403 F.3d 93 (2nd Cir. 2005), 03-1721, United States v. Rubenstein

Docket Nº:03-1721
Citation:403 F.3d 93
Party Name:United States v. Rubenstein
Case Date:March 31, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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403 F.3d 93 (2nd Cir. 2005)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,


Marvin RUBENSTEIN, aka Jacob Rubenstein, Isaac Rubenstein, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 03-1721.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
March 31, 2005.
Argued: Dec. 6, 2004

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Jeremy Gutman (Lawrence Herzog, on the brief), New York, N.Y. for defendants-appellants.

Andrew J. Frisch, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn, N.Y. (Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, David C. James, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, on the brief) for appellee.

Before: CARDAMONE, JACOBS, and CABRANES, Circuit Judges.

Judge CARDAMONE concurs in the majority opinion and in a separate concurring opinion.

JACOBS, Circuit Judge.

Marvin Rubenstein and Isaac Rubenstein (collectively "defendants") appeal from judgments of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Block, J.), convicting them after a jury trial of violating the work-practice standards for asbestos set out in the Clean Air Act, see 42 U.S.C. § 7412 et seq., 40 C.F.R. §§ 61.145, 61.150, and of conspiracy to do so. Defendants challenge their convictions on the ground that the district court's instruction that the jury could find that defendants knowingly violated the Clean Air Act if they found that defendants knew that the renovation involved asbestos erroneously failed to require any finding of "wrongful intent." Defendants contend that they live in an insular religious community of Hasidic Jews in which the dangers of asbestos are not a matter of common knowledge or interest. The defendants also challenge the imposition of certain sentencing enhancements, including whether the sentences were properly enhanced pursuant to Sentencing Guideline Section 2Q1.2(b)(4) for failure to obtain a New York State permit notwithstanding that the Clean Air Act itself contains no such permit requirement. For reasons that follow, we affirm the convictions, and remand to the district court with instructions to vacate the sentences and to conduct resentencing consistent with this opinion and United States v. Booker, --- U.S. ----, 125 S.Ct. 738, 160 L.Ed.2d 621 (2005),

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and not inconsistent with United States v. Crosby, 397 F.3d 103 (2d Cir.2005).


" 'Because defendants appeal their convictions after a jury trial, our statement of the facts views the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, crediting any inferences that the jury might have drawn in its favor.' " United States v. Monaco, 194 F.3d 381, 383-384 (2d Cir.1999) (quoting United States v. Salameh, 152 F.3d 88, 107 n. 1 (2d Cir.1998) ( per curiam )).

For over 30 years, the Rubenstein family owned a commercial building at 2 Prince Street in Brooklyn, New York. As of 2000, the building was owned by Philrub Realty Corporation, of which Marvin Rubenstein was president. Among the building's commercial tenants was a sweater factory owned by the Rubenstein family, Atlas Knitting, Inc., which was run by Marvin Rubenstein and his mother, Bella Rubenstein. Marvin's son, Isaac Rubenstein, assisted his father in running Atlas Knitting and in managing 2 Prince Street.

In April 2000, a real estate developer, Erik Ekstein, expressed interest in acquiring 2 Prince Street. After observing what he believed was asbestos on exposed pipes at the property, Ekstein hired an environmental consultant who inspected the property on May 1, 2000, and removed samples from pipes. Isaac accompanied the consultant on the inspection. At one point, Isaac offered to help in removing one of the samples, but the consultant declined, advising Isaac that the material contained asbestos. Ekstein's consultant testified that she used the word "asbestos" approximately ten times during her conversations with Isaac that day.

In July 2000, Marvin and Ekstein executed a 49-year, $50 million lease. Marvin orally agreed to remove the asbestos as a condition of the lease.

In December 2000, Marvin hired men who he had previously employed at Atlas Knitting to remove all pipe insulation at 2 Prince Street, including Jose Jimenez, his brother Juan, and Carlos Perez. Marvin did not tell them that the material was asbestos. Marvin directed the men to remove the material with a knife or scissors and to put it in boxes. Although Marvin and Bella Rubenstein were present during this work, neither wore protective clothing.

From December 4 through 7, 2000, Ekstein's contractors performed demolition work at 2 Prince Street. The supervising contractor discovered dry asbestos in boxes (the top flaps of which were "criss-crossed" rather than sealed), and observed Marvin ordering his workers in Spanish to place the boxes in a garbage compacting truck. On December 5, Ekstein's contractor informed Marvin's workers that they were removing asbestos and provided them with dust masks.

On February 8, 2001, Ekstein told Marvin that the asbestos could not be removed in the manner in which Marvin directed. Marvin replied: "[D]on't worry about it, this is blown out of proportion, it is not that big a deal."

Throughout that day, officials from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection ("DEP") visited the premises. Marvin told them that he and Isaac had hired men off the street to remove the insulation without knowing that it contained asbestos, that removal began earlier that week, and that the insulation was boxed and taken to a warehouse. Isaac told the officials that the men were hired off the street to remove asbestos, that removal work had begun that day, and that no asbestos was transported from the building. Although Isaac used the

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term "asbestos" in his initial conversation with the first DEP official to arrive at the property, Isaac later denied knowing the nature of the insulation material. Photographs taken that day showed exposed asbestos hanging from pipes and in open boxes.

DEP's director of asbestos enforcement advised Marvin and Isaac that the building was contaminated, that they needed to hire a contractor to remove the asbestos, and that no contractor could begin work without DEP approval. Federal authorities were notified.

On Friday, February 9, 2001, the DEP Commissioner issued an order directing defendants to vacate the building, to submit by the next day a "scope of work" order for DEP approval, and to remediate the asbestos contamination.

Also on February 9, 2001, FBI agents visited 2 Prince Street and interviewed Marvin and Isaac separately. Both Marvin and Isaac told the agents that they hired workers off the street to perform asbestos removal and that they directed the workers to box the removed material.

Despite the DEP's explicit instructions, an asbestos contractor toured the property on February 11, 2001, and, at Isaac's request, agreed to remove the asbestos that same day for a $10,000 cash payment. Isaac informed the contractor that he need not submit a "scope of work" order to the DEP and that he should lock the door if the DEP came around. While the contractor was preparing to remove the asbestos, the DEP's director of asbestos arrived at the scene and discovered that preparations were underway to remove the asbestos. The next day, a different asbestos contractor submitted and obtained DEP approval for a "scope of work" order and subsequently performed the asbestos abatement to the satisfaction of DEP.

On June 27, 2001, Isaac (accompanied by counsel) met with two federal agents and an Assistant United States Attorney, and gave four varying accounts of the asbestos removal. Isaac said that he had never heard the word "asbestos" until his February 8, 2001 meeting with DEP officials.

At trial, before summations, Judge Block rejected defendants' request that he charge that jury that:

The government must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants are "reasonable" such that they would also have known that asbestos is regulated and that some form of liability flows from violating regulations such as work-practice standards.

Instead, Judge Block instructed the jury, pursuant to United States v. Weintraub, 273 F.3d 139, 147 (2d Cir.2001), that the government must prove only that defendants knew that the substance removed was asbestos and were aware of the manner in which it was removed.


On appeal, defendants argue that Judge Block's jury instruction erroneously permitted the jury to convict without finding that defendants were aware of asbestos regulation. We review the district court's jury instruction de novo, but will reverse only if the charge as a whole caused prejudice. See United States v. Bok, 156 F.3d 157, 160 (2d Cir.1998); United States v. Locascio, 6 F.3d 924, 939 (2d Cir.1993).

A person is criminally liable under the Clean Air Act if he " knowingly violates any requirement or prohibition of ... section 7412 of this title." 42 U.S.C. § 7413(c)(1) (emphasis added). The phrase "knowingly violates" bespeaks "knowledge of facts and attendant circumstances that comprise a violation of the statute, not specific knowledge that one's

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conduct is illegal." Weintraub, 273 F.3d at 147; see also United States v. Buckley, 934 F.2d 84, 88 (6th Cir.1991) (holding, in a case involving the Clean Air Act asbestos work-practice standards, that "knowingly violate[s]" does not require knowledge of the illegality of one's conduct). Under this standard, because "no one can reasonably claim surprise that asbestos is regulated and that some form of liability is...

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