Monday, August 17, 2020

Eighth Circuit Holds that Marinello Pending Proceeding Nexus in § 7212(a) Does Not Apply to Defraud / Klein Conspiracy (8/17/20)

In United States v. Flynn, 969 F.3d 873 (8th Cir. 2020), here, the Court opens as follows:

Scott Phillip Flynn pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing a false tax return. See 18 U.S.C. § 371; 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1). He tried to withdraw his plea before sentencing, but the district court 1  denied his motion and sentenced him to 87 months in prison—60 months for the conspiracy charge and 27 months for the false return—and ordered him to pay roughly $5.4 million in restitution. Flynn appeals, arguing that he should have been allowed to withdraw his guilty plea, his conspiracy conviction is void for vagueness, the restitution order was procedurally improper and clearly erroneous, and the district court wrongly applied an organizer or leader enhancement when it calculated his sentence. We find no error and affirm. 

The issue in the case that I think is interesting is the argument that the defraud / Klein conspiracy charge (18 USC 371) should have the same pending proceeding nexus element for tax obstruction, § 7212(a).  See Marinello v. United States, 584 U.S. ___, 138 S. Ct. 1101 (2018).  I have written on this issue before.  Basically, the issue is whether, although the defraud / Klein conspiracy statute and the tax obstruction statute are differently worded, because the interpretation of the defraud / Klein conspiracy parallels the tax obstruction statute the elements should be the same.  See What Are the Implications for Marinello on the Defraud / Klein Conspiracy? (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 3/24/18), here.  I have posted subsequent blog entries on that issue as courts have addressed the claim.  The gravamen of the case authority to date is that the tax obstruction pending proceeding nexus element does not apply to the defraud / Klein conspiracy.  The Flynn case so holds.

Flynn made the Marinello argument in the context of attempting to withdraw his guilty plea (see Slip Op. 5-6) and the argument that allegedly missing element made charge void for vagueness (see Slip Op. 8 n. 4).  The Court rejected both arguments.

The briefing in the case is quite good, so I offer here a zip file with the briefs and other submissions relevant to the Marinello issue.

One point, I omitted in my earlier discussion of the issue is the following from my most recent (now discontinued) Federal Tax Crimes Book (p. 123 n. 231, here):

In a prior version of the CTM, DOJ Tax asserted that tax obstruction may be charged where the Klein conspiracy is “unavailable due to insufficient evidence of conspiracy.”  CTM 17.02 (2001 ed.).  The 2008 version of the general subject is in § 17.00 and refers to Directive 129 which superseded Directive 77. The language quoted in the text from the 2001 version incorporating Directive 77 is omitted from the superseding Directive 129. I don't think that omission is a concession of the point, however.

The point is that, at least at one time, DOJ felt that the two crimes substantially overlapped with the critical difference being that the defraud / Klein conspiracy required more than one actor / conspirator.

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