Law School Case Brief
United States v. Baroni - 909 F.3d 550 (3d Cir. 2018)
It is the exclusive province of the jury to decide what facts are proved by competent evidence, and also their province to judge the credibility of the witnesses and the weight of their testimony.
Defendants engaged in a scheme to impose crippling gridlock on the Borough of Fort Lee, New Jersey, after Fort Lee's mayor refused to endorse the 2013 reelection bid of then-Governor Chris Christie. a grand jury indicted Baroni and Kelly for their role in the scheme. They were charged with seven counts: conspiracy to obtain by fraud, knowingly convert, or intentionally misapply property of an organization receiving federal benefits, 18 U.S.C. § 371, and the substantive offense, id. § 666(a)(1)(A); conspiracy to commit wire fraud, id. § 1349, and two counts of the substantive offense, id. § 1343; and conspiracy against civil rights, id. § 241, and the substantive offense, id. § 242. Defendants were convicted.
Was there sufficient evidence to support the findings of conviction?
Yes, in part; and No, in part.
The court held that the Government presented evidence sufficient to prove defendants violated the wire fraud statute, 18 U.S.C.S. § 1343, by depriving the Port Authority of, at minimum, its money in the form of public employee labor. The Government also presented evidence sufficient to prove defendants violated 18 U.S.C.S. § 666 by fraudulently obtaining the labor of Port Authority employees in furtherance of their scheme, and that the value of that labor exceeded the statute's $5,000 threshold. The appellate court also noted that, although four circuits had found some form of constitutional right to intrastate travel, there was no robust consensus that such a right existed, let alone clarity as to its contours. The district court erred in concluding that Lutz v. City of York provided fair warning that defendants' conduct--caonspiracy to interfere with localized travel rights--was illegal under 18 U.S.C.S. §§ 241-42. Therefore, the court affirmed the convictions in part, but reversed and vacated in parand remanded the proceedings for resentencing.
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