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District Court properly handles expert testimony by non-expert witnesses

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Although neither witness called to testify in a criminal trial was an expert, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the District Court did not err by barring the testimony of the defense witness while allowing the statements of the government witness.

The 7th Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence of Randall Causey in United States of American v. Randall B. Causey, 13-1321.
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Causey was convicted of one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1349 and eight counts of aiding and abetting the commission of, and committing the offenses of, wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343. He was sentenced to 108 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to defraud borrowers and lenders in a real estate scheme in Gary during the housing boom years of 2005 and 2006.

As the only defendant to not plead guilty, Causey had a five-day trial that took place in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division.

On appeal, Causey raised five issues, two of which asserted the District Court erred in its rulings on expert testimony.

During his trial, Causey called Douglas Kvachkoff, the owner of Indiana Title Network Co. Kvachkoff started by testifying about the contents of a closing folder he had, but when defense counsel began asking questions about how someone in the real estate industry would procure closing numbers, the District Court barred the responses as improper expert testimony.

The 7th Circuit agreed with the District Court. It found that the defense’s questions about the closing numbers required a specialized knowledge of the industry. Since Causey did not file the necessary Rule 16 disclosure, the 7th Circuit held that the District Court was within its discretion to exclude the expert testimony.

Also at trial, one of Causey’s co-conspirators, Sheila Chandler, was called as a witness for the government. Chandler testified about her role in the scheme and, at one point, said the Gary housing market was inflated by 400 percent.

Causey argued on appeal that Chandler was not qualified to give expert testimony and her 400 percent comment was beyond the scope of the government’s pretrial Rule 16 disclosure.

The 7th Circuit held that even if Chandler’s testimony exceeded the scope of the government’s disclosure, the error was harmless. Her statements were of little value to the government’s case and the defense counsel’s cross examination mitigated any potential harm by pointing out Chandler was not an appraiser.   


 

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  1. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  3. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  4. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  5. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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