By Ben Suter
The Court finds that the trial court did not err when it admitted contested evidence, nor did it err when it declined to provide certain jury instructions.
State vs. Lindell, No. Pen-19-185, 2020 ME 49, ___ A.3d ___ (Me., 4/16/20).
In 2017 a Maine grand jury indicted Robert Lindell (“Lindell”) for theft by unauthorized taking, knowing or intentional securities violation, theft by deception, intentional evasion of income tax, and failure to pay Maine state income tax. The criminal allegations stemmed from Lindell’s conduct as a securities broker-dealer agent. Lindell’s first victim (“Victim 1”) wrote 31 checks payable to Lindell’s company to purchase various securities, specifying the security in the memo line. Instead, Lindell misdirected the funds for his personal benefit, including purchasing a house in California. Lindell also managed the finances of a second victim whose funds he also misdirected for personal benefit. In total, Lindell was accused of misappropriating more than $3.5 million from his two victims.
At trial, Lindell moved to exclude from evidence the memo lines on the checks Victim 1 wrote to him, arguing that they were inadmissible hearsay. He also argued that any evidence of his use and control of money located in Maine that occurred after he moved to California was outside the jurisdiction of the court and thus inadmissible. The trial court denied both motions. Lindell also sought to introduce jury instructions on the definition of “conduct,” the methods of calculating income taxes, and relevant statutes regarding state taxes. The trial court declined to provide the jury with Lindell’s requested instructions. After a seven-day trial, the jury found Lindell guilty on all counts. Lindell appealed the judgment of conviction.
The Court reviews the trial court’s decision to admit evidence for an abuse of discretion. The Court holds that the language in the memo line of the checks has independent significance as terms of an agreement to purchase specific securities and as evidence of Lindell’s knowledge of those terms. Lindell was unable to distinguish how the language in the memo lines was conceptually different from the other information in the check – such as the amount to be drawn, the payor, or the payee. Therefore, the Court finds that the language is not offered for the truth of the matter asserted and therefore is not inadmissible hearsay.
The Court then reviews the decision to reject Lindell’s proposed jury instructions for prejudicial error. The Court applies a five-part test. To provide relief for Lindell, the Court must find that his rejected instructions: (i) stated the law correctly; (ii) were generated by the evidence; (iii) were not misleading or confusing; and (iv) were not sufficiently covered by the instructions the court gave. The Court must then also find that the refusal to give the instructions prejudiced Lindell.
The Court holds that Lindell failed to show that his requested instructions were not covered by the trial court’s given instructions and Lindell failed to show that the trial court’s decision prejudiced him. Finally, the Court rejects Lindell’s argument that Maine courts lacked jurisdiction over Lindell’s actions while he lived in California. The Court holds that Lindell is legally accountable for all his conduct, because Lindell misappropriated money held in bank accounts in Maine and transmitted falsified tax returns to the Maine Revenue Service. As a result, the Court affirms the trial court’s judgment of conviction.
(SOLA Ref. No. 2020-21-05)
NOTICE: The court decision synopsis published above represents an abbreviated description of the actual decision and is re-printed here for its educational value. The author's effort is to report concisely the substance of the decision or a selected portion of the decision; commentary or analysis is generally reserved for the italicized section at the bottom of the summary. Subscribers to SAC's Online Litigation Alert (SOLA), from which this synopsis is excerpted, have immediate access to the full decision, in addition to the synopsis.
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