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9th Circuit Reverses District Court's Jury Instructional Error

United States v. Turchin Docket: 18-10464, Opinion Date: January 3, 2022. Based on his participation in a scheme to issue California commercial driver’s licenses to persons who had not passed the requisite tests, Turchin was convicted of fraud involving identification documents, 18 U.S.C. 1028(a)(1) and under 18 U.S.C. 371, for conspiracy to violate the prohibitions on bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds under 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B) and (a)(2) and to commit fraud involving identification documents under section 1028(a). The Ninth Circuit reversed in part. Turchin’s actions fell within the scope of conduct covered by section 1028(a)(1) but the district court erred in instructing the jury. Section 1028(c)(1) provides that the requisite federal nexus exists if “the identification document . . . is or appears to be issued by or under the authority of the United States or a sponsoring entity of an event designated as a special event of national significance.” “United States” refers only to the national government, and does not refer broadly to the United States and all of its component parts. The district court erroneously instructed the jury that the federal nexus was automatically satisfied by showing that the identification document was issued by a state government. A reasonable jury could conclude that Turchin’s production of California driver’s licenses to the particular unqualified drivers at issue affected interstate commerce under 1028(c)(3)(A) and there was sufficient evidence supporting the federal nexus element of the alleged conspiracy to violate section 666.

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