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United States v. Hendrickson

April 26, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PETER HENDRICKSON, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gerald E. Rosen Chief Judge, United States District Court

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL OR NEW TRIAL

At a session of said Court, held in the U.S. Courthouse, Detroit, Michigan on April 26, 2010 PRESENT: Honorable Gerald E. Rosen Chief Judge, United States District Court

I. INTRODUCTION

On October 26, 2009, Defendant Peter Hendrickson was convicted by a jury on ten counts of filing a false document with the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1). Following this guilty verdict, Defendant filed the present motion on November 3, 2009, seeking a judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, a new trial. In support of this motion, Defendant challenges (i) the Court's resolution of his pre-trial motion arguing that he is not a "person" within the meaning of § 7206, (ii) the sufficiency of the Government's evidence as to several elements of the charged offenses, (iii) certain of the jury instructions given by the Court, and (iv) the Court's admission of evidence which, in Defendant's view, violated his rights under the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause.

The Court addressed Defendant's motion during the initial portion of an April 19, 2010 sentencing hearing. For the reasons set forth below and at the April 19 hearing, the Court denies Defendant's motion.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Defendant Has Not Identified Any Basis for the Court To Revisit Its Ruling That Ordinary Individuals Are "Persons" Within the Meaning of § 7206

As the first ground for his present motion, Defendant argues that the Court erred in its denial of his pre-trial motion in which he argued that the term "person" as used in 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1) has a specialized meaning that does not encompass ordinary individuals. The Court addressed this contention at length in an October 7, 2009 opinion in this case, see United States v. Hendrickson, 664 F. Supp.2d 793, 813-16 (E.D. Mich. 2009), and Defendant's present motion merely rehashes the arguments addressed (and rejected) in this October 7 ruling. Accordingly, there is no need to revisit this question.

Moreover, to the extent that Defendant suggests that the Government failed to meet its evidentiary burden of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant is a "person" within the meaning of § 7206(1), this challenge to the jury's guilty verdict rests upon the premise that the term "person" as used in the statute has a specialized meaning. The Court, however, expressly held in its October 7 ruling that the term "person" in § 7206(1) encompasses ordinary individuals. See Hendrickson, 664 F. Supp.2d at 816. As the Government points out, the jury could reasonably have inferred from the testimony at trial that this statutory element was satisfied, where Defendant himself took the stand and appeared to be an ordinary individual.

B. Defendant's Various Challenges to the Sufficiency of the Evidence Lack Merit

Defendant next contends that the Government failed to carry its burden of proof as to various elements of the charged § 7206 offenses. First, because these offenses rested upon the premise that Defendant falsely reported zero "wages" in various submissions to the IRS, the Government necessarily had to show that Defendant had, in fact, received "wages" for the years in question. Yet, Defendant contends that no such evidence was introduced at trial.

As the Government points out, there was ample evidence at trial from which the jury could permissibly have concluded that Defendant's claims of zero "wages" were false. First, the Government introduced into evidence the W-2 forms issued to Defendant by his employer, Personnel Management, Inc., for the years 2000 to 2006, which reported the remuneration he received from the company for each of these years. In addition, the jury heard from two individuals at Personnel Management, Larry Bodoh and Warren Rose, who discussed Defendant's tenure and responsibilities at the company and characterized Defendant as an "employee." (See Trial Tr. at 370-71, 392-93, 399.) What is more, Defendant himself described his job duties at the company in his testimony at trial. (See id. at 507-10.) From this evidence, the jury could permissibly have concluded that Defendant was an "employee" whose remuneration during the relevant years qualified as "wages," as these terms were defined in the jury instructions given by the Court,*fn1 so that his claims of zero "wages" on his tax forms were false.

Defendant's principal response to this evidence is that it did not establish his receipt of "wages" as he believes this term is properly defined under the tax code. This argument, however, boils down to a disagreement with the jury instructions given by the Court, and does not call into question the sufficiency of the evidence to establish the elements of the charged § 7206(1) offenses as explicated in the jury instructions.*fn2 Under the Court's descriptions of these elements and definitions of the pertinent terms of the tax code, the evidence introduced by the Government at trial was sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant's claims of zero "wages" were false.*fn3

Defendant next challenges the sufficiency of the evidence that he "[w]illfully" made false statement in his submissions to the IRS, as necessary to sustain his conviction of offenses under ยง 7206(1). As explained in the Court's October 7, 2009 ruling, in the context of criminal charges brought under the Internal Revenue Code, this "element of willfulness requires the Government to prove that the law imposed a duty on the defendant, that the defendant knew of this duty, and that he ...


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