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United States v. Bush

decided: May 15, 1987.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
GEORGE BUSH, SR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, No. 85-300043-01, William L. Beatty, Judge.

Author: Coffey

Before COFFEY, FLAUM, Circuit Judges, and PARSONS, Senior District Judge.*fn*

COFFEY, Circuit Judge.

Defendant George Bush, Sr. appeals his conviction of two counts of extorting a bribe under color of official right in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 and resulting sentence. The district court sentenced Bush to concurrent two year sentences on both counts, suspended all but five months of the sentences, and placed Bush on five years probation commencing with his release from confinement. The court also imposed the following terms and conditions as part of Bush's sentence: 1) that he publicly resign his position as an alderman of the city of East St. Louis at a city council meeting; 2) that he work at HUD-Housing Authority for eight hours a week for six months; 3) that he pay a fine of $2,000 prior to the expiration of his term of probation. We affirm.

I.

In 1983, Bush was an alderman representing the fourth ward in the city council of the city of East St. Louis, Illinois. In that position, Bush was in a position to influence awarding of contracts in the city of East St. Louis, Illinois. On August 19, 1983, Robert Fulton Jacox, an East St. Louis businessman, allegedly gave Bush approximately $250 to secure Bush's recommendation to the city council to award Jacox a weed cutting contract. It was alleged that on November 1, 1983 Jacox again paid Bush $750 to gain Bush's recommendation that Jacox receive a weed cutting contract and a city demolition contract. At the time Jacox made each of the payments to Bush, he was assisting the F.B.I.'s*fn1 investigation of alleged corruption in the East St. Louis city government. Prior to each of Jacox's meetings with Bush on August 19, 1983 and November 1, 1983 FBI agents wired Jacox with an electronic recording device and provided Jacox with the cash payments for Bush.

Upon the completion of the investigation, Bush was indicted on August 27, 1985 on two counts of extorting a bribe under color of official right in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951. Prior to Bush's indictment, FBI Special Agent Donald Egelston went to Bush's home on March 28, 1985, identified himself as an FBI agent, and told Bush that the FBI had evidence that Bush had received a $750 payment from Jacox to influence the awarding of the city weed cutting contract. Bush admitted receiving money from Jacox, but insisted that it was only $450. At trial, Egelston stated that "Mr. Bush advised me at that time that he did receive what he believed to be $450 and not $750 from Mr. Jacox."

After Bush was indicted, counsel for Bush entered an appearance, Bush subsequently pleaded guilty, and the court accepted the guilty plea to one count of the two count indictment in exchange for the government's agreement to dismiss the remaining count at the time of Bush's sentencing. After retaining the services of another attorney Bush moved to withdraw his previous plea of guilty; and the trial court vacated the entry of Bush's plea of guilty on November 1, 1985 and set November 12 as the date of Bush's trial. The date for Bush's trial was later adjourned to November 20. On November 18, two days prior to trial, Bush's second attorney made a request for the discovery material in the U.S. Attorney's files. The government had previously provided Bush's prior counsel with all of the material in its files pertaining to Bush, but apparently Bush's second attorney either failed to request or did not receive the complete file from the former counsel. The U.S. Attorney agreed to reproduce his entire file and made it available the next morning to Bush's attorney. On November 20, the day of trial, Bush's attorney moved for a continuance, claiming that he just received the material pertaining to Bush from the government's files and thus was unable to properly prepare for trial. The trial court denied the motion. Bush proceeded to trial, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty on both counts of the indictment finding Bush guilty of extortion under the color of official right in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951. Bush appeals.

II.

Bush initially argues that the district court's refusal to grant him a further continuance prior to trial deprived him of due process and equal protection under the law. Bush argues that he was prejudiced because his new counsel did not have sufficient time to prepare an adequate defense in that his substitute counsel had just obtained additional copies of the discovery materials on the eve of his trial, November 19, 1985.*fn2 When the trial judge heard Bush's motion for an adjournment immediately prior to trial, it was revealed that 1) Bush's second attorney had failed to request the discovery material from the government until two days before trial, even though he had been representing Bush for about six weeks prior to that date, and 2) that the government had previously provided Bush's first attorney with all the discovery material in its files immediately after Bush's arraignment in August, 1985. The district judge denied Bush's motion for a continuance on the date of trial ruling that had Bush's counsel followed the proper professional procedure and secured the discovery materials from prior counsel or in lieu thereof made a timely demand of the U.S. Attorney for the materials he would have had adequate time to prepare for trial and that he [the district judge] had a responsibility to keep his own docket current.

In Avery v. Alabama, 308 U.S. 444, 84 L. Ed. 377, 60 S. Ct. 321 (1940) the United States Supreme Court stated:

"In the course of trial, after due appointment of competent counsel, many procedural questions necessarily arise which must be decided by the trial judge in light of facts then presented and conditions then existing. Disposition of a request for a continuance is of this nature and is made in the discretion of the trial judge, the exercise of which will ordinarily not be reviewed."

Id. at 446. See also, United States v. Darby, 744 F.2d 1508, 1521 (11th Cir. 1984) (quoting Avery); United States v. Miller, 573 F.2d 388, 394 (7th Cir. 1978) (stating that "it is well established that such decisions [whether to grant a continuance] are left to the discretion of the trial court and are not reversed except upon a showing of abuse of that discretion"); United States v. Uptain, 531 F.2d 1281, 1285 (5th Cir. 1976) (citing Avery). In United States v. Uptain, 531 F.2d 1281 (5th Cir. 1976), the Fifth Circuit stated:

"A motion for a continuance is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court, and its ruling will not be disturbed on appeal unless there is a showing that there has been an abuse of that discretion. This issue must be decided on a case by case basis in light of the circumstances presented, particularly the ...


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