Monday, October 26, 2009

Judge Cooke affirmed for dismissing count against Ben Kuehne

Great news! Here's the opinion by Judge Barkett.

She starts off discussing the plain language:

Section 1957(a) prohibits knowingly engaging or attempting to engage “in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property that is of a value greater than $10,000 and is derived from specified unlawful activity.” 18 U.S.C. § 1957(a). However, the statute exempts “any transaction necessary to preserve a person’s right to representation as guaranteed by the sixth amendment to the Constitution.” 18 U.S.C. § 1957(f)(1). Thus, the plain meaning of the exemption set forth in § 1957(f)(1), when considered in its context, is that transactions involving criminally derived proceeds are exempt from the prohibitions of § 1957(a) when they are for the purpose of securing legal representation to which an accused is entitled under
the Sixth Amendment. Accordingly, the exemption is limited to attorneys’ fees paid for representation guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment in a criminal proceeding and does not extend to attorneys’ fees paid for other purposes.

Barkett then makes short work of the government's argument:

The Government argues that the exemption in § 1957(f)(1) has been “nullified” or “vitiated” because, shortly after the provision was enacted, the Supreme Court held in Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered v. United States, 491 U.S. 617, 626 (1989) that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel does not protect the right of a criminal defendant to use criminally derived proceeds for legal fees. However, Caplin & Drysdale, which addresses a different statute governing the civil forfeiture of criminally derived proceeds, has no bearing on § 1957(f)(1) and indeed supports the conclusion that such proceeds have been statutorily exempted
from criminal penalties. The Government has pointed to no principle of statutory construction—nor indeed to any legal principle—that supports the conclusion that
a statutory provision may be “nullified” by a Supreme Court decision on a completely different issue, absent any indication that Congress intended such a result.

As Kuehne's legal team has been saying from the start, the government's interpretation yields an absurd result:

As the Government concedes, accepting its interpretation of § 1957(f)(1) would read all meaning out of the exemption. Section 1957 criminalizes only transactions involving criminally derived proceeds. It would therefore make little sense—and would be entirely superfluous—to read § 1957(f)(1) as an exemption from criminal penalties for non-tainted proceeds spent on legal representation, as those funds can always be used for any legal purpose. We do not believe Congress intended such an absurd result, which nullifies the provision and divorces it from its statutory context, thereby violating basic canons of statutory construction.

And congrats to Judge Cooke, who was "eminently correct":

The district court was eminently correct in holding that Defendants are not subject to criminal prosecution under § 1957(a), because the plain language of § 1957(f)(1) clearly exempts criminally derived proceeds used to secure legal representation to which an accused is entitled under the Sixth Amendment.

Now let's see if the government does the right thing and dismiss the rest of the indictment against Ben...


Anonymous said...

Not just Affirmed...


South Florida Lawyers said...

Great order!

conspiracy guy said...

Anybody catch the 60 minutes piece on medicare fraud yesterday night? At 13 min and 23 sec into the piece, there is an interview with Us Attorney General Eric Holder. On his desk, in the back ground, somewhat blurred appears to be a letter head from David O Markus. Hmmmm.......