Monday, April 07, 2014

U.S. v. French (9th Cir. - April 7, 2014)

I certainly understand Judge Noonan's point.  It's indeed strange to let a husband essentially act as his wife's "lawyer" when the former's not an attorney.  So when the trial court suggested that the husband ask his wife questions on direct -- after the two had decided to represent themselves -- rather than having the wife do so herself, yeah, that's a little strange, and potentially improper.

At the same time, I totally understand Judge Nguyen's point as well.  It's not like the procedure actually had an effect on the trial.  Since the husband's questions (and his defense) was pretty much identical to that of his wife's.  At least at trial.  So it's unclear how this process really constitutes reversible error.

Ultimately, Judge Nguyen gets Judge Fisher's vote.  So the wife doesn't get a reversal of all her convictions.

Which I'm pretty much fine with.  The wife (alongside her husband) defrauded people on eBay of $1.6 million by deliberately "selling" high-end appliances that they had no intent or ability to deliver, then lied to customers repeatedly -- as well as setting up a system where customers wouldn't actually be buying through eBay (and hence protected).  The district court departed downward substantially and sentenced the wife to only two years in prison.  Whereas I might well have found her much, much more culpable.

Beware buying high-end stuff online.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.