U.S. v. West, No. 806

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore KAUFMAN and TIMBERS, Circuit Judges, and WARD; TIMBERS
Citation666 F.2d 16
Parties7 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 1506 UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Robert E. WEST, Appellant. ocket 80-1405.
Docket NumberNo. 806,D
Decision Date07 April 1981

Page 16

666 F.2d 16
7 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 1506
UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,
v.
Robert E. WEST, Appellant.
No. 806, Docket 80-1405.
United States Court of Appeals,
Second Circuit.
Argued March 5, 1981.
Decided April 7, 1981.

Page 17

Jerome F. O'Neill, Burlington, Vt. (William B. Gray, U. S. Atty., and Karen McAndrew, Asst. U. S. Atty., Burlington, Vt., on the brief), for appellee.

Frank G. Mahady, Norwich, Vt. (Mahady, Johnson, Dunne, Hershenson & Scott, Norwich, Vt., on the brief), for appellant.

Before KAUFMAN and TIMBERS, Circuit Judges, and WARD, District Judge. *

TIMBERS, Circuit Judge:

Appellant Robert West was convicted after a two day jury trial in the District of Vermont, Albert W. Coffrin, District Judge, on one count of knowingly making false statements to the Farmers Production Credit Association (FPCA) in South Burlington, Vermont, with the intention of influencing that organization, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1014 (1976); on one count of falsifying and concealing a material fact in a matter within the jurisdiction of the Farm Credit Administration, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (1976); and on one count of using a document he knew to contain false statements in a matter before the Farm Credit Administration, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

The gravamen of the offenses with which appellant was charged was that in 1975 he tendered to the FPCA a notarized mortgage deed, a promissory note and a loan

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agreement which purported to bear the signature of Judith West, appellant's then wife, but on which appellant in fact had signed Mrs. West's name.

On appeal appellant claims that the district court erred (1) in refusing to charge the jury that the government was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant lacked authority to sign Mrs. West's name on the document; and (2) in refusing to admit in evidence a divorce settlement agreement between appellant and Mrs. West. 1 Since we hold that appellant's claim of authorization constituted a valid affirmative defense which, once raised, the government was required to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt and that the district court erred in failing to instruct the jury on authorization, we reverse appellant's conviction on all counts and remand the case for a new trial.

I.

Appellant and his wife owned real estate in Manchester, Vermont. They acquired it in 1969. The property included a "run down" old house. Between 1969 and 1972, appellant obtained a series of unsecured demand loans from the FPCA for repairs on the property. The loans were extended with the understanding that once appellant had made the repairs he would obtain long term financing from the Federal Land Bank or a commercial source. In 1975, after appellant was unable to obtain long term financing from another source, FPCA officials asked appellant to give the agency a mortgage on the property as security for a promissory note in the amount of the outstanding loan balance.

On October 28, 1975, appellant tendered to the FPCA a mortgage deed, two promissory notes and a loan agreement. The mortgage deed, the loan agreement and one of the promissory notes purported to be signed by appellant's wife, Judith. In fact, appellant himself had signed her name. At the time appellant signed his wife's name, Mr. and Mrs. West were living apart. They subsequently were divorced.

At the trial, appellant admitted that he had signed his wife's name on the documents in question. His sole defense was that Judith had authorized him to sign her name on financial documents, or alternatively, that he reasonably believed he was authorized to sign for her.

Appellant offered in evidence at the trial a stipulation of settlement signed by appellant and Judith on December 2, 1975 in connection with their divorce. Article VI of the agreement read: "Plaintiff (appellant herein) shall terminate his right to sign any obligations on behalf of defendant (Judith West) at any financial institution, or otherwise, with regard to any future obligation." In support of his offer, appellant urged that the stipulation was relevant to the question of whether he in fact was authorized to sign Judith's name on the documents in question. Indeed, the stipulation appears to have been the only evidence, except appellant's testimony, which was probative on the question of authority. The district court refused to admit the settlement agreement on the ground that it was hearsay and did not fall within any exception to the hearsay rule.

Appellant made a timely request, relying upon United States v. Gilbreath, 452 F.2d 992 (5 Cir. 1971), that the district court instruct the jury that, in order to convict appellant, the government was required to overcome a presumption that appellant was authorized to sign Mrs. West's name. In the alternative, appellant urged that, because he believed he was authorized to sign his wife's name, appellant had not "knowingly or wilfully" submitted false documents. The district court, however, did not mention "authorization" in its charge to the jury, either as an affirmative defense or as

Page 19

an element of the government's required proof.

II.

The two provisions of the statute under which appellant...

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14 practice notes
  • U.S. v. George, Docket No. 00-1601.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • October 8, 2004
    ...a number other than his Social Security number on the passport application form. Defendant principally relies on United States v. West, 666 F.2d 16 (2d Cir.1981), for the proposition that if defendant believed he was authorized to make a false statement, he cannot be said to have knowledge ......
  • U.S. v. Falcone, No. 89-5718
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • July 11, 1991
    ...unauthorized signatures of third parties contained false statements in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1014. See also United States v. West, 666 F.2d 16 (2nd Cir.1981) (analogous pre-Williams case recognizing that defendant who, assertedly without authorization, signed ex-wife's name to loan do......
  • U.S. v. Grissom, No. 93-3332
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • January 23, 1995
    ...v. Wilcox, 919 F.2d 109, 111 (9th Cir.1990); United States v. Ribaste, 905 F.2d 1140, 1141-42 (8th Cir.1990); United States v. West, 666 F.2d 16, 19 (2d Cir.1981). See also United States v. Migliaccio, 34 F.3d 1517, 1524 (10th Cir.1994) (ruling that good faith is a defense to false statemen......
  • United States v. Kestenbaum, No. 04–cr–821.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • December 14, 2012
    ...if it is done purposefully and voluntarily and not because of a mistake, accident, or other innocent reason. United States v. West, 666 F.2d 16, 20 n. 2 (2d Cir.1981). An act is done willfully if it is done with an intention to do something the law forbids, that is, with a bad purpose to di......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • U.S. v. George, Docket No. 00-1601.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • October 8, 2004
    ...a number other than his Social Security number on the passport application form. Defendant principally relies on United States v. West, 666 F.2d 16 (2d Cir.1981), for the proposition that if defendant believed he was authorized to make a false statement, he cannot be said to have knowledge ......
  • U.S. v. Falcone, No. 89-5718
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • July 11, 1991
    ...unauthorized signatures of third parties contained false statements in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1014. See also United States v. West, 666 F.2d 16 (2nd Cir.1981) (analogous pre-Williams case recognizing that defendant who, assertedly without authorization, signed ex-wife's name to loan do......
  • U.S. v. Grissom, No. 93-3332
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • January 23, 1995
    ...v. Wilcox, 919 F.2d 109, 111 (9th Cir.1990); United States v. Ribaste, 905 F.2d 1140, 1141-42 (8th Cir.1990); United States v. West, 666 F.2d 16, 19 (2d Cir.1981). See also United States v. Migliaccio, 34 F.3d 1517, 1524 (10th Cir.1994) (ruling that good faith is a defense to false statemen......
  • United States v. Kestenbaum, No. 04–cr–821.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • December 14, 2012
    ...if it is done purposefully and voluntarily and not because of a mistake, accident, or other innocent reason. United States v. West, 666 F.2d 16, 20 n. 2 (2d Cir.1981). An act is done willfully if it is done with an intention to do something the law forbids, that is, with a bad purpose to di......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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