Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Officer's Conviction For Impeding Grand Jury Investigation Upheld

U.S. v. Ahrensfield, 2012 WL 5507235 (11/14/12) (N.M.) (Published) - The defendant police officer was charged with letting a car shop owner know about an FBI drug investigation and thus impeding a possible grand jury proceeding. The 10th holds the mid-trial disclosure of evidence did not amount to the suppression of material evidence under Brady. The late disclosure comprised transcripts of conversations between the government's key witness and the FBI. The defendant was able to cross effectively in light of the transcripts and did not explain how that cross would have been different if the transcripts had been disclosed sooner. Using a recording that was provided after trial would not have aided cross. The defendant did not show that, if he had learned information from the transcripts prior to trial and then in light of that information subpoenaed text messages between the witness's wife and the sheriff's wife to show the witness got the information about the investigation from someone else, he would have dug up helpful evidence or that the text messages even would have existed. The suppressed lab report was not material. It only showed there was no test done for crack, not that the substance involved was not crack. That it was crack was supported by an officer's testimony that it looked like crack. And, besides, there may have been a federal grand jury convened even if the substance was not crack.

It was not a violation of double jeopardy to present evidence of the defendant's lies to an FBI agent, even though a jury had acquitted him at the first trial of the charge that he had done so. In this proceeding, the government didn't have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he lied. The jury could have reasonably believed he lied and therefore had a guilty conscience. And because the evidence was admissible, the d. ct. did not abuse its discretion when it refused to instruct the jury about the previous jury's acquittal. The evidence was sufficient that it was foreseeable the defendant's conduct would interfere with an official proceeding. The jury heard testimony that an officer told the defendant about the investigation and the next day the defendant told the car shop owner about the investigation and the defendant evidenced a guilty conscience with stealthy behavior. And, based on his officer experience, the defendant would know the investigation had gotten far enough along that it might lead to a grand jury proceeding.