958 F.2d 774 (7th Cir. 1992), 90-1658, United States v. Hartmann

Docket Nº:90-1658, 90-1659 and 90-1660.
Citation:958 F.2d 774
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Debra A. HARTMANN, Kenneth K. Kaenel, and John Scott Korabik, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:March 19, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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958 F.2d 774 (7th Cir. 1992)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Debra A. HARTMANN, Kenneth K. Kaenel, and John Scott

Korabik, Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 90-1658, 90-1659 and 90-1660.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 19, 1992

Argued May 15, 1991.

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Joel D. Bertocchi, Asst. U.S. Atty. (argued), Crim. Div., Barry R. Elden, Asst. U.S. Atty., Crim Receiving, Appellate Section, Office of U.S. Atty., Chicago, Ill., for plaintiff-appellee U.S.

Samuel V.P. Banks, Terrence P. LeFevour (argued), Law Offices of Samuel V.P. Banks, Chicago, Ill., for defendant-appellant Deborah A. Hartmann.

Julius L. Echeles (argued), Chicago, Ill., for defendant-appellant Kenneth K. Kaenel.

Cynthia Giacchetti (argued), Chicago, Ill., Michael H. Saken, Wheeling, Ill., for defendant-appellant John S. Korabik.

Before BAUER, Chief Judge, COFFEY and FLAUM, Circuit Judges.

BAUER, Chief Judge.

In the early evening of June 8, 1982, Werner Hartmann, the owner of a successful stereo sales business in Chicago's northern suburbs, was brutally murdered

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in his home in Northbrook, Illinois. The following morning, police found Werner's bullet-ridden body sprawled naked in a second-floor bedroom. After years of investigation, Werner's wife Debra Hartmann, her lover at the time of the murder, John Scott Korabik, and Korabik's friend and associate Kenneth K. Kaenel, were charged in a thirty-count superseding indictment with violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 1341, and 1343 (mail and wire fraud), and 2314 (interstate transportation of funds obtained by fraud) (1988). The indictment essentially charged the three defendants with devising a scheme to defraud various insurance companies of the proceeds of life and mortgage insurance policies covering Werner. The indictment alleged that the defendants caused Werner's murder as part of the scheme.

After a three-week trial, the jury found Debra guilty of all counts charged in the indictment, and Korabik and Kaenel guilty of mail and wire fraud. The district court sentenced the three defendants to long prison terms: Debra received a term of 22 years, while Korabik and Kaenel received terms of 16 years and 20 years, respectively. Each defendant also was sentenced to five years of probation following the prison term. On appeal, the defendants raise numerous challenges to their convictions and sentences. Finding no merit in these challenges, we affirm.


This miserable tale of greed and murder began in 1978 when Werner married Debra, whom he met while she worked at a tavern called the Smoker's Club. After the marriage, Debra's standard of living rose materially; her union with Werner presented her with the trappings of luxurious living including furs, fine jewelry, and expensive automobiles. Yet, by 1981, Debra and Werner's marriage began to deteriorate. Debra had begun an open affair with Korabik, who worked as a part-time tennis pro and clerk in a gun store. By the end of 1981, Werner, who was aware of his wife's infidelity, contemplated divorce and even consulted an attorney. But soon after his initial consultation, Werner told the attorney that he did not wish to proceed further with the divorce. At the same time, in January 1982, Debra also contacted a divorce attorney, and even filed a formal divorce petition. But after meeting with her lawyer a second time, Debra also requested that her lawyer take no further action on her petition.

By the end of January 1982, Debra had moved in with Korabik at his father's house in Chicago. Kaenel also lived with Korabik's father, occupying a second-floor bedroom across the hall from the room where Korabik and Debra stayed. At trial, the government showed how these three individuals conspired to receive insurance proceeds fraudulently by murdering Werner Hartmann. Thus, the receipt of the insurance proceeds was the real aim of killing Werner.

In order to accomplish this fraud, Debra and Korabik brought Harvey Loochtan into their scheme. Loochtan, who later pleaded guilty to mail fraud and testified at the defendants' trial, was an agent for the Prudential Insurance Company. In June 1981, Loochtan met with Werner and Debra and sold them a $150,000 double-indemnity policy insuring Werner's life, and a corresponding policy on Debra's life. Werner and Debra each listed the other as beneficiary of their policies. Premiums on the policies were due on a quarterly basis, but after one quarter both lapsed for non-payment. The policy on Debra's life remained lapsed, but the one on Werner's life--with Debra as beneficiary--was reinstated in January 1982. The government offered the testimony of a forensic document examiner who stated that Werner's signature on the reinstatement application had been forged. See Transcript of Proceedings at Trial ("Trial Trans.") at 1330-35.

In March 1982, Werner met with Loochtan about the purchase of another policy. Loochtan delivered an application for a $250,000 double-indemnity policy to Werner and arranged for Werner to take a physical. Werner told Debra's brother, in Debra's presence, that he was buying this

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policy for his daughter's benefit. See id. at 1392-93. A few days later Debra visited Loochtan and told him that she wanted to be the beneficiary on Werner's new policy. She placed $3000 on Loochtan's desk to ensure that she would be listed as beneficiary. See id. at 738-39. Loochtan took the money and completed the application listing Debra as beneficiary. See id. During the next two months, Debra and Korabik made several visits to Loochtan's office to check on the status of the policy application. The policy was approved by the Prudential Insurance Company on May 7, 1982, and returned to the agent for delivery to the policyholder. Loochtan had until June 7, 1982, to send the new $250,000 policy to Werner. See id. at 707. Soon after Werner received the new policy, he called Loochtan and told him that his daughters, not Debra, should be the beneficiaries of the policy. Loochtan promised to send the proper forms, and then immediately called Debra and told her of Werner's request. See id. at 755-57.

On the evening of June 8, an unidentified assailant fired at least fourteen shots into Werner from an automatic weapon. The government introduced evidence to support two theories: that Korabik killed Hartmann and that Kaenel killed Hartmann. According to the government, one was willing to kill for his love of Debra; the other for his love of money. See id. at 58. Government witnesses testified that both Korabik and Kaenel admitted after the murder that they had done the killing. Moreover, the government produced a thirteen-year-old witness who lived in the house next door to Werner's Northbrook home. This witness told the jury that he observed a man, 6 feet tall or taller, slender and athletically built, running from the back of Werner's house carrying a gym bag. This identification could describe the tall, athletic Korabik who was known to carry guns in a gym bag.

The government introduced other evidence that connected Kaenel to Werner's murder. For instance, there was evidence that Kaenel unsuccessfully solicited various people to "do a hit" on an older man who was married to a younger, pretty woman. See id. at 1276-77. Kaenel informed the would-be hit-men that they would share a large sum of money for the murder, but would not receive the full amount of their fee until the wife collected the insurance proceeds. When these potential assassins declined to do a hit on credit, Kaenel became agitated and complained that Korabik would keep all the money if Kaenel did not provide some help with the murder. See id. at 985-86.

Nevertheless, both Korabik and Kaenel provided alibi testimony to show that, at the time Werner was being murdered, Kaenel was home with his wife and Korabik was enjoying dinner at his friends' house. There was no dispute that, on the evening of the murder, Debra was at local restaurant with Werner's first wife and daughter.

Perhaps the most chilling evidence was the testimony from various witnesses that Werner feared he would be murdered. Several witnesses testified that, prior to his murder, Werner had expressed fear that his wife and her lover were planning to kill him. Apparently, Werner expressed these fears to his attorney, and even attempted to hire police officers as personal bodyguards. See id. at 1808, 1851-52.

After Werner's worst fears were realized, Debra took possession of his home in Northbrook, Illinois, another of Werner's homes in Deerfield, Illinois, his cars, and his parcel of land in Barrington Hills, Illinois. Korabik moved in with Debra at the Northbrook house. In January 1984, Debra received a payment of $450,000 from the Prudential Insurance Company in settlement of her claims. By September of that year, Debra had broken off her relationship with Korabik. On January 19, 1989, almost seven years after Werner's murder, the Special April 1987 Grand Jury of the Northern District of Illinois indicted Debra, Korabik, and Kaenel.


On appeal, the defendants each challenge various aspects of their convictions and sentences. We consider each defendant's claims in turn.

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  1. Debra Hartmann

    Debra argues that the district court committed two fundamental errors that denied her a fair trial. Debra first maintains that the government failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she had the specific intent to defraud. Specifically, Debra claims that the government, "with the exception of the unreliable statements of [several] witnesses, did not present one bit of evidence which even remotely connected Debra Hartmann to Werner's murder."...

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