Pro Bono Victory: False, Coerced Confession in Reyes Case Suppressed
Jenner & Block is proud of its 2019 pro bono results:
On December 13, 2017, Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Obbish suppressed the confession of firm client Arturo Reyes after finding it to be falsely coerced by Detective Reynaldo Guevara of the Chicago Police Department. Mr. Reyes, who has been in prison since 2000, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and home invasion in a high-profile double murder case in 1998. His conviction was largely based on a statement he signed after two-plus days of questioning by four Chicago police detectives, one being Det. Guevara.
In October 2017, after prosecutors granted Det. Guevara immunity from prosecution for everything but perjury, Det. Guevara repeatedly said he did not remember anything about the case and refused to examine documents offered to him to refresh his memory.
“He showed what he was made of,” Judge Obbish said as quoted in Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times articles, concluding that Det. Guevara had no reason to be evasive. “[Det. Guevara] has now eliminated the possibility of being considered a credible witness in any proceeding.”
After the court’s directed ruling on the motion to suppress, which Partner David P. Saunders argued, Partner Andrew W. Vail, who leads the Jenner & Block trial team, moved the court to vacate Mr. Reyes’ conviction. The state has until January 10, 2018, to decide how it intends to proceed, whereupon Mr. Vail will renew the motion.
The firm team also includes Associates Matthew T. Gordon, Samuel Jahangir and Huiyi Chen and Paralegals Mike Hughes and Nick Perrone.
Team Leads Pro Bono Effort to Form Blessons
Jenner & Block Partner Olga A. Loy and Associate Rafi W. Mottahedeh provided the legal counsel and support to found and launch Blessons, a not-for profit organization that provides mentorship and educational workshops for women in need. Blessons also offers scholarships to disadvantaged, low-income womenand first-generation immigrants who have had their higher education interrupted due tosignificant life challenges. Please click here to learn more about Blessons.
Ms. Loy focuses her practice on all aspects of tax planning, private equity, regulatory and compliance work, merger and acquisitions and fund formation matters.
Mr. Mottahedeh focuses his practice on a broad range of federal and international tax planning and tax controversy matters.
US Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in High-Profile Dispute about IRS Tax Obstruction Statute
Jenner & Block Partner Matthew S. Hellman argued before the US Supreme Court on December 6, 2017, in the high-profile case Marinello v. United States.
According to an article in The National Law Journal (subscription required), Mr. Hellman told the justices that the firm’s client, Carlo Marinello, “was not charged with or convicted of felony tax evasion, and he does not challenge his misdemeanor convictions…But he does challenge his felony obstruction conviction under §7212(a), which was premised on his failure to maintain records and other acts and omissions not taken in the context of any IRS proceeding or investigation.”
In a related article (subscription required), Mr. Hellman told Bloomberg Law that, “when the number of potential obstructive acts is basically unlimited, like paying in cash or not consulting an accountant, and the only question is whether you did it to make the IRS's job harder, they could pick their defendant.”
The firm represents Mr. Marinello on a pro bono basis. He is challenging a Second Circuit decision upholding his felony conviction for obstructing an IRS investigation. The government reads the statute to criminalize any “corrupt” act that ultimately hinders the administration of the tax code. The firm argues that the obstruction statute should be interpreted like other obstruction statutes—to apply when the defendant intends to hinder an IRS proceeding that he or she knows about.
“In the absence of a government action there is no line. It's hard to say I can obstruct if I throw away receipts or pay in cash, even if I think that might lessen the likelihood of an audit or likelihood of having to pay if I am audited if there's an ongoing government action,” said Partner Geoffrey M. Davis in Bloomberg Law.
The case was also covered in an additional article by The National Law Journal.
In addition to Mr. Hellman and Mr. Davis, others on the team include Partner David Bitkower and Associates Corinne M. Smith and Michael E. Stewart. The firm was assisted by the Jenner & Block University of Chicago Law School Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic.
Chicago Foundation for Women Recognizes Associate Leah Casto for Working to Grant Asylum for Eritrean Refugee
Jenner & Block Associate Leah K Casto was recently featured during the Chicago Foundation for Women’s 2017 Annual Report Luncheon, highlighting the foundation’s collaborative efforts to successfully help tens of thousands of individuals impacted by issues such as economic security, health and freedom from violence. The event celebrated notable victories, including Ms. Casto’s work in granting asylum for a detained Eritrean refugee.
Shortly after the executive order was signed banning travel to and from majority-Muslim countries, the National Immigrant Justice Center contacted Jenner & Block for pro bono representation of a detained group of Eritrean women seeking asylum in the United States.
As a granddaughter of immigrants, Ms. Casto was compelled and eager to help those in need -- in particular, a 23-year-old Eritrean refugee who, if deported, would be vulnerable to serious danger, imprisonment and possibly death. However, thanks to Ms. Casto’s hard work and dedication, she was granted asylum.
In recognition of her efforts, the Chicago Foundation for Women featured Ms. Casto in its 2017 Annual Report video, including an in-depth article about her experiences during the case.
“The relief and happiness I felt when the judge finally said, ‘I am granting you asylum; you’ll be released tomorrow’ cannot match any experience that I’ve had in my life,” Ms. Casto said.
With asylum secured, the Eritrean refugee is currently acclimating to life in the States and, with the assistance of the Chicago Foundation for Women, will receive the help and care needed to prosper and thrive during her time here.
Firm’s Amicus Brief Challenges Constitutionality of Georgia’s Bail Practice
On November 20, 2017, Jenner & Block filed an amicus brief in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the American Bar Association (ABA) in a suit challenging the constitutionality of the City of Calhoun, Georgia’s practice of detaining defendants prior to trial pursuant to a preset money-bail schedule that exclusively relies on the offense charged to assess the bail amount due, without an initial determination of an individual defendant’s ability to pay.
In Walker v. City of Calhoun, GA, the plaintiff, a mentally disabled individual, was arrested for a misdemeanor and detained for 11 days due to his inability to afford a standard $160 cash bond to secure his release. A federal district court issued a preliminary injunction ordering the municipal defendant to “implement post-arrest procedures that comply with the Constitution.” While further proceedings were pending, the City of Calhoun issued a new Standing Bail Order governing pre-trial detention of arrestees. The plaintiff again challenged the constitutionality of the new Standing Bail Order, and the federal district court found that the Standing Bail Order “still violates the Constitution insofar as it permits individuals who have sufficient resources to post a bond (or to have one posted for them) to be released immediately, while individuals who do not have those resources must wait forty-eight hours for a hearing.” The federal district court issued a second preliminary injunction prohibiting the City of Calhoun from detaining indigent misdemeanor arrestees who are otherwise eligible for release but are unable to pay money bail because of their poverty, and directing the city to provide indigent arrestees with an individualized hearing assessing their inability to pay within 24 hours of their arrest. The City of Calhoun appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
The brief in support of the plaintiff-appellee argues that money-bail systems that fail to adequately consider a defendant’s ability to pay violate the ABA’s Criminal Justice Standards and that jailing otherwise release-eligible defendants solely because they cannot buy their freedom is unconstitutional. It explains that, after studying the issue over many decades, the ABA has concluded that money-bail systems harm criminal defendants, do not serve the fair and proper administration of justice and do not advance public safety or the interests of justice. The brief also explains that a consensus has developed that money-bail schemes are unfair and do not work. It urges the Eleventh Circuit to affirm the decision of the district court.
The Jenner & Block team includes Partner Elizabeth A. Edmondson and Associates Jessica M. Ly and Jonathan M. Diaz, borrowing substantially from and building upon an amicus brief submitted to the Fifth Circuit on behalf of the ABA by Partner Lindsay C. Harrison and former Associates Peter A. Goldschmidt and Grace C. Signorelli-Cassady in O’Donnell v. Harris County and McGruder et. al. v. Harris County.
Team Argues for Release of Documents Related to Travel Ban
Jenner & Block Partner Kelly M. Morrison and Associate Joshua M. Parker are mentioned in a Law360 article about their lawsuit on behalf of the public interest group Muslim Advocates. Titled “Judge Frustrated with DHS Response to Travel Ban FOIA,” the article explains that the group seeks information under FOIA related to allegedly discriminatory policies targeting Muslims for searches following the Trump administration’s immigration ban. At a recent status conference, Judge Chutkan of the District Court for the District of Columbia deemed the government’s lack of responsiveness to Muslim Advocates’ request “unacceptable.” Mr. Parker is quoted arguing that Muslim Advocates seeks far less than the government’s claim of some 70,000 pages of potentially responsive documents. He also is quoted saying that Muslim Advocates has agreed to limit the search parameters, but the government continues to insist that it faces an undue burden without substantiation. The team is representing Muslim Advocates on a pro bono basis.