April 26, 2013 4th Circuit published opinions

United States v 4219 University Drive, Fairfax, Virginia

The government sought forfeiture of 4219 university Drive and other property based on underlying health care fraud and money laundering. The jury found in the government’s favor and the district court entered judgment. The panel affirmed. It held that the forfeiture suit had been brought within the 5 year statute of limitations as it was based on a later discovered independent health care fraud rather than an earlier health care fraud scheme. The panel upheld several challenged evidentiary rulings holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to allow remote testimony as one witness failed to prove physical inability to travel and the other witness was the indicted doctor who should not be allowed to testify remotely and that the doctor’s statements against interest did not need to be corroborated in civil trial setting. The panel held that the claimant’s proposed jury instructions misstated the law by imposing a proportionality requirement in the money laundering claim and asked the judge to comment on the strength of the government’s case. Finally, the panel held the district court did not err when it denied a motion for judgment as the government produced evidence the doctor renovated the property in an effort to conceal the fraud proceeds.

South Carolina Department of Education v Duncan

South Carolina sought a waiver of the requirement that it maintain the level of funding for special education year on year due to a large unexpected drop in revenue. The US Department of Education denied the request in part on the basis that the proposed reductions in funding were larger than the overall reductions in state spending. Duncan refused to hold a hearing on that determination. South Carolina filed a petition for review which Duncan moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The panel held it had jurisdiction and remanded for a hearing. The panel held that the decision to withhold some, but not all, of the special education grant was a decision with respect to eligibility as it determined that certain reductions in spending were not in compliance with statutory maintenance of effort requirements. As to the hearing, the panel held that the decision to withhold funds was a decision to withhold any funds and under the relevant statute 20 USC 1416 (e)(5)(a), a hearing was required before Duncan could make a final decision as to whether to withhold funds. The panel also noted that Duncan could not withhold funds and distributing them to other states until after the hearing and final determination.

United States v Allen

Allen was convicted of crack cocaine trafficking and sentenced to a mandatory minimum 10 year sentence. The panel affirmed his conviction but remanded for a new sentencing. The panel held that evidence of the sale of 3.5 ounces of cocaine which could make 1000 crack rocks was sufficient evidence that Allen knew his cocaine would be further distributed. The panel held that the district court did not err in refusing to allow Allen to see codefendant presentencing reports as he failed to demonstrate any particularize need to see them and did not err in refusing expert testimony that witnesses with plea deals have an incentive to lie as that is within the jury’s ordinary experience and the trial court cautioned the jury to be careful in accepting testimony form witnesses with plea deals. The panel remanded for resentencing on the basis that eth United States Supreme Court held the Fair Sentencing Act applies to all sentencing after its enactment which includes Allen’s sentencing. Remand was necessary as the Act lowered the potential sentence Allen could receive.

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