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United States v. Shields

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

December 21, 2016

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Melvin Russell "Rusty" Shields, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Michael Sims, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and Submitted October 20, 2016 San Francisco, California

         Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California D.C. No. 5:12-cr-00410- RMW-1, D.C. No. 5:12-cr-00410- RMW-2 Ronald M. Whyte, District Judge, Presiding

          Erick Guzman (argued), Santa Rosa, California, for Defendant-Appellant Melvin Russell Shields.

          Ethan Atticus Balogh (argued) and Evan C. Greenberg, Coleman & Balogh LLP, San Francisco, California, for Defendant-Appellant Michael Sims.

          Annie M. Voigts (argued), Assistant United States Attorney; Barbara J. Valliere, Chief, Appellate Division; Brian J. Stretch, United States Attorney; United States Attorney's Office, San Francisco, California; for Plaintiff-Appellee United States.

          Before: A. WALLACE TASHIMA and MILAN D. SMITH, JR., Circuit Judges, and EDWARD R. KORMAN, [*] Senior District Judge.

         SUMMARY [**]

         Criminal Law

         The panel affirmed Melvin Shields's and Michael Sims's convictions arising from the capitalization and operation of their real estate development business, which lost millions of investors' dollars.

         The panel held that the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury that it must find a duty to disclose in order to convict defendants of wire fraud based on any material omissions, but that this was not reversible plain error because the instruction was not clearly required by this court's precedent and the error most likely did not affect the outcome of the proceedings.

         The panel rejected the defendants' remaining challenges to their convictions in a concurrently-filed unpublished memorandum disposition.

          OPINION

          M. SMITH, Circuit Judge.

         Melvin Shields and Michael Sims appeal their jury convictions following a joint trial arising from the capitalization and operation of their real estate development business, which lost millions of investors' dollars from 2007 to 2009. Shields was convicted on 32 counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud, securities fraud, and making a false statement to a bank. Sims was convicted on two wire fraud counts. Defendants challenge their convictions based on several claimed trial errors, including admission of prejudicial evidence, failure to sever the joint trial, ineffective assistance of counsel, inadequate jury instructions, and denial of the right to be present at a critical stage. We affirm.

         Although we hold that the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury that it must find a duty to disclose in order to convict defendants of wire fraud based on a material ...


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