Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Conviction for Making False Statements Affirmed

U.S. v. Schulte, 2014 WL 211833 (1/21/14) (Col.) (Published) - Mr. Schulte was convicted of making a false statement to an FDA agent in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 1001(a). The jury had five statements to choose from, but the jury just issued a generic verdict. Plain error review applied to Mr. Schukte's claim that 2 of the five statements relied on a legally deficient theory because before the district court he only challenged the factual sufficiency of the evidence. There's a big difference between the two challenges. The conviction would stand if there was evidentiary factual support with respect to any of the statements. But if a conviction on any of the statements was legally deficient then the conviction would be overturned because juries aren't expected to be able to tell when a charge is legally deficient. The questions leading to the 2 statements were not fundamentally ambiguous given the context. The questions could be mutually understood by the questioner and the answerer. All this based on the agent's testimony and his notes, not a recording. The government presented sufficient evidence to negate Mr. Schulte's alleged understanding of an "arguably ambiguous" question. There was plenty of evidence contradicting Mr. Schulte's faulty memory claims. None of Mr. Schulte's subsequent corrections to his statement included an admission that would actually correct the falsity of the original statement. Mr. Shulte's statement was material because it was capable of misdirecting the focus of the FDA investigation from a company policy [the company was run by Mr. Schulte] to unknown activities by rogue employees. It didn't matter that his false statement didn't actually influence the FDA.