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United States of America v. Anthony J. Munchak

March 30, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
ANTHONY J. MUNCHAK DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendant Anthony Munchak's Motion for Bail Pending Appeal (Doc. 273.) Mr. Munchak was convicted by a jury in June of 2011 for crimes stemming from his position as Lackawanna County Commissioner. On January 30, 2012, Mr. Munchak was sentenced to a term of eighty-four months incarceration, concurrent with several lesser terms. The Judgment of conviction and sentence was entered by the Court on February 14, 2012. (Doc. 269.) Mr. Munchak subsequently appealed the Court's Judgment of conviction and sentence. (Doc. 270.) Now, Mr. Munchak seeks release pending the Third Circuit's resolution of his appeal. (Doc. 273.) According to Mr. Munchak, release pending appeal is mandated in this case because of errors in the Court's jury instructions related to the § 666 bribery charges (Counts 13-15) and the Hobbs Act extortion charges. (Counts 19, 22-23.) Because Mr. Munchak cannot establish that his appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact, his Motion for Bail Pending Appeal will be denied.

I. Background

Mr. Munchak was convicted in June of 2011 for crimes stemming from his position as Lackawanna County Commissioner. In particular, Mr. Munchak was found guilty of accepting money from local businesses to maintain contracts with Lackawanna County. Mr. Munchak was convicted of the following offenses: conspiracy to commit theft or bribery in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, (count 13); bribery in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 666(a)(1)(B) (counts 14 and 15); conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right in violation of Title 18, United States Code Section 1951(a) (count 19); extortion under color of official right in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951(also known as the Hobbs Act) (counts 22 and 23); subscribing and filing a materially false tax return in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7206(1) (count 37); and, income tax evasion in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7201 (count 40). After the Court entered a Judgment of conviction and sentence, (Doc. 269), Mr. Munchak filed a Notice of Appeal from the Judgment of conviction and sentence. (Doc. 270.) Mr. Munchak now seeks release pending the Third Circuit's resolution of his appeal. (Doc. 273.)

According to Mr. Munchak, release pending appeal is warranted in his case because he does not present a risk of flight or danger to the community, his appeal is not taken for purposes of delay, and a favorable ruling on appeal would result in a complete reversal of all his convictions. (Doc. 275, 1-2, 8.)

Mr. Munchak also asserts that his appeal presents several substantial questions of law or fact. (Doc. 275, 2-6.) Mr. Munchak argues that: (1) the Court's jury instructions on the § 666 bribery charges were inconsistent with the Third Circuit's definition of bribery as a quid pro quo exchange, (Doc. 275, 2-3); (2) the Court's jury instructions lowered the Government's burden of proof for the Hobbs Act extortion charges, (Doc. 275, 4-5); and (3) the Court erred in instructing the jury that an overt act is not a prerequisite for a Hobbs Act conspiracy conviction. (Doc. 275, 6.) Mr. Munchak, however, did not object to these instructions at trial.

The Government opposes Mr. Munchak's request for release pending appeal. (Doc. 281.) According to the Government, Mr. Munchak's appeal is for purposes of delay and fails to present a substantial question of law or fact thus barring his release during the pendency of his appeal. (Doc. 281.) The motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion

A. Relevant Legal Standards

1. 18 U.S.C. § 3143

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3143(b), a defendant who has appealed his conviction is entitled to release pending appeal only if a court finds:

(A) by clear and convincing evidence that the person is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community if released . . .; and

(B) that the appeal is not for purposes of delay and raises a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in-

(i) reversal,

(ii) an order for a new trial,

(iii) a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment, or

(iv) a reduced sentence to a term of imprisonment less than the total of the time already served plus the expected duration of the appeal process.

18 U.S.C. § 3143(b)(1) (emphasis added). In United States v. Miller, 753 F.2d 19, 22-23, (3d Cir. 1985), the Third Circuit construed the original version of the statute, which is nearly ...


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