Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Harsher Obstruction Guideline Applied to Criminal Contempt Conviction

U.S. v. Halladay, 2011 WL 6276000 (12/16/11) (Ut.) (Published) - The 10th acknowledges a conflict within the circuit as to whether a district court's selection of a most-analogous guideline is reviewed de novo or for clear error. The standard of review didn't matter here. The harsher obstruction-of-justice guidelines, § 2J1.2, rather than the failure-to-appear-by-material-witness guidelines, § 2J1.5, applied where the defendant was convicted of criminal contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating environmentalists' attacks on mink farms. It didn't matter that the defendant refused to testify as a matter of conscience. All that mattered was that the district court found, based on sufficient evidence, that he intended to impede prosecution. The defendant's refusal to testify over a long period and his statements about "resisting" the grand jury made his conduct more serious than just failing to appear. The 10-month sentence was substantively reasonable. His refusal to cooperate for animal rights reasons was not meaningfully different from another defendant's refusal to cooperate based on objections to paying taxes.