Co-authored by Joseph E. Gallo
The District Court for the District of Massachusetts recently held that in order to obtain a conviction for making a false statement to a government agent, the government must prove that the defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, that he was speaking to a government agent when he made the allegedly false statement.
Defendant, who was accused of securities fraud in connection with insider trading, received a phone call “out of the blue” at his workplace from SEC attorneys. The SEC attorneys, during an unrecorded phone call, asked Defendant a series of questions about potential insider trading. Based on that call, Defendant was charged with making a false statement to federal officials pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1001.
During his trial, Defendant testified that he was unsure of the identity of the callers, and, partly because of this, dodged their questions and sometimes responded untruthfully. Following his conviction, Defendant moved to vacate on the ground that the jury should have received an instruction that the government must prove that the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that he was speaking to a government agent when he made the allegedly false statement.
The District Court granted Defendant’s motion to vacate and found that the government must prove that the defendant knew he or she was speaking with a federal official at the time of the false statement. The Court observed that “[t]he implications of the government’s arguments here chill the blood.”
United States v. Bindette, No. 10-cr-30036-MAP,(N.D. Tex. March 5, 2013)