896 F.2d 61 (4th Cir. 1990), 88-5702, United States v. McCormick

Docket Nº:88-5702.
Citation:896 F.2d 61
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Robert L. McCORMICK, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:February 12, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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896 F.2d 61 (4th Cir. 1990)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Robert L. McCORMICK, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 88-5702.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

February 12, 1990

Argued Oct. 6, 1989.

Rehearing and Rehearing In Banc Denied March 7, 1990.

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Rebecca Ann Baitty (Rudolph L. DiTrapano, DiTrapano & Jackson, Charleston, W.Va., on brief), for defendant-appellant.

Michael Warren Carey, U.S. Atty. (Nancy C. Hill, Larry R. Ellis, Asst. U.S. Attys., Jacquelyn I. Custer, Sp. Asst. U.S. Atty., Charleston, W.Va., on brief), for plaintiff-appellee.

Before ERVIN, Chief Judge, CHAPMAN, Circuit Judge, and WILLIAMS, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting by designation.

ERVIN, Chief Judge:

Robert L. McCormick appeals his conviction for extortion under color of official right in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1951, and for filing false income tax returns in violation of 26 U.S.C. Sec. 7206(1). On appeal, McCormick asserts that the payments he received were campaign contributions and that, therefore, the evidence did not support the jury's verdict. He further contends that the government's references to alleged violations of state campaign reporting laws and to his receipt of benefits from a lobbyist denied him a fair trial. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm the judgments of conviction of the defendant.


McCormick is a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates representing an economically depressed, coal mining region of West Virginia which has long suffered from a shortage of medical personnel. To help alleviate this problem, he has been a leading advocate of legislation to allow foreign medical school graduates to practice in underserved areas of the state without meeting full licensing requirements.

For the past twenty years, foreign medical school graduates who had not met the state medical licensing requirements have been allowed to practice medicine under a "temporary permit" while studying further for the state licensing exams. Some of these persons had been taking and failing the exams for a number of years. During this time they were developing considerable on-the-job experience, and their services were needed in areas of the state such as McCormick's district.

In the 1980s there was a strong movement in the House of Delegates to end this "temporary permit" option. Fearing that this movement jeopardized their careers, several of the temporarily licensed doctors organized themselves, incorporated their group under the name "Coalfield Health Care Association" ("the Association"), and hired a lobbyist, John Vandergrift, to represent them in the state capital. Dr. Ernesto Manual was the leader of this group. In the 1984 West Virginia legislature, the Association and Vandergrift worked for legislation extending the temporary permitting procedures one more year. McCormick sponsored the House version of this proposed legislation which passed on the last day of the regular session of the legislature. Shortly thereafter, Vandergrift discussed with McCormick additional legislation, to be introduced during the 1985 session, providing a permanent solution to the doctors' problem by granting them a permanent medical license as a result of their years of experience. McCormick agreed to sponsor the 1985 legislation.

During his 1984 reelection campaign, McCormick communicated to Vandergrift that his campaign was expensive, that he had not "heard from" the doctors, and that he wanted Vandergrift to contact them. Vandergrift contacted Dr. Manual, and on the morning of June 1, 1984, Vandergrift received from Manual an envelope with

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nine one-hundred dollar bills which he delivered to McCormick at his business office. McCormick's receipt of this money constituted basis for the extortion charge on which he was convicted. The government's evidence also showed that a second delivery of two thousand dollars in cash was made that same afternoon. McCormick neither reported these payments as campaign contributions on the required reporting statements nor listed them on his income tax return. 1 After June 1, McCormick dealt directly with the doctors and received three more cash payments, on November 1, November 12, and December 19, 1984.

In the spring of 1985, McCormick sponsored H.B. 1431, which allowed experienced physicians to be permanently licensed without attaining the minimum passing score on the licensing exams. He...

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