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Judges: 11-year-old conviction had little probative value

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday affirmed the decision by the District Court in Hammond preventing a defendant from using an 11-year-old conviction to impeach a testifying co-defendant in a wire fraud case.

Phillip Rucker, Sheila Chandler and Jerry Haymon were indicted by a grand jury with engaging in a mortgage fraud scheme. Rucker was charged with one count of wire fraud for his participation and was later convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison, one year of supervised release and ordered to pay nearly $74,000 in restitution.

Rucker recruited Leequiter Smith to purchase a property in Gary for $85,000; Haymon led the seller to believe that he would sell the property for $35,000. Chandler completed false documents to support Smith’s loan application and Rucker helped obtain a down payment for Smith from an acquaintance who claimed in a gift letter to be Smith’s brother. For his part in the scheme, Rucker received $10,000.

The issue in United States of America v. Phillip Rucker, 13-1297, is whether the District Court abused its discretion in finding that, under the circumstances, the probative value of Chandler’s 2000 prior conviction for thefts of public funds did not substantially outweigh its prejudicial effect.

“Rucker maintains that Chandler’s 2000 conviction for a theft concerning a program receiving federal funds was especially probative because it shows that her trial testimony, that she began lying in 2004, was false. Rucker, however, mischaracterizes Chandler’s testimony,” wrote Judge Frederick L. Kapala of the Northern District of Illinois, who was sitting by designation. “Chandler testified that she began to lie to mortgage lenders on behalf of buyers and to create false documents in 2004, not that she was never dishonest before 2004. As such, Chandler’s 2000 conviction does not have the probative value that Rucker assigns to it.”

He also claimed Chandler’s testimony was the “lynchpin of the government’s case against him.”

“Even giving Rucker the benefit of the doubt and assuming that the jury believed that Rucker truly thought the house was worth $85,000, the disbursement of $20,000 (nearly a quarter of the proceeds of the sale) to himself and Smith after the closing and the $4,000 contribution by Haymon was strong evidence that Rucker knew that fraud was afoot. Therefore, the jury did not need to rely on Chandler’s testimony alone to conclude that Rucker knowingly engaged in this scheme to defraud,” Kapala wrote.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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