Monday, July 26, 2010

United States v. Thomas: Obstruction of Justice and Perjury

The court of appeals affirmed a judgment that Tammy Thomas, a former professional cyclist, could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice where she allegedly gave intentionally evasive and false testimony before a federal grand jury though she was under a grant of immunity.

Thomas testified before the grand jury in regards to distribution of anabolic steroids to professional athletes and money laundering connected to BALCO Laboratories and her knowledge of information regarding Patrick Arnold, an alleged distributor of the steroids. During her testimony Thomas denied receiving any "products" from Arnold, "taking anything Arnold gave her," and "taking anabolic steroids." As a result of these statements under oath, Thomas was charged with alleged material false declarations and obstruction of justice and was convicted at trial on four of the six counts she was charged with.

The court of appeals heard Thomas's case and her "literal truth" defense. The court affirmed that there was ample evidence that Thomas understood the questions presented by the government. Thomas also argued that her statements were not material because they lacked a jurisdictional connection to the Northern District of California, where her grand jury testimony took place. The court rejected that assertion and held that there was sufficient evidence for a rational jury to find the element of materiality. With regards to her obstruction of justice conviction, Thomas argued that her immunity grant effectively excluded her testimony from use against her by the government in any prosecution beyond perjury, making false declarations, or refusing to testify. The language of 18 U.S.C. §6002 indicated that her testimony could not be used against her in any criminal case, except for a prosecution for perjury, false declaration, or otherwise failing to comply with the order. Thomas failed to comply with the order and was therefore convicted for obstruction of justice under U.S.C. §1503.

This case is United States v. Thomas, 9th Cir.; July 22, 2010; 08-10450.