751 F.2d 1528 (9th Cir. 1985), 83-1253, United States v. Murray

Docket Nº:83-1253 to 83-1255.
Citation:751 F.2d 1528
Party Name:Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 506 UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Robert MURRAY, James Moore, and Susan Watson, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:January 22, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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751 F.2d 1528 (9th Cir. 1985)

Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 506

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Robert MURRAY, James Moore, and Susan Watson, Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 83-1253 to 83-1255.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

January 22, 1985

Argued and Submitted Dec. 13, 1984.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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George L. O'Connell, Asst. U.S. Atty., Sacramento, Cal., for plaintiff-appellee.

Margaret McKnight, Fresno, Cal., James M. Fallman, Fallman & Janof, Sacramento, Cal., Gerald R. Lewis, Lewis & Grove, Fresno, Cal., for defendants-appellants.

Appeal from the United States District Court For the Eastern District of California.

Before CHOY, HUG, and SCHROEDER, Circuit Judges.

HUG, Circuit Judge:

Pursuant to the second superseding indictment filed June 10, 1983, defendants Robert A. Murray ("Murray"), Susan Watson ("Watson"), and James A. Moore ("Moore") were charged with conspiracy to conceal assets in bankruptcy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Secs. 371, 152 (1982) ("Count I"). Murray and Moore were individually charged with knowingly and fraudulently transferring and concealing assets from a trustee in bankruptcy to defraud creditors, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 152 ("Count II, Count III, and Count IV"). Murray was also indicted for destroying documents pertaining to the property and affairs of the bankrupt, Sun Stereo, Inc. ("SSI"), in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 152 ("Count V"); obstructing justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1503 ("Count VII"); and obstructing a

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criminal investigation, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1510 (1982), ("Count VI").

The defendants were tried before a jury. Murray was convicted on all counts charged and sentenced to five years' imprisonment and five years' probation. Moore was convicted on Count I and Count IV and received a probationary sentence. Watson was convicted on Count I and was also placed on probation.

On appeal, Murray contends that the court erred in refusing to suppress evidence seized from his house, in permitting the Government to impeach his testimony with evidence of a prior felony conviction, in denying discovery of the transcripts of the first grand jury proceedings, and in holding that his convictions for bankruptcy fraud, obstruction of justice, and obstruction of a criminal investigation were supported by sufficient evidence. Moore asserts that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. All defendants claim that there was insufficient evidence to support their convictions for conspiracy. We disagree and affirm the convictions.


SSI and its affiliate corporations operated retail stereo outlets in California, Arizona, and Nevada. During late 1980, SSI was reorganizing under federal bankruptcy law. Michael Sannes ("Sannes"), SSI's data processing manager and a former employee of Murray, introduced Murray to SSI's management in an apparent effort to secure a source of capital for SSI. Murray and SSI entered into an agreement whereby SSI agreed to borrow $100,000 (the "Loan") from Watson, who is Murray's step-daughter and business associate, and to lease a computer (the "Computer Lease") from Watson's company. The Loan was to be repaid in 13 weekly installments and was secured by a pledge of 80% of the voting stock in SSI. The Computer Lease stipulated that SSI would pay Murray and Watson $21,000 in stereo equipment as three months' rent. By January 1981, Murray and Watson had acquired over $32,000 in merchandise from SSI.

SSI's financial stability worsened. In January or February of 1981, Murray was elected president of SSI and Watson became the corporate secretary. Together they proceeded to exacerbate SSI's financial difficulties. Murray barred SSI's former president and majority shareholder, Tom Wirth, from the business and appointed Sannes general manager. Despite the warnings of a financial consultant, Murray (1) caused SSI to issue eight checks to Watson in full repayment of the Loan, even though the Loan was not in default; (2) ordered the repossession of the computer and the software from SSI, despite the fact that the lease payments were not in arrears; (3) directed the removal of stereo and video equipment from SSI; and (4) diverted the proceeds realized from the sale of the inventories of two closed SSI outlets to his own account.

On March 10, 1981, SSI was adjudicated bankrupt. Murray was charged with the responsibility of collecting the company's assets, storing the goods, and preparing them for auction, pending the appointment of a trustee. During this time, the defendants removed a large quantity of merchandise from the SSI warehouse and stored it in a warehouse rented by Moore, on the false pretense of delivering the merchandise to the auctioneer, without disclosing these transfers to the trustee. To divert any suspicion that may have arisen by reason of their activities, the defendants attempted to conceal their actions: Watson prepared and filed with the bankruptcy court false proofs of claim against SSI, including a claim for the full amount owing under the Computer Lease, and...

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