United States v. Sutherland (P)

The defendant’s convictions for filing three false tax returns and obstructing a grand jury proceeding will stand. Contrary to the defendant’s argument, providing fabricated loan documents to a U.S. Attorney’s office was not too distant from an ongoing grand jury proceeding to meet the nexus requirement for obstruction. This court thus joins the Second Circuit in recognizing that the discretionary actions of a third person can form part of the nexus to an official proceeding.

The official proceeding that the defendant attempted to influence was not some far-off possibility. The grand jury had in fact convened. His actions show a clear relationship in time, causation or logic with the grand jury proceedings. He distributed the false loan documents just months after the grand jury subpoena was served upon him, and those documents attempted to explain away transactions reflected in the subpoenaed documents. As with a subpoenaed witness, there is a strong likelihood that the U.S. Attorney’s office would serve as a channel or conduit to the grand jury for the false evidence or testimony presented to it.

The district court properly instructed the jury on the nexus requirement, and the jury’s determinations pursuant to that instruction were based on the substantial evidence presented at trial.


United States v. Sutherland (P), No. 17-4427, Apr. 19, 2019. 4th Cir. (Wilkinson) from WDNC at Charlotte (Cogburn).

Categories: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions, Published


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