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Woodward v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

September 26, 2018

FRANCIS H. WOODWARD, Petitioner, Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES, Respondent, Appellee.

          APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS Hon. Douglas P. Woodlock, U.S. District Judge

          Bruce A. Singal, with whom Lauren E. Dwyer and Barrett & Singal were on brief, for appellant.

          Sonja M. Ralston, Attorney, Criminal Division, Appellate Section, U.S. Department of Justice, with whom John P. Cronan, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Matthew S. Miner, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and Jenny C. Ellickson, Attorney, were on brief, for appellee.

          Before Torruella, Selya, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          TORRUELLA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         In 1996, a jury convicted former Massachusetts state representative Francis H. Woodward of, among other crimes, honest-services mail and wire fraud. He appeals to us from the district court's denial of his most recent petition for a writ of error coram nobis. We conclude that the district court did not err in denying that petition.

         I.

         A.

         Our opinion addressing Woodward's direct appeal from his conviction lays out the underlying facts in considerable detail. See United States v. Woodward (Woodward I), 149 F.3d 46, 51-54 (1st Cir. 1998). We provide only a brief recap of those facts here.

         Woodward was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1977. Id. at 51. He served on the Joint Committee on Insurance (the "Committee") from 1985 to 1991. Id. During that time, William Sawyer served as the senior legislative counsel in the Government Relations Department of John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company ("Hancock"). Id. Sawyer was also an "active participant" in the Life Insurance Association of Massachusetts (LIAM), an industry association -- of which Hancock was a member -- that employed lobbyists "who worked on Massachusetts legislation." Id. "From 1984 through 1992, Woodward accepted in excess of $9, 000 in gratuities from Hancock and LIAM through their lobbyists Sawyer and William F. Carroll, the president of LIAM. Hancock provided the majority of this largesse, at least $8, 740 in meals, rounds of golf, and other entertainment." Id. at 52.

         While serving on the Committee, "Woodward's official actions, for the most part, conformed with the way Sawyer and Hancock wanted the recipient of their gratuities to conduct himself." Id. at 53. Robert J. Smith, the Committee's research director, testified that Woodward was the "most pro-life-insurance-industry chair of the [Committee] during Smith's tenure." Id. During that time, "Woodward actively supported the industry's position on most bills of importance to the industry." Id. Woodward also neglected his statutory duty to disclose gifts that he or his immediate family received from lobbyists or businesses with a direct interest in legislation. Id. at 62 (citing Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 268B, § 5).

         A jury convicted Woodward of one count of honest-services mail fraud, see 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1346, one count of honest-services wire fraud, see 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343, 1346, two counts of interstate travel to commit bribery, see 18 U.S.C. § 1952, and one count of conspiracy to commit those offenses, see 18 U.S.C. § 371. The district court granted a judgment of acquittal on one count of interstate travel to commit bribery. The district court then sentenced Woodward to six months of community confinement, followed by two years of supervised release, and a $200 special assessment. Woodward appealed from his remaining convictions, and we affirmed. Woodward I, 149 F.3d at 73. In 2002, the Massachusetts State Board of Retirement, invoking Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, § 15(4), rescinded Woodward's pension benefits. That statute 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[.]" Id. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld the State Board of Retirement's decision to do so. State Bd. of Ret. v. Woodward, 847 N.E.2d 298, 306 (Mass. 2006).

         Woodward brought his first collateral attack on his conviction under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, grounding his petition in two then-recently decided cases interpreting the federal and Massachusetts gratuity statutes. See United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers of Cal., 526 U.S. 398 (1999); Scaccia v. State Ethics Comm'n, 727 N.E.2d 824 (Mass. 2000). In response, the district court vacated Woodward's conviction on the conspiracy count and on the remaining count of interstate travel to commit bribery. Woodward's second collateral attack took the form of a writ of error coram nobis, arguing that his remaining convictions were invalid in the wake of Skilling v. United States. See 561 U.S. 358 (2010). The district court denied relief. United States v. Woodward (Woodward II), No. 12-11431, 2012 WL 4856055, at *9 (D. Mass. Oct. 10, 2012).

         B.

         This appeal arises from Woodward's third collateral attack -- his second writ of error coram nobis. Woodward's petition relied primarily on the Supreme Court's recent decision in McDonnellv.United States, 136 S.Ct. 2355 (2016). There, the Supreme Court narrowed the definition of "official act" in the honest-services fraud prosecutions before it. Id. at 2371-72. The district court correctly recognized that, to succeed, a coram nobis petitioner must "explain his failure to seek earlier relief from the judgment, show that he continues to suffer significant collateral consequences from the judgment, and demonstrate that the judgment resulted from an error of the most fundamental character." United Statesv.Woodward (Woodward III), No. 17-12036, 2017 WL 4684000, at *4 (D. Mass. Oct. 18, 2017) (quoting United Statesv.George, 676 F.3d 249, 254 (1st Cir. 2012)). So too did it acknowledge that even if a petitioner meets those three ...


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