Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Circuit Vacates Judgment of Acquittal in Structuring Case

United States v. William MacPherson, Docket No. 04-4825-cr (2d Cir. September 13, 2005) (Op. by Raggi): In this decision, the Circuit vacates a judgment of acquittal entered by Judge Johnson in the E.D.N.Y. following a jury verdict convicting MacPherson -- an NYPD officer -- of structuring currency transactions to avoid reporting requirements, in violation of 31 U.S.C. ยง 5324(a)(3). The Circuit found that there was enough circumstantial evidence to sustain the jury's finding that MacPherson had the requisite mens rea when he made 32 separate cash deposits, none exceeding the $10,000 trigger for a CTR filing and totalling about $250,000 over a four-month period, ruling that "a pattern of structured transactions, . . . may, by itself, permit a rational jury to infer that a defendant had knowledge of and the intent to evade currency reporting requirements." Op. at 25.

Given the facts as recited by the opinion and the exceedingly low standard for sustaining a jury verdict, it is difficult to quarrel with the Court's conclusion. The case is nonetheless peculiar in that (1) the money in question did not come from illegal activity, and (2) the defendant had no apparent motive for wishing to avoid CTR filings. These circumstances of course do not immunize the defendant from prosecution -- the governing statute does not require that the relevant funds derive from criminal activity, and motive is of course not an element of the crime. Nonetheless, MacPherson seems an atypical target for a structuring prosecution.


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