, all the exhibits (except they don't have the CD's of the taped conversations, though they can ask to hear specific parts) and they can send a note to the judge to get answers to their questions. Any attorneys reading this are invited to jump in and make any necessary corrections.

I do have a Summary of Charges from one of the court documents available on line.
Anderson is charged in the Indictment with the following offenses:

The jury instructions are a little sketchier - they are from my notes. Marsh highlighted some of the points in his closing argument and then the judge went through them quickly at the end. But at least this will give you a better idea of what the jury has to determine.

Count 1 - Conspiracy - Violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371
The Instructions to the jury were (again as best as I can pull out of my notes - anyone who can correct anything here, please jump in and do so):
  1. Beginning about July 2004 there has to be an agreement to commit at least one crime, at least one covert act.
  2. The have to have knowledge of the agreement and that it is unlawful.
Marsh said in his closing that it is not like an agreement to buy a car. There doesn't have to be a written agreement, it can be something that is understood by the parties. It is not necessary that they discuss every detail.

As I write this, I have questions about which of the things discussed in the trial would fit here, and so if I'm having trouble, perhaps the jury will too. Though the jury has the written jury instructions and that may make figuring this out easier.
Does setting up the electronic publishing company to conceal the payments constitute a crime?
Do the various functions Anderson did for Prewitt - writing the letter to Antrim on his own House of Representatives stationery, getting other legislators to sign a letter about the Certificate of Need, lobbying Commissioner Gilbertson, etc. - constitute crimes because he was being covertly paid to do these things by Prewitt?
If I were on the jury I guess I'd want to get some instructions on this from the judge.
The next problem will be to determine if Anderson knew they were illegal. The defense attorney argued throughout that what he did was no different from what other legislators who got campaign contributions did. What is the difference he asked again and again. And the Prosecutors said the difference was that he was being paid directly, not through a campaign contribution, to do the unlawful legislative acts. I'm guessing that some of the alleged crimes will serve double duty for different counts. And as I write this, I'm thinking of the power of the jury. They are the ones who can change an alleged crime into a crime.

Counts 2 & 7- Interference with Commerce by Extortion Induced Under Color of Official Right - Violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) and § 2
In each case (counts 2 and 7) according to the jury instructions, they have to prove
  1. The person is a public official
  2. He got money he was not entitled to
  3. He took an official act
  4. There was interstate commerce
#1 is clear. Anderson was an elected official, a state representative.
#2 In the closing, Marsh said this was for the $24,000 Anderson was paid by Prewitt through Bobrick for Count 2. Count 7 was for the extra $2000 check that Prewitt gave directly to Anderson when Anderson complained that Bobrick was taking half the money. We saw copies of the checks from Prewitt and the checks from Bobrick to Anderson, signed and cashed by Anderson. And also a copy of the check directly from Prewitt to Anderson. I don't recall that anyone denied that Anderson got the money, though Stockler argued that Bobrick was taking half of the money himself. The Prosecutors later came up with checks that Bobrick wrote from his own account that got Anderson to the full $24,000. So, the question the jury has to wrestle with here is whether he was entitled to this money. Was he getting paid to work on the website or for his legislative duties? The first draft of the website made it onto the web. But there was no evidence that Anderson wrote any articles or that any ads were solicited. And it was pretty clear there never was a functioning website newsletter business. So, he wasn't being paid for the website. So, was he being paid for doing legislative acts? The jury will have to decide.
#3 Did he take an official act? The jury was presented with a number of situations where Anderson did things that Prewitt asked him to do. He got appointed to the Corrections and HSS committees as well as the budget subcommittees that dealt with the issues Cornell was concerned with. He lobbied fellow legislators including Lesil McGuire. He lobbied two different commissioners to make changes in the Certificate of Need process and in the budget as asked to do by Prewitt. And he went to a public hearing, as a legislator, not a private citizen to argue on behalf of Cornell. So I think the jury has a lot of choices here.
#4 Marsh, as he talked about the jury instructions, pointed out that Cornell was a company based in Houston, Texas, which made this an interstate commerce issue. But, the money wasn't coming from Cornell, it was coming from the FBI. Does the FBI count as commerce? Does it matter that the money isn't coming from Cornell? Or since Prewitt was being paid by Cornell, it counts as interstate commerce? I guess they have to ask the judge on that.

Count 3 - Bribery Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds - Violation of 18 U.S.C. §666(a)(1)(B) and § 2
The jury instructions for count 3 include:
  1. Was there an elected official in Alaska?
  2. In the time period from 2004 to March 2005 did he accept/receive something of value?
  3. Was the something of value over $5000?
  4. Did the Alaska program receive over $10,000 in federal funding?
Again, #1 is easy. Anderson was an elected official in Alaska. No dispute here.
#2 - Marsh pointed to the $24,000 he received.
#3 - During the trial I didn't understand the relevance of asking if the payment was over $5000 and if the State program received more than $10,000 in federal grants and aid. I'd missed the opening of the trial and so these questions only began to have meaning when I heard this part of the jury instructions. The $24,000 is over $5000, so that would fit. But if the jury wants to split hairs, they may argue that the individual checks were under $5000. Though I'd have to go back through my notes to be sure there wasn't one payment that was over $5000. The jury has the exhibits, they can check.
#4 - Both Commissioners Gilbertson and Antrim assured the Prosecutor that the state received significantly more than $10,000 in federal funding.

Counts 4 - 6 Money Laundering - Violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1) and § 2

I'm least certain about the jury instructions for these counts. As best as I can tell they have to use the criteria from either the first or second bullet:
  • Conduct a financial transaction
    1. There is a financial transaction using the proceeds of the bribe in count 2
    2. The person knows it (not sure what they know - I guess he knows the money source is being concealed)
    3. The person acted with intent of carrying out the unlawful act in count 2
The Prosecutor said that the financial transaction here was simply cashing the check - and we saw copies of at least three checks (one for each count) that Anderson cashed. Perhaps the fourth check - the one from Prewitt directly - doesn't count here because it wasn't laundered. #2 then would be that the person knows the money is isn't what it appears to be. And I guess #3 is related to the intent to commit the official act.

  • Laundering the Money
    1. There was a transaction of the proceeds of the bribe in count 2.
    2. The person knows that source of the money is being concealed
    3. There is a transaction to conceal or disguise the source of the money
#s 1 and 2 would be the same as above. #3 would be the setting up of the sham company to conceal that the money was coming from Cornell (again I should point out that in actuality Cornell knew nothing about this because Prewitt was using FBI money and did not tell Cornell, though I wonder how many people, at the end of this, will be under the impression that Cornell was trying to bribe Anderson.)

As I understand this, the jury has to find all three of the first bullet points or all three of the second bullet points to be true to find him guilty of these charges. I think it generally means that you are hiding the source of illegal proceeds. If I were on the jury, I'd have to have more clarification of this.

Count 7 - Interference with Commerce by Extortion Induced Under Color of Official Right - Violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) and § 2

This was covered with count 2.

Friday afternoon, I was pretty sure the jury wouldn't be able to make a decision that day because it would take them the rest of the afternoon to decipher the jury instructions and how they relate specifically to the case. After going through this exercise myself, I'm guessing that with 12 people having to understand and agree on what these mean, it might be a while before a verdict comes in. After all once they understand what they have to decide, then they have to decide and agree on all of the counts.

Again, any attorneys out there who can correct and/or clarify, please jump in and leave a comment.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.