The Tenth Circuit issued its opinion in United States v. Farr on Monday, December 17, 2012.
A jury convicted Skoshi Farr of willfully failing to pay a trust fund recovery penalty that the IRS assessed against her after she failed to pay quarterly employment taxes. Farr appealed.
Farr first contended that she was denied her Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial by the district court’s rulings that admitted Rule 404(b) evidence. Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) provides that evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is inadmissible to prove the character of the accused, but may be admissible for another purpose, such as proving motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident. The Tenth Circuit imposes four requirements for evidence to be admitted under Rule 404(b), among them that the evidence must be relevant. Farr objected on relevancy grounds. The Tenth Circuit found no abuse of discretion by the district court in admitting the evidence because it was probative of Farr’s intent, knowledge of the penalties, and willful failure to pay the penalty.
Second, Farr contended the district court erred in denying her motion for judgment of acquittal. She argued the government’s evidence was insufficient to support a conviction. Reviewing the evidence presented at trial in the light most favorable to the government, it was clear to the Tenth Circuit that a rational trier of fact could have found that Farr willfully evaded the trust fund recovery penalty and took affirmative steps to do so.
Third, Farr asserted that the district court erred by denying her pretrial motion to dismiss the indictment for failure to charge the offense under the appropriate statute. The government proceeded under 26 U.S.C. § 7201, and Farr asserted the appropriate statute was § 7202. It is well established that charging decisions are primarily a matter of discretion for the prosecution. Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit held that the district court properly denied Farr’s motion to dismiss the indictment.
Finally, Farr contended her prosecution was barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause as a result of the government’s prior unsuccessful prosecution. The law of the case doctrine bars this claim. The law of the case doctrine posits that when a court decides upon a rule of law, that decision should continue to govern the same issues in subsequent stages in the same case. Because the Tenth Circuit previously considered and rejected the same double jeopardy argument, the Tenth Circuit was precluded from reconsidering the issue.