United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
H. Woodward has filed another petition for a writ of error
coram nobis pursuant to the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1651, seeking to vacate and expunge his convictions
for honest services mail and wire fraud committed while he
was in a leadership position in the Massachusetts House of
denied Woodward's first coram nobis petition on
October 10, 2012, finding that the demands of justice did not
justify relief. United States v. Woodward, No.
CIV.A. 12-11431-DPW, 2012 WL 4856055, at *9 (D. Mass. Oct.
10, 2012). Woodward bases this second petition primarily on
the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in McDonnell
v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2355 (2016).
acknowledging the narrowing legal grounds upon which his
convictions stand, I again find that the demands of justice
do not justify relief.
was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in
1977 and served as the House Chair of the Joint Committee on
Insurance from January 1985 to January 1991. During the same
period, William Sawyer worked as the senior legislative
counsel for John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, one
of the two largest life insurance companies in Massachusetts,
and participated, along with Hancock, in the Life Insurance
Association of Massachusetts (“LIAM”), an
industry trade association. Sawyer was “frequently
present at Insurance Committee meetings” and was
“the lobbyist who met most often with Woodward.”
United States v. Woodward, 149 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir.
1984 to 1992, Woodward received $8, 740 worth of gratuities
from Sawyer, including meals, rounds of golf, travel
expenses, and other entertainment. A year-by-year breakdown
of the gratuities reveals what I previously described as a
“suspicious pattern.” Woodward, 2012 WL
4856055, at *1. As the First Circuit recounted in rejecting
Woodward's direct appeal from his convictions:
In 1984 and 1985, before Woodward became chair of the
Committee and for the first year afterward, Woodward accepted
gratuities in the range of $200-300 from Sawyer/Hancock. In
1986 there was a marked increase to $2, 527, including over
$1, 800 to cover the air fare, hotel, and tickets (for him
and his wife) to attend the Super Bowl in New Orleans. In
1987-91, Woodward received gratuities in the amount of $1,
547, $1, 093, $513, $1, 230, and $1, 324. Woodward served as
committee chair during all but the last of these years.
During his last four months in the legislature, January
through April 1992, he received only $16, and his gratuities
dropped to $0 after he resigned from office in April. After
Woodward was replaced as committee chair by Rep. Francis
Mara, Sawyer began wining and dining Mara in the same manner
as he had Woodward.
Woodward, 149 F.3d at 53.
years Woodward received these gratuities, he made decisions
within the Insurance Committee that served the interests of
Sawyer and Hancock. During the six years he served as
co-chair, the committee considered approximately six hundred
bills of interest to the life insurance industry. Woodward
opposed the insurance industry's position on only
thirty-one of those bills. And of those thirty-one bills,
only three related to life insurance, the industry of
particular importance to Hancock.
Massachusetts law, Woodward had a duty to file a Statement of
Financial Interests with the Massachusetts State Ethics
Commission each year that disclosed “all gifts he or
his immediate family received, aggregating more than $100 per
year, from lobbyists or businesses that had a direct interest
in legislation.” Woodward, 149 F.3d at 62
(citing Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 268B, ' 5).
Woodward did not disclose in required filings any of the
gratuities he received from Sawyer. He signed those
statements under oath subject to penalties for perjury.
his indictment in July 1995, Woodward was convicted following
trial in this court in October 1996 of: one count of mail
fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1341 (Count 4); one count of
wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (Count 9); two counts
of interstate travel to commit bribery under the Travel Act,
18 U.S.C. § 1952 (Counts 14 and 24); and one count of
conspiracy to commit these offenses under 18 U.S.C. §
371 (Count 1). Following the verdict, I granted judgment of
acquittal on one (Count 24) of the Travel Act counts as
duplicitous. On February 7, 1997, I sentenced Woodward to six
months in a halfway house, supervised release of two years,
and a $200 special assessment. The First Circuit affirmed.
Woodward, 149 F.3d at 73.
Collateral Attack Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255
Woodward's direct appeal was decided but before execution
of his sentence began, in response to collateral attack under
28 U.S.C. § 2255, I vacated the convictions on Count 1
and Count 14 and ordered those counts dismissed in light of
intervening interpretations of the federal and state gratuity
statutes in United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers of
California, 526 U.S. 398 (1999) and Scaccia v. State
Ethics Commission, 727 N.E.2d 824 (Mass. 2000).
United States v. Woodward, Civil Action No.
99-11132-DPW (D. Mass. Feb. 9, 2001). I then resentenced
Woodward on February 12, 2001 to six months of community
confinement, two years of supervised release, a $5, 000 fine,
and a $100 special assessment. By order dated April 19, 2001,
on the joint recommendation of the parties, I amended the
judicial recommendation to provide for home confinement,
rather than community confinement.
The Pension Consequence
November 21, 2002, the Massachusetts State Board of
Retirement rescinded Woodward's pension benefits pursuant
to Massachusetts General Laws ch. 32 ' 15(4), which
provides that “[i]n no event shall any member after
final conviction of a criminal offense involving violation of
the laws applicable to his office or position, be entitled to
receive a retirement allowance.” The Supreme Judicial
Court upheld the board's action against a challenge that
it was time-barred. State Bd. of Retirement v.
Woodward, 847 N.E.2d 298, 306 (Mass. 2006).
Initial Collateral Attack by Petition for Coram
filed his first petition for coram nobis relief in
this court in February 2012. Woodward, 2012 WL
4856055, at *2. He argued, id. at *3, that his
remaining convictions rested on legal theories rejected by
the Supreme Court in Skilling v. United States, 561
U.S. 358 (2010).
the conventional three-part test for coram nobis
relief to frame my analysis, I concluded Woodward could not
satisfy two of the test's three prongs. Id. at
*4. As to the first prong, I concluded Woodward's
petition was untimely because it was filed more than twenty
months after Skilling was decided, a delay I found
to be unreasonable. Id. at *5. As to the third
prong, I concluded that even after Skilling, a
reasonable jury still could have concluded that
Woodward's actions constituted bribery. Id. at
*7-8. Moreover, I found that Woodward's violations of
state disclosure requirements provided “an independent
basis for denying coram nobis that is rooted
entirely in considerations of justice.” Id. at
Further Legal Developments
current petition rests primarily on the Supreme Court's
subsequent decision in McDonnell v. United States,
136 S.Ct. 2355 (2016). In McDonnell, the court
reviewed former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell's
conviction for bribery. 136 S.Ct. at 2361. Governor McDonnell
and his wife received $175, 000 in loans and gifts from a
Virginia businessman, Jonnie Williams, and in exchange,
Governor McDonnell allegedly performed various tasks and
favors to promote Williams' business. Id.
relevant bribery law, the government was required to show
that “Governor McDonnell committed or agreed to commit
an ‘official act' in exchange for the loans and
gifts from Williams.” Id. at 2365. The
indictment charged Governor McDonnell with committing at
least five “official acts, ” including
“arranging meetings for [Williams] with Virginia
government officials” and “hosting, and . . .
attending, events at the Governor's Mansion” that
were designed to promote Williams' business. Id.
At trial, the judge instructed the jury that an