953 F.2d 10 (1st Cir. 1992), 91-1145, United States v. McGill

Docket Nº91-1145.
Citation953 F.2d 10
Party NameUNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Robert L. McGILL, Defendant, Appellant.
Case DateJanuary 03, 1992
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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953 F.2d 10 (1st Cir. 1992)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,

v.

Robert L. McGILL, Defendant, Appellant.

No. 91-1145.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

January 3, 1992

Heard Nov. 4, 1991.

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Michael L. Altman with whom Mark W. Corner, Helen E. Morgan, and Rubin and Rudman, Boston, Mass., were on brief, for defendant, appellant.

Yoel Tobin, Atty., Tax Div., U.S. Dept. of Justice, with whom Shirley D. Peterson, Asst. Atty. Gen., Robert E. Lindsay and Alan Hechtkopf, Attys., Tax Div., Washington, D.C., and Wayne A. Budd, U.S. Atty., Boston, Mass., were on brief, for the U.S.

Before BREYER, Chief Judge, COFFIN, Senior Circuit Judge, and SELYA, Circuit Judge.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

Defendant-appellant Robert L. McGill was convicted on three counts of willfully evading the payment of income tax owing to the federal government. 1 On appeal, McGill raises claims of error involving both the district court's jury instructions and the court's rulings in respect to the introduction of certain evidence. Finding no cognizable error, we affirm the judgment below.

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I. Jury Instructions

The appellant attacks the court's charge on two fronts. Our response conforms to his battle plan.

A.

McGill first claims that the district court erred in failing adequately to instruct the jury that a mistake of law constitutes a complete defense to a charge of willful tax evasion. In addressing this claim, we acknowledge the self-evident: "It is hornbook law that an accused is entitled to an instruction on his theory of defense so long as the theory is a valid one and there is evidence in the record to support it." United States v. Rodriguez, 858 F.2d 809, 812 (1st Cir.1988); see also Mathews v. United States, 485 U.S. 58, 63, 108 S.Ct. 883, 886-87, 99 L.Ed.2d 54 (1988); United States v. Victoria-Peguero, 920 F.2d 77, 86 (1st Cir.1990), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 2053, 114 L.Ed.2d 458 (1991). Nonetheless, a defendant has no right to put words in the judge's mouth. So long as the charge sufficiently conveys the defendant's theory, it need not parrot the exact language that the defendant prefers. United States v. Nivica, 887 F.2d 1110, 1124 (1st Cir.1989), cert. denied, 494 U.S. 1005, 110 S.Ct. 1300, 108 L.Ed.2d 477 (1990); United States v. Cintolo, 818 F.2d 980, 1004 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 913, 108 S.Ct. 259, 98 L.Ed.2d 216 (1987); United States v. Coast of Me. Lobster Co., 557 F.2d 905, 909 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 862, 98 S.Ct. 191, 54 L.Ed.2d 136 (1977).

In this case the government had the burden of showing that the appellant voluntarily and intentionally violated a known legal duty to pay taxes on certain unreported income. See United States v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10, 12, 97 S.Ct. 22, 23, 50 L.Ed.2d 12 (1976) (per curiam); United States v. Monteiro, 871 F.2d 204, 209 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 833, 110 S.Ct. 108, 107 L.Ed.2d 71 (1989). Because ignorance of the law is a defense in tax evasion cases, see Cheek v. United States, --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 604, 609, 112 L.Ed.2d 617 (1991), the jury, had it concluded that McGill possessed a good-faith, subjective belief that he did not owe taxes on the income in question, would have been duty bound to acquit. See id. 111 S.Ct. at 610-11; United States v. Aitken, 755 F.2d 188, 191-92 (1st Cir.1985). Thus, McGill, upon timely request, enjoyed the right to have the jury instructed on this defense.

The appellant fully availed himself of this right, asking the district court to give a specific instruction that he could not "be held criminally liable if in good faith he misunderstood the requirements of [the] law, or in good faith believed that his income was not taxable." While the court declined to give this instruction in haec verba, it did tell the jury that the government had to prove the defendant "attempt[ed] to evade income tax willfully, intentionally, not by accident or mistake, knowing that he had a legal duty to report the income in question and to pay a tax on it." Later in the charge, the court reiterated the government's burden of proving that McGill had the "requisite knowledge and understanding that during the tax year involved in a particular count he had income which was taxable and which he was required by law to report."

In determining whether a district court's instructions to the jury adequately conveyed a specific concept, a reviewing court must focus on the charge as a whole. See United States v. Park, 421 U.S. 658, 674, 95 S.Ct. 1903, 1912, 44 L.Ed.2d 489 (1975); Cupp v. Naughten, 414 U.S. 141, 146-47, 94 S.Ct. 396, 400, 38 L.Ed.2d 368 (1973); Nivica, 887 F.2d at 1125; United States v. Serino, 835 F.2d 924, 930 (1st Cir.1987); Cintolo, 818 F.2d at 1003; New England Enterprises, Inc. v. United States, 400 F.2d 58, 71 (1st Cir.1968), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 1036, 89 S.Ct. 654, 21 L.Ed.2d 581 (1969). Here, the lower court, though spurning the exact phraseology which the appellant sought, accurately communicated the meat of the defense's theory. The fact that the court's instructions on mistake of law were dispersed throughout the charge neither diminished their force nor robbed them of their inherent vitality. The jury was adequately instructed that, if McGill's

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failure to report the income and pay the resultant taxes stemmed from an honest mistake as to the extent of his legal obligations, an acquittal must follow. The concept was stated plainly and unequivocally. No more was exigible.

B.

Appellant urges that the charge was flawed in another respect as well: notwithstanding a timely request, the court did not instruct the jury that "careless disregard, negligence, even gross negligence does not amount to willfulness sufficient to find [the defendant] guilty." The trial court's refusal to give a particular instruction constitutes reversible error only if the requested instruction was (1) correct as a matter of substantive law, (2) not substantially incorporated into the charge as rendered, and (3) integral to an important point in the case. See United States v. Gibson, 726 F.2d 869, 874 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 960, 104 S.Ct. 2174, 80 L.Ed.2d 557 (1984).

In this instance, the assignment of error is hoist upon the second prong of the test. The court repeatedly cautioned the jury that the government had to prove willfulness anent McGill's underreporting of taxable income. The court also told the jury, quite pointedly, that McGill could not be found guilty if his actions were the result of "an honest mistake with respect to what he had to report." Though the judge never used the precise words favored by the defendant--"careless disregard," "negligence," "gross negligence"--the alternate language that he employed covered substantially the same ground. See Pomponio, 429 U.S. at 12-13, 97 S.Ct. at 24 (willfulness "means a voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty"). When, as here, the trial court's...

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54 practice notes
  • 491 F.Supp.2d 142 (D.Mass. 2007), Crim. 04-10384, United States v. Kamen
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Massachusetts
    • June 12, 2007
    ...taken in the light most congenial to the theory, can plausibly support it." Flores, 968 F.2d at 1367 (citing United States v. McGill, 953 F.2d 10, 12 (1st Cir.1992)). This is a close call. Read together in a common sense way, the stipulation and confession support the government's posi......
  • 408 F.Supp.3d 25 (D. Puerto Rico 2019), Civ. 14-1620 (PG), Gonzalez-Bermudez v. Abbott Laboratories PR Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Puerto Rico
    • September 30, 2019
    ...acquaint lay jurors with the applicable law." Elliott, 134 F.3d at 6 (1st Cir. 1998) (citing United States v. McGill, 953 F.2d 10, 12 (1st Cir. 1992) (warning that no litigant has a license "to put words in the judge’s mouth")). Now, "the real te......
  • J.D. v. Kanawha County Board of Education, 080307 WVSDC, 2:06-cv-00167
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 4th Circuit Southern District of West Virginia
    • August 3, 2007
    ...to mean that "findings of fact by the hearing officers in IDEA cases must be considered prima facie correct." Doyle, 953 F.2d at 10; Hartmann v. Loudoun County Bd. of Educ., 118 F.3d 996, 1000-01 (4th Cir. 1997). Factual findings made during state administrative proceedings are &q......
  • 263 P.3d 127 (Hawai
    • United States
    • Hawaii Court of Appeals of Hawai'i Intermediate
    • September 8, 2011
    ...inference of underlying trustworthiness which a judge may choose to draw from proof of a general practice." United States v. McGill, 953 F.2d 10, 15 (1st Cir.1992) (citing United States v. Patterson, 644 F.2d 890, 901 (1st Cir.1981) (" The fact that a regular practice is occasiona......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
53 cases
  • 491 F.Supp.2d 142 (D.Mass. 2007), Crim. 04-10384, United States v. Kamen
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Massachusetts
    • June 12, 2007
    ...taken in the light most congenial to the theory, can plausibly support it." Flores, 968 F.2d at 1367 (citing United States v. McGill, 953 F.2d 10, 12 (1st Cir.1992)). This is a close call. Read together in a common sense way, the stipulation and confession support the government's posi......
  • 408 F.Supp.3d 25 (D. Puerto Rico 2019), Civ. 14-1620 (PG), Gonzalez-Bermudez v. Abbott Laboratories PR Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Puerto Rico
    • September 30, 2019
    ...acquaint lay jurors with the applicable law." Elliott, 134 F.3d at 6 (1st Cir. 1998) (citing United States v. McGill, 953 F.2d 10, 12 (1st Cir. 1992) (warning that no litigant has a license "to put words in the judge’s mouth")). Now, "the real te......
  • J.D. v. Kanawha County Board of Education, 080307 WVSDC, 2:06-cv-00167
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 4th Circuit Southern District of West Virginia
    • August 3, 2007
    ...to mean that "findings of fact by the hearing officers in IDEA cases must be considered prima facie correct." Doyle, 953 F.2d at 10; Hartmann v. Loudoun County Bd. of Educ., 118 F.3d 996, 1000-01 (4th Cir. 1997). Factual findings made during state administrative proceedings are &q......
  • 263 P.3d 127 (Hawai
    • United States
    • Hawaii Court of Appeals of Hawai'i Intermediate
    • September 8, 2011
    ...inference of underlying trustworthiness which a judge may choose to draw from proof of a general practice." United States v. McGill, 953 F.2d 10, 15 (1st Cir.1992) (citing United States v. Patterson, 644 F.2d 890, 901 (1st Cir.1981) (" The fact that a regular practice is occasiona......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • GOLDILOCKS AND THE RULE 803 HEARSAY EXCEPTIONS.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 59 Nbr. 3, February 2018
    • February 1, 2018
    ...Commission Statement of Objections" and finding the document sufficiently trustworthy to be admitted through Rule 803(8)). (157.) 953 F.2d 10, 13 (1st Cir. 1992). (158.) Id. at 13-14. (159.) Id. at 14. (160.) Id. at 15. (161.) Id. ("The mere fact that errors or deviations have occ......