Losing an appeal stinks. Losing an appeal, and enduring Sixth Circuit criticism for your bad arguments, sucks.
In an opinion released Thursday, Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote, "Joaquin Tasis and several comrades devised a sophisticated scheme to bill Medicare for fictitious drug therapies, bilking taxpayers out of millions of dollars in the process. When the authorities got wind of the scheme, they prosecuted Tasis and his coconspirators ... The Medicare scheme was elaborate and complex, but Tasis' arguments on appeal are not."
Evidence in the case showed that Tasis and his brother ran the Dearborn Medical Rehabilitation Center, a sham medical clinic in Dearborn, Michigan that billed Medicare for infusion therapies that it never provided. The scheme lasted 15 months -- during which the Center submitted $9,122,159.35 in Medicare claims -- before a claims auditor figured out what was going on and notified the FBI. A jury found Tasis guilty, and the trial judge sentenced him to 78 months in prison and required him to pay $6,079,445.93 in restitution.
Tasis made three claims on appeal:
- He should get a new trial because the prosecution violated his rights under Doyle v. Ohio.
- The court should have given his requested jury instruction on "multiple conspiracies."
- The trial court improperly allowed testimony about a similar scheme in violation of Rule 404(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
We're going to focus on the first two arguments because the Sixth Circuit notes that Tasis made both of these objections -- and won -- during trial.
First up, the Doyle argument.
Doyle says that prosecutors may not cross-examine defendants about failing to speak with police after receiving Miranda warnings. When a prosecutor asked Tasis during the trial if he had "ever spoken with law enforcement about this case," Tasis' attorney objected. The court granted the objection, and asked counsel, "Do you want a jury instruction or do you want a mistrial?" The attorney responded, "I think a curative instruction from this Court would remedy the defect," and the court gave the jury a curative instruction.
Since Tasis expressly declined to seek a mistrial during trial, the Sixth Circuit held that he could not ask for a mistrial on appeal.
Tasis also objected to the trial court's decision to allow testimony about a similar, uncharged conspiracy in Florida that Tasis allegedly orchestrated.
Tasis argued that the court should have given his requested jury instruction on multiple conspiracies, explaining that the jury could convict only for the Michigan conspiracy, not for the uncharged Florida conspiracy. The problem with his argument? The trial court's multiple conspiracies instruction said the same thing at Tasis' instruction, it just said it in "a more straightforward way."
The lesson you can learn from Tasis' mistakes? Don't appeal the trial objections you win.
- United States v. Tasis (Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals)
- Blueford v. Arkansas: Double Jeopardy Inapplicable in Mistrial (FindLaw's Supreme Court Blog)
- Will Proposed Model Jury Instructions Combat Social Media in Court? (FindLaw's Fourth Circuit Blog)