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7th Circuit affirms in part man’s convictions for producing fake documents

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There is enough evidence to support two of the three convictions of an East Chicago man stemming from his making and selling various counterfeit documents, but photocopies in his possession cannot support his conviction of unlawful possession of five or more false identification documents.

Christopher Spears was sentenced to 34 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release after being found guilty at trial of fraud during an attempted purchase of firearms, aggravated identity theft, producing false identification documents, possession of false identity documents with unlawful intent, and possession of an instrument designed to make a forged security. On appeal, he only challenges the aggravated identity theft, producing false identification documents, and possession of false identity documents convictions.

Spears sold Tirsah Payne a fraudulent handgun-carry permit that contained her actual identification information. Payne could not lawfully possess a gun. When Payne used the fake permit to attempt to buy a gun, the store became suspicious and reported it to the authorities. This led to Spears’ arrest and discovery of other fake documents.

In United States of America v. Christopher Spears, 11-1683, the 7th Circuit affirmed the conviction of aggravated identity theft. Spears argued that it couldn’t be identity theft if he used Payne’s actual information. His conduct falls within the literal terms of the statute because he “knowingly transfer[ed] … without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person” during or in relation to a predicate felony. His conviction of fraud during an attempted purchase of firearms relates to Payne’s attempt to buy a gun.

The judges affirmed his conviction of producing a false identification document, as the fake driver’s license underlying this count is sufficiently realistic that a reasonable jury could conclude that it appeared to be issued by the state of Indiana.

His conviction of unlawful possession of five or more false identification documents was reversed because, of the six pieces of evidence introduced to support this charge, only one would qualify. Two were photocopies of alleged fake driver’s licenses and three others were so clearly unprofessional that they do not appear to be issued by the state, the court held.

The judges remanded for resentencing.

 

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

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