United States v. Wayne James

PRECEDENTIAL UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT _____________ No. 17-2536 _____________ UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. WAYNE A.G. JAMES, Appellant _____________ On Appeal from the District Court of the Virgin Islands District Court No. 3-15-cr-00042-001 District Judge: The Honorable Curtis V. Gomez _____________ Argued December 12, 2017 Before: SMITH, Chief Judge, McKEE, and SCIRICA, Circuit Judges (Filed: April 23, 2018) Luke V. Cass Amanda R. Vaughn Justin D. Weitz United States Department of Justice Criminal Division Public Integrity Section 1400 New York Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20005 Nelson L. Jones Delia L. Smith Office of United States Attorney 5500 Veterans Drive, Suite 260 United States Courthouse St. Thomas, VI 00802 John-Alex Romano Vijay Shanker [ARGUED] United States Department of Justice Appellate Section Room 1264 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530 Counsel for Appellee 2 Brendan A. Hurson [ARGUED] Kia D. Sears Office of Federal Public Defender 1336 Beltjen Road Suite 202 Tunick Building St. Thomas, VI 00802 Omodare B. Jupiter Office of Federal Public Defender 4094 Diamond Ruby Suite 5 Christiansted, VI 00820 Counsel for Appellant _____________________ OPINION _____________________ SMITH, Chief Judge. I. INTRODUCTION This appeal requires us to further define the contours of the legislative immunity provided to Virgin Islands legislators under 48 U.S.C. § 1572(d). Under that federal statute, legislators are protected from being “held to answer before any tribunal other than the legislature for any speech or debate in the legislature.” 48 U.S.C. § 1572(d). In light of 3 the rich tradition of protecting free and open legislative debate—a tradition with historical roots reaching back to monarchical disputes with the British Parliament—courts must be vigilant to apply the protections of § 1572(d) to their fullest extent. Yet despite the importance of legislative immunity, § 1572(d) offers only a limited exception to the general rule that the law applies equally to both those who make the law and those who are empowered to elect their lawmakers. In this appeal, a former Virgin Islands senator accused of violating two criminal statutes argues that § 1572(d) shields him from prosecution. Because we conclude that the conduct underlying the Government’s allegations in this case is clearly not legislative conduct protected by § 1572(d), we hold that the former senator may stand trial. The District Court’s denial of the former senator’s motion to dismiss or suppress will therefore be affirmed. II. JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW The District Court had jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3241. We have jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal under the collateral order doctrine. United States v. Menendez, 831 F.3d 155, 164 (3d Cir. 2016); United States v. McDade, 28 F.3d 283, 288 (3d Cir. 1994). We review the District Court’s legal conclusions de novo, and its factual determinations for clear error. Menendez, 831 F.3d at 164. 4 III. BACKGROUND In October of 2015, a grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging former Virgin Islands Senator Wayne James with two counts of wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1343,1 and one count of ...

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