United States v. Williamson

Decision Date20 March 2013
Docket NumberNo. CR 11-2784 JB,CR 11-2784 JB
PartiesUNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, v. JOHN WILLIAMSON Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Defendant's Motion for Release Pending, filed January 28, 2013 (Doc. 118)("Release Motion"). The Court held a hearing on February 22, 2013. The primary issues are: (i) whether Defendant John Williamson has proven by clear-and-convincing evidence that he is not a flight risk and that he does not present a danger to any other person or to the community, because, since his release on his own recognizance, he has complied without problem with the Court's terms of release; (ii) whether it was error to fail to provide the jury at trial with a separate good-faith defense instruction, given that Williamson was convicted under statutes to which he contends his good-faith belief was exculpatory; and (iii) whether Williamson's contention that he was incompetent to stand trial, given the factual finding of the Honorable Bruce Black, then-Chief United States Court District Judge for the District of New Mexico, that he was competent, raises a substantial question of law or fact which likely will result in reversal, an order for a new trial, or a sentence not including incarceration. The Court will deny the Defendant's Release Motion. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3143(b)(1), the Court concludes that Williamson has proven by clear-and-convincing evidence that he does not pose a flight risk or a danger to any other person or the community if released under 18 U.S.C. §3142(b) or (c). The Court also concludes, however, that a preponderance of the evidence shows that Williamson's appeal does not present a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal, an order for a new trial, a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment, or a reduced term of imprisonment. Williamson's contention that Judge Black's decision not to provide the jury a separate instruction based on his asserted good-faith defense does not present a substantial question of law which, if determined in his favor, will result in acquittal, an order for a new trial, or a reduced term of imprisonment. First, one of the statutes under which Williamson was convicted require mens rea of knowingly, rather than willfully, to which his good faith defense is not exculpatory. Second, although 26 U.S.C. § 7212(a) is a specific intent crime, to which a good faith defense is exculpatory, because the jury instructions as a whole provided an adequate statement of the law and appropriately instructed the jurors on the law, including instructing the jury that it was required to find that Williamson had the specific intent to act unlawfully, even if a good-faith defense provides a defense to either of his convictions, Judge Black's decision not to submit a separate instruction on good faith is not error. Finally, Judge Black's determination that Williamson was competent to stand trial is not clearly erroneous, and the Court concludes that a preponderance of the evidence shows that Williamson's contention that Judge Black's determination of competency was in error also fails to raise a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal, an order for a new trial, a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment, or a reduced term of imprisonment.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On October 26, 2011, a Grand Jury for the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico filed an Indictment against Williamson, alleging that he corruptly endeavored toimpede the due administration of the Internal Revenue Laws, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7212, subdivision (a), and that he knowingly filed a false lien against an employee of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1521. See Indictment at 1-2 (Doc. 2). He asserts that, before trial, he disclosed his intent to rely on the affirmative defense of good faith to defend Count I charged in the Indictment, filed his proposed jury instructions on May 21, 2012, asserting his good-faith defense, which contended that Plaintiff United States of America had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted willfully and in bad faith. See Release Motion ¶ 3, at 2 (citing Defendant's Proposed Jury Instructions, filed May 21, 2012 (Doc. 50)). Williamson notes that, at the conclusion of his competency hearing, he indicated that he intended to present Dr. Mercedes Marshall's testimony about his delusional disorder to show that he acted in good faith when he filed the liens underlying his criminal charges. See Release Motion ¶ 3, at 2-3. The United States objected to his intended good-faith defense and to Dr. Marshall's testimony at trial. See Release Motion ¶ 4, at 3. Williamson asserts that, although Judge Black allowed Dr. Marshall's testimony, Judge Black "ultimately refused to instruct the jury on the defense of good faith and determined that Mr. Williamson could not argue to the jury that he acted in good faith in order to negate the elements of the offenses . . . ." Release Motion ¶ 5, at 3. After the trial, the jury found Williamson guilty as charged. See Release Motion ¶ 6, at 3-4. Williamson's case was subsequently reassigned to the Court on September 14, 2012. See Notice, filed September 14, 2012 (Doc. 101).

The Court sentenced Williamson to a four-month term of imprisonment, followed by three years supervised release, and ordered Williamson to voluntarily surrender at the facility which the United State Bureau of Prisons designates. See Release Motion ¶ 7, at 4 (citingClerk's Minutes, filed November 15, 2012 (Doc. 111)). At the sentencing hearing, when Williamson sought a stay of his sentence pending appeal, the Court stated that it was not inclined to stay the sentence pending appeal, but granted Williamson leave to file this motion. See Release Motion ¶ 8, at 4. Williamson asserts that the United States Marshalls Service has now directed him to self-report to serve his sentence, and he thus submits this motion to stay his sentence. See Release Motion ¶ 8, at 4-5.

On January 28, 2013, Williamson filed his Release Motion, requesting that the Court, pursuant to the Fifth and Eighth Amendments of the United States Constitution and 18 U.S.C. § 3143, permit him continued release pending the appeal and issue an emergency order vacating Williamson's obligation to self-surrender to the United States Marshals Service for the service of his sentence until the conclusion of the appeal. See Release Motion at 1. In support of his request, Williamson notes that he has been released on his own recognizance since his arraignment on November 10, 2011, has complied with all conditions of release since that time, has appeared for all court proceedings, and has not posed any danger to the community. See Release Motion ¶ 2, at 2. Williamson asserts that the criteria for a defendant's release pending appeal is set out in 18 U.S.C. § 3143, which provides that a defendant should be detained unless the defendant can demonstrate by clear-and convincing-evidence that the defendant is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the community, and that the appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact. See Release Motion ¶ 10, at 5 (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3143(b)(1)(A)). He contends that, for his release, the Court must decide, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that the appeal raises a "substantial" question of law and also decide that, "if the substantial question is determined favorably to the defendant on appeal, that decision is likely to result in reversal or anorder for a new trial of all counts on which imprisonment has been imposed." Release Motion ¶ 11, at 5-6 (quoting United States v. Affleck, 765 F.2d 944, 946 (10th Cir. 1985)(en banc)).

According to Williamson, knowledge and willfulness were essential elements of the United States' charges against him, and he "consistently alleged that he could defend the charges by negating the elements of knowledge or willfulness by showing that he sought in good faith to comply with the relevant law." Release Motion ¶ 13 at 6-7 (citing Cheek v. United States, 489 U.S. 192, 201 (1991)). Williamson argues that good faith means "an honest belief, a lack of malice, and the intent to perform all lawful obligations," and asserts that he has consistently argued that a belief that one is acting in good faith thus need not be rational as long as it is truly held. Release Motion ¶ 14, at 7 (citing United States v. Lindsay, 184 F.3d 1138 (10th Cir. 1999); United States v. Ratchford, 942 F.2d 702 (10th Cir. 1991)). He states that he attempted to prove throughout his case that his delusional, irrational, or unreasonably held belief that he was justified in filing the challenged liens could provide a good faith defense by precluding a finding of willfulness. See Release Motion ¶ 14, at 7. He asserts that the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has "repeatedly recognized in a myriad of cases involving an allegedly criminally false statement that it is an element of the offense that the false statement was made knowingly and that good faith negates the requisite element of criminal intent." Release Motion ¶ 15, at 7-8 (citing United States v. Grissom, 44 F.3d 1507, 1512 (10th Cir. 1995); United States v. Migliaccio, 34 F.3d 1517, 1524 (10th Cir. 1994); United States v. Haddock, 956 F.2d 1534, 1547 (10th Cir. 1992), on reh'g in part, 961 F.2d 933 (10th Cir. 1992), and abrogated by United States v. Wells, 519 U.S. 482 (1997); United States v. Ratchford, 942 F.2d at 706-07). He contends that the Tenth Circuit has also consistently held that "general jury instructions onwilfulness and intent are insufficient to fully and clearly convey a defendant's good faith defense to the jury," and that Judge Black's refusal to instruct the jury on Williamson's definition of good faith was error, which is likely to result in the reversal of his criminal...

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