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In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a criminal conviction, the appellate court looks at the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and accepts as established all reasonable inferences supporting the verdict. The court reverses the conviction only if no reasonable jury could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence supporting the defendant's criminal conviction need not exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence, but simply be sufficient to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. The court can neither weigh the evidence nor assess the credibility of the witnesses. This standard is a strict one, and a jury verdict should not be overturned lightly.
In 1988, sheriff Lester Hawkey, on behalf of the Minnehaha Sheriff's Department (MSD) and the Minnehaha County Sheriff and Deputies Association (MCSDA), entered into an agreement with Wildwood Productions, a benefit concert promoter, to conduct annual benefit concerts each April. The proceeds of the annual concerts were purportedly intended to aid local youth programs. Prompted by Hawkey's representations, Wildwood's telemarketers solicited money from individuals and businesses in South Dakota and neighboring states for the purchase of tickets, donations, and/or to purchase advertising space in the concert program book. By United States mail, Wildwood sent statements or invoices to individuals and businesses who agreed to purchase tickets, advertise, or make donations. Individuals and businesses also sent their checks to either the MSD or MCSDA via the United States mail. Wildwood's contracts with the MSD and MCSDA called for the establishment of two bank accounts. One account was to hold proceeds of ticket sales and the other was to hold the proceeds of advertisement sales. Shortly after the 1991 concert, Hawkey began using the concert accounts for a variety of personal and business expenses. While making some contributions to youth programs and charities, Hawkey spent a significant portion of the benefit concert proceeds for personal items. Hawkey also made deposits of business and personal funds to the concert account to replace depleted funds.
Hawkey was charged in a forty-one count indictment for misusing funds belonging to the MSD and the MCSDA. A jury convicted Hawkey on all but two counts. On July 21, 1997, the district court sentenced Hawkey to forty-one months of imprisonment.
Was there sufficient evidence to support Hawkey’s conviction on all counts?
Re: mail fraud—The record reveals that Hawkey solicited, or caused to be solicited, funds that were intended for charitable organizations; and, while some money was in fact paid to the charitable organizations, Hawkey converted most of the money for his own personal use. The businesses and concert-goers who responded to Hawkey's solicitations did not intend to merely purchase a ticket or advertising; they intended part of their payment as a contribution to a charitable organization. Further, a reasonable jury could have found that Hawkey intentionally engaged in a scheme by which money intended and solicited for charitable purposes was diverted from its designated charitable purpose to his personal benefit through false representations. The record reflects that the concerts were designed to raise money for charitable purposes; Hawkey knowingly diverted these funds for his personal benefit; and Hawkey failed to inform Wildwood, his accountant, the contributors, and the benefactors that he removed the funds for his personal benefit. Consequently, the jury permissibly concluded that there was a scheme in which Hawkey knowingly participated.
Re: unlawful monetary transactions— a reasonable jury could have found that Hawkey knowingly engaged in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property that was of a value greater than $ 10,000 and was derived from specified unlawful activity.
Re: misappropriating local government property— As sheriff, Hawkey was an agent of Minnehaha County. The record indicates that since October 1977, Hawkey owned and operated a for-profit inmate food service business. During 1991 and 1992, Hawkey purchased federal surplus food with checks drawn on the benefit concert accounts and sold it to the Minnehaha County Jail for his personal profit. In January and September 1992, Hawkey purchased a 1991 Chevrolet Caprice and a 1990 Chevrolet Lumina van for his personal use with at least $ 27,450 of misappropriated county funds. Between January 1992 and May 1994, Hawkey charged prisoners in the custody of the Minnehaha County Sheriff's Department a fee for urinalysis testing, illegally keeping the fees for his personal use. Hawkey does not contest that Minnehaha County received in excess of $ 10,000 in any relevant year from a qualified federal program. Under these facts, a reasonable jury could have found Hawkey guilty of misappropriating government funds.
Re: false income tax returns— As noted above, Hawkey did not disclose to Wildwood, his accountant, the contributors, and the benefactors the fact that he withdrew money from the concert accounts and converted them to his personal use. The fact that he made no record of the funds and was under no formal obligation to repay them provides sufficient evidence to support the jury's conclusion that these funds were unreported income and Hawkey was therefore guilty of making false income tax returns.
Re: false statements— The record indicates that Hawkey owned and operated a for-profit food service for inmates at the Minnehaha County Jail. Hawkey ordered county sheriffs to use county vehicles to purchase federal surplus food supplies with county checks. Only a nonprofit organization is eligible to participate in the federal surplus food program. By Hawkey's use of this program in a profit-making venture, a reasonable jury could have found that Hawkey knowingly deceived the federal surplus food program. Consequently, sufficient evidence supports his conviction for making a false statement.