U.S. v. Sawyer

Citation85 F.3d 713
Decision Date07 November 1995
Docket NumberNo. 95-1689,95-1689
PartiesUNITED STATES, Appellee, v. F. William SAWYER, Defendant, Appellant. . Heard
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)

Thomas R. Kiley, with whom Carl Valvo, Steven H. Goldberg, Matthew L. Schemmel, and Cosgrove, Eisenberg & Kiley, P.C., were on brief, Boston, MA, for appellant.

Timothy W. Jenkins, Gary C. Adler, and O'Connor & Hannan, L.L.P., were on brief, Washington, DC, for State Government Affairs Council, amicus curiae.

Ralph D. Gants, Susan Murphy, and Palmer & Dodge, were on brief, Boston, MA, for The Massachusetts Association of Professional Lobbyists, amicus curiae.

Michael Kendall, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Jonathan Chiel, Acting United States Attorney, and Amy Lederer, Assistant United States Attorney, were on brief, for appellee.

Before BOUDIN, Circuit Judge, ALDRICH, Senior Circuit Judge, and STAHL, Circuit Judge.

STAHL, Circuit Judge.

Appellant F. William Sawyer appeals his convictions for mail and wire fraud, interstate travel to commit bribery, and conspiracy to commit those offenses. The district court imposed a $10,000 fine, and sentenced him to imprisonment for twelve months and one day. In this appeal, Sawyer claims that the district court erred in its jury instructions and in evidentiary rulings, and that the evidence was insufficient to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For the reasons that follow, we vacate the convictions and remand for further proceedings.

I. Facts

Viewing the record in the light most favorable to the verdict, United States v. Wihbey, 75 F.3d 761, 764 (1st Cir.1996), a rational jury could have found the following facts from the trial evidence.

During the indictment period, 1986 to March 1993, the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company ("Hancock") employed the defendant-appellant, F. William Sawyer, as a senior lobbyist within its Government Relations Department. As the largest life insurance company in Massachusetts, Hancock had a continuing and abiding interest in the state's insurance laws. Sawyer's job was to lobby the Massachusetts Legislature on Hancock's behalf. In particular, his job description required him to: research and develop Hancock's position on pertinent legislation; communicate relevant information to representative government officials in order to effect a favorable outcome and to protect the Company's interests; and establish and maintain relationships with legislators as well as with members of industry associations.

A principal focus of Sawyer's lobbying activities was the Legislature's Joint Insurance Committee ("Insurance Committee"), composed of state representatives and senators. The Insurance Committee has the ability to impact life insurance regulations more than any other legislative committee. To this end, it reviews approximately 300 bills per year, about fifty of which affect the life insurance industry. During each year of the indictment period, Massachusetts life insurance companies actively sought the passage of about five bills, most of which made it successfully through the Insurance Committee "in some form or another." Robert J. Smith, a research analyst and director for the Committee, testified that, during the indictment period, Sawyer was one of three lobbyists who appeared most often to lobby for bills sought by the life insurance industry.

The Insurance Committee is co-chaired by a senate and house member, each with equal control over the fate of bills assigned to the Committee. The Chairs have the ability to schedule hearings, assign bills to the hearing calendar and subsequent executive sessions, advocate bills at executive sessions, and take other action to advance them through the Committee. Each Chair could "carry" a bill, i.e., actively guide it through the Legislature as a whole; alternatively, a Chair could send it to the "Study Committee" which usually shelved it.

During the indictment period, Sawyer focused his lobbying activities on the house members of the Insurance Committee, some of whom took action that directly or indirectly affected Hancock's interests. Representative Francis H. Woodward was the House Chair of the Insurance Committee from 1986 to 1990. Research analyst Smith identified Sawyer as the lobbyist he saw most often with Representative Woodward during Woodward's tenure as the Committee's House Chair. During this time, the Insurance Committee never rejected Woodward's recommendations on bills affecting the life insurance industry and Woodward "carried" most of the bills sought by the industry. Representative Frank Emilio, a member from 1986 to 1990, sponsored a September 1990 bill on behalf of Hancock. Representative John F. Cox sponsored bills that Hancock supported in November 1990 and December 1991. In addition, Representatives Walsh, Mara, and Driscoll sponsored legislation sought by the life insurance industry.

"Legislative Reports" issued by the Hancock Government Relations Department to senior Hancock officers, and signed by Sawyer, outlined specific lobbying efforts and proceedings in the Massachusetts Legislature pertinent to Hancock's interests. In July 1990, Sawyer wrote a memorandum to Hancock's Management Committee summarizing the successful efforts of Hancock lobbyists including himself, in excluding Hancock from a bill that would have subjected it to a $100-million tax liability. In a September 1990 memorandum to the Management Committee, Sawyer referred to a 1990 bill, filed by Representative Emilio, that allowed Hancock to assess and report its real estate advantageously. A November 1990 letter from Ralph F. Scott, Hancock's Assistant Legislative Counsel, to Representative Cox indicated that Sawyer and Scott planned to work with Cox in obtaining favorable action on a specific bill that he had sponsored for Hancock.

During the indictment period, Sawyer paid for numerous meals, rounds of golf, and other entertainment for and with Massachusetts legislators, including many members of the Insurance Committee. Although Sawyer initially paid for most of these activities himself, they were treated as business expenses and reimbursed by Hancock (hereinafter "expenditures"). In accordance with Hancock's procedures, Sawyer would complete monthly expense vouchers, attaching receipts and a handwritten calendar that identified the recipients of the expenses. Sawyer's supervisor, Raeburn B. Hathaway, the head of Hancock's Government Relations Department, reviewed Sawyer's expense vouchers and approved them for reimbursement. Hathaway's secretary would then detach the detailed calendars from the vouchers, keeping the calendars within the Government Relations Department, and forward the voucher, alone, to the accounting department for payment.

Analysis of Sawyer's expense vouchers and calendars during the indictment period revealed that the top three recipients of his expenditures were: Representative Woodward, who received more than $8,000 worth of expenditures during his tenure as Insurance Committee House Chair; Robert Howarth, an Insurance Committee member from 1986 to 1992 (over $3,000); and Representative Emilio (over $2,500). After these three legislators left office, Sawyer, on behalf of Hancock, expended practically nothing on entertaining them (Woodward, $0; Howarth, $8.33; and Emilio, $85.65).

Specifically, Sawyer's expenditures included thousands of dollars for golf--in and out of state--with various Massachusetts legislators including Representative Francis Mara, Woodward's 1991 successor as Insurance Committee House Chair. Sawyer also hosted dinners for legislators and their families. In September 1992, Sawyer provided Representative Mara and his wife tickets for a show in Hancock's private box at the Wang Center and ordered an accompanying dinner.

The apparent catalyst for this prosecution was a December 1992 trip to Puerto Rico where Sawyer, other lobbyists, and a group of legislators, including Representative Mara, travelled for a legislative conference. The group did not stay at the conference site, but instead went to a different resort where Sawyer paid for many of the legislators' meals, transportation, and golf. Hancock reimbursed Sawyer for some $4,000 of entertainment expenses from the Puerto Rican trip. 1

Both Sawyer and his supervisor, Hathaway, had reason to believe that these expenditures could or did violate certain state laws. In his office, Sawyer kept internal Hancock memoranda, newspaper articles, and opinions of the Massachusetts Ethics Commission, all explaining or reporting on Massachusetts ethics-in-lobbying. While some of the documents varied in their interpretations, they nonetheless advised on compliance with laws regarding gratuities, gifts, and lobbying expenditures.

In April 1993, a reporter from the Boston Globe newspaper queried Richard Bevilacqua, Hancock's Director of Employee and Customer Communications, about Sawyer's entertainment of legislators during the 1992 Puerto Rico trip and about Hancock's legislative agenda during that period. Bevilacqua, in turn, asked Sawyer about the trip, and Sawyer opined, "it's difficult to take anyone out to lunch or dinner these days without going over [the] amount [permitted by law]." This set of events prompted Hancock to begin an internal investigation into Sawyer's legislative expenditures. 2 Bruce A. Skrine, vice president, corporate counsel and secretary for Hancock, asked Sawyer for his expense records. Contemporaneous with Sawyer's production of the records, Sawyer told Skrine that the expenses were "consistent with the way ... things were done on Beacon Hill." Sawyer also told Skrine that his reason for making the expenditures was "to get to know" the legislators and to develop "a certain relationship so that you could turn to them"; he further indicated that he made these expenditures to "build and maintain relationships," gain "access to legislators," and get legislators...

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