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United States v. Chavez

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

August 30, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LEDINSON CHAVEZ Defendant

          JURY INSTRUCTIONS

         INTRODUCTION

         Members of the jury, now it is time for me to instruct you about the law that you must follow in deciding this case. I will start by explaining your duties and the general rules that apply in every criminal case. Then I will explain the elements, or parts, of the crime that the defendant is accused of committing. Then I will explain some rules that you must use in evaluating testimony and evidence. And last, I will explain the rules that you must follow during your deliberations in the jury room, and the possible verdicts that you may return.

         Please listen very carefully to everything I say.

         JURORS' DUTIES

         You have two main duties as jurors. The first one is to decide what the facts are from the evidence that you saw and heard here in court. Deciding what the facts are is your job, not mine, and nothing that I have said or done during this trial was meant to influence your decision about the facts in any way.

         Your second duty is to take the law that I give you, apply it to the facts, and decide if the government has proved the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is my job to instruct you about the law, and you are bound by the oath that you took at the beginning of the trial to follow the instructions that I give you, even if you personally disagree with them. This includes the instructions that I gave you before and during the trial, and these instructions. All the instructions are important, and you should consider them together as a whole.

         The lawyers may have talked about the law during their arguments. But if what they said is different from what I say, you must follow what I say. What I say about the law controls.

         Perform these duties fairly. Do not let any bias, sympathy or prejudice that you may feel toward one side or the other influence your decision in any way.

         PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE, BURDEN OF PROOF, REASONABLE DOUBT

         As you know, the defendant has plead not guilty to the crimes charged in the indictment. The indictment is not any evidence at all of guilt. It is just the formal way that the government tells a defendant what crime he is accused of committing. It does not even raise any suspicion of guilt.

         Instead, a defendant starts the trial with a clean slate, with no evidence at all against him, and the law presumes that he is innocent. This presumption of innocence stays with him unless the government presents evidence here in court that overcomes the presumption and convinces you beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty.

         This means that a defendant has no obligation to present any evidence at all, or to prove to you in any way that he is innocent. It is up to the government to prove that he is guilty, and this burden stays on the government from start to finish. You must find the defendant not guilty unless the government convinces you beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty.

         The government must prove every element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond all possible doubt. Possible doubts or doubts based purely on speculation are not reasonable doubts. A reasonable doubt is a doubt based on reason and common sense. It may arise from the evidence, the lack of evidence, or the nature of the evidence.

         Proof beyond a reasonable doubt means proof which is so convincing that you would not hesitate to rely and act on it in making the most important decisions in your own lives. If you are convinced that the government has proved the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, say so by returning a guilty verdict. If you are not convinced, say so by returning a not guilty verdict.

         EVIDENCE DEFINED

         You must make your decision based only on the evidence that you saw and heard here in court. Do not let rumors, suspicions, or anything else that you may have seen or heard outside of court influence your decision in any way.

         The evidence in this case includes only what the witnesses said while they were testifying under oath; the exhibits that I allowed into evidence; and the stipulations that the lawyers agreed to.

         Nothing else is evidence. The lawyers' statements and arguments are not evidence. Their questions and objections are not evidence. My legal rulings are not evidence. And my comments and questions are not evidence.

         Make your decision based only on the evidence, as I have defined it here, and nothing else.

         CONSIDERATION OF EVIDENCE

         You should use your common sense in weighing the evidence. Consider it in light of your everyday experience with people and events, and give it whatever weight you believe it deserves. If your experience tells you that certain evidence reasonably leads to a conclusion, you are free to reach that conclusion.

         DIRECT AND CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE

         Direct evidence is simply evidence like the testimony of an eyewitness which, if you believe it, directly proves a fact. If a witness testified that he saw it raining outside, and you believed him, that would be direct evidence that it was raining.

         Circumstantial evidence is simply a chain of circumstances that indirectly proves a fact. If someone walked into the courtroom wearing a raincoat covered with drops of water and carrying a wet umbrella, that would be circumstantial evidence from which you could conclude that it was raining.

         It is your job to decide how much weight to give the direct and circumstantial evidence. The law makes no distinction between the weight that you should give to either one, or say that one is any better evidence than the other. You should consider all the evidence, both direct and circumstantial, and give it whatever weight you believe it deserves.

         CREDIBILITY OF WITNESSES

         (1) Another part of your job as jurors is to decide how credible or believable each witness was. This is your job, not mine. It is up to you to decide if a witness's testimony was believable, and how much weight you think it deserves. You are free to believe everything that a witness said, or only part of it, or none of it at all. But you should act reasonably and carefully in making these decisions.

         (2) Let me suggest some things for you to consider in evaluating each witness's testimony.

         (A) Ask yourself if the witness was able to clearly see or hear the events. Sometimes even an honest witness may not have been able to see or hear what was happening, and may make a mistake.

         (B) Ask yourself how good the witness's memory seemed to be. Did the witness seem able to accurately remember what happened?

         (C) Ask yourself if there was anything else that may have interfered with the witness's ability to perceive or remember the events.

         (D) Ask yourself how the witness acted while testifying. Did the witness appear honest? Or did the witness appear to be lying?

         (E) Ask yourself if the witness had any relationship to the government or the defendant, or anything to gain or lose from the case, that might influence the witness's testimony. Ask yourself if the witness had any bias, or prejudice, or reason for testifying that might cause the witness to lie or to slant the testimony in favor of one side or the other.

         (F) Ask yourself if the witness testified inconsistently while on the witness stand, or if the witness said or did something (or failed to say or do something) at any other time that is inconsistent with what the witness said while testifying. If you believe that the witness was inconsistent, ask yourself if this makes the witness's testimony less believable. Sometimes it may; other times it may not. Consider whether the inconsistency was about something important, or about some unimportant detail. Ask yourself if it seemed like an innocent mistake, or if it seemed deliberate.

         (G) And ask yourself how believable the witness's testimony was in light of all the other evidence. Was the witness's testimony supported or contradicted by other evidence that you found believable? If you believe that a witness's testimony was contradicted by other evidence, remember that people sometimes forget things, and that even two honest people who witness the same event may not describe it exactly the same way.

         (3) These are only some of the things that you may consider in deciding how believable each witness was. You may also consider other things that you think shed some light on the witness's believability. Use your common sense and your everyday experience in dealing with other people. And then decide what testimony you believe, and how much weight you think it deserves.

         NUMBER OF WITNESSES

         (1) One more point about the witnesses. Sometimes jurors wonder if the number of witnesses who testified makes any difference.

         (2) Do not make any decisions based only on the number of witnesses who testified. What is more important is how believable the witnesses were, and how much weight you think their testimony deserves. Concentrate on that, not the numbers.

         LAWYERS' OBJECTIONS

         (1) There is one more general subject that I want to talk to you about before I begin explaining the elements of the crime charged.

         (2) The lawyers for both sides objected to some of the things that were said or done during the trial. Do not hold that against either side. The lawyers have a duty to object whenever they think that something is not permitted by the rules of evidence. Those rules are designed to make sure that both sides receive a fair trial.

         (3) And do not interpret my rulings on their objections as any indication of how I think the case should be decided. My rulings were based on the rules of evidence, not on how I feel about the case. Remember that your decision must be based only on the evidence that you saw and heard here in court.

         ON OR ABOUT

         (1) Next, I want to say a word about the date mentioned in the indictment.

         (2) The indictment charges that the crime of Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud (Count 1) began "no later than on or about June 12, 2012," and continued "through on or about November 1, 2014." The indictment charges Health Care Fraud (Count 2) happened "on or about" "and between January 1, 2013, and November 1, 2014." The indictment charges that the crime of Aggravated Identity Theft (Count 13) happened "on or about August 13, 2014." The indictment charges that the crime of Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering (Count 16) happened "on or about" "June 12, 2012 and continuing through on or about November 1, 2014." The government does not have to prove that the crime happened on that exact date. But the government must prove that the crime happened reasonably close to that date.

         INFERRING REQUIRED MENTAL STATE

         (1) Next, I want to explain something about proving a defendant's state of mind.

         (2) Ordinarily, there is no way that a defendant's state of mind can be proved directly, because no one can read another person's mind and tell what that person is thinking.

         (3) But a defendant's state of mind can be proved indirectly from the surrounding circumstances. This includes things like what the defendant said, what the defendant did, how the defendant acted, and any other facts or circumstances in evidence that show what was in the defendant's mind.

         SUMMARIES AND OTHER MATERIALS NOT ADMITTED IN EVIDENCE

         During the trial you have seen counsel use summaries, charts, and other similar material which were offered to assist in the presentation and understanding of the evidence. This material is not itself evidence and must not be considered as proof of any facts.

         SECONDARY- EVIDENCE SUMMARIES ADMITTED IN EVIDENCE

         (1) During the trial you have also seen or heard summary evidence in the form of a chart or similar material. This summary was admitted in evidence, in addition to the material it summarizes, because it may assist you in understanding the evidence that has been presented.

         (2) But the summary itself is not evidence of the material it summarizes, and is only as valid and reliable as the underlying material it summarizes.

         DEFENDANT'S ELECTION NOT TO TESTD7Y OR PRESENT EVIDENCE

         A defendant has an absolute right not to testify. The fact that he did not testify cannot be considered by you in any way. Do not even discuss it in your deliberations.

         Remember that it is up to the government to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not up to the defendant to prove that he is innocent.

         TESTIMONY OF A WITNESS UNDER GRANT OF IMMUNITY OR REDUCED CRIMINAL LIABILITY

         You have heard the testimony of Sergio Betancourt. You have heard that he was involved in the same crime that the defendant is charged with committing. You have also heard that the government has promised him that they would seek a reduced sentence, which the Court may or may not grant, in exchange for his cooperation.

         It is permissible for the government to make such a promise. But you should consider Sergio Betancourt's testimony with more caution than the testimony of other witnesses. Consider whether his testimony may have been influenced by the government's promise.

         Do not convict the defendant based on the unsupported testimony of such a witness, standing alone, unless you believe his testimony beyond a reasonable doubt.

         The fact that Sergio Betancourt has pleaded guilty to a crime is not evidence that the defendant is guilty, and you cannot consider this against the defendant in any way.

         INTRODUCTION

         DEFINITION OF CRIMES

         Next, I will explain the elements of the crimes that the defendant is accused of committing.

         But before I do that, I want to emphasize that the defendant is only on trial for the crimes charged in the indictment. Your job is limited to deciding whether the government has proved the crime charged.

         SEPARATE CONSIDERATION-SINGLE DEFENDANT CHARGED WITH MULTIPLE CRIMES

         (1) The defendant has been charged with four counts. The number of charges is no evidence of guilt, and this should not influence your decision in any way. It is your duty to separately consider the evidence that relates to each charge, and to return a separate verdict for each one. For each charge, you must decide Whether the government has presented proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of that particular charge.

         (2) Your decision on one charge, whether it is guilty or not guilty, should not influence your decision on any of the other charges.

         INDICTMENT COUNT 2

         Health Care Fraud

         The Grand Jury charged Count 2 of the Indictment as follows:

         "On or about and between January I, 2013, and November 1, 2014, in the Western District of Kentucky, Jefferson County, Kentucky, and elsewhere, LEDINSON CHAVEZ, defendant herein, aided and abetted by others, known and unknown to the Grand Jury, knowingly and willfully executed, and attempted to execute, a scheme and artifice to obtain, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, money and property owned by and under the custody and control of health care benefit programs, in connection with the delivery of and payment for health care benefits, items, and services, to wit: LEDINSON CHA VEZ and others, falsely and fraudulently billed United Healthcare for injections and other services never rendered.

         In violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1347 and 2."

         DEFINITION OF THE CRIME

         Health Care Fraud 18 U.S.C. § 1347

         COUNT 2

         1. Count 2 of the indictment charges Ledinson Chavez with health care fraud. For you to find the defendant guilty of health care fraud, you must find that the government has proved each and ...


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