March 26, 2012 4th Circuit published opinions

United States v Jefferson

Defendant used his membership in the US House of representatives to obtain payments for himself and his family in exchange for promoting the interests of the paying entities’ in Africa and with the US Army. He was convicted of 11 counts of bribery, honest services fraud and racketeering. On appeal, he challenged the jury instruction on “official act” arguing that term should be limited to legislative acts such as voting. He also argued his fraud convictions must be overturned under a narrower reading of the statute by the Supreme Court. He finally challenged venue on one of his convictions. The panel agreed that the count based on a phone call from Africa to Kentucky should not have been tried in Virginia, it rejected his other challenges. Specifically, it held the “official acts” instruction which included customary acts was consistent with Supreme Court case authority and that any error in allowing the now rejected hidden conflict theory was harmless as the jury also was instructed on bribery theory and convicted defendant of substantive bribery counts.

Mayfield v NASCAR

Plaintiff tested positive in a random drug test for methamphetamine. He sued for defamation, breach of contract and unfair business practices. The district court dismissed on the pleadings under liability waiver and failure to state a claim. The panel affirmed the dismissal of the contract and unfair practices claims under the liability waiver provision and the defamation claim for failure to state a claim based on the conclusory nature of the actual malice allegations.

T-Mobile Northeast, LLC v. Newport News, Virginia

T-Mobile applied to build a tower on the grounds of an elementary school. The planning department, zoning board and police department all approved the application. At a hearing on the application, six spoke in favor and three against. Some of the opposition was based on health concerns. The City Council voted 4-3 to deny the application. The district court ordered the city to grant the application and the panel affirmed. It held the evidence at the hearing was insufficient to sustain the decision to deny. It also held health concerns in this context cannot be considered.

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