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U.S. v. Shenberg

July 12, 1996


Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 91-708-CR-JAG.

Before Hatchett and Barkett, Circuit Judges, and Godbold, Senior Circuit Judge.

Author: Hatchett

HATCHETT, Circuit Judge:

In these "Operation Court Broom" appeals, we affirm the convictions and order resentencing of one of the appellants. The facts that follow are either undisputed or represent factual inferences that the jury was entitled to draw.


In November l988, the citizens of Dade County, Florida, elected judicial candidate Roy T. Gelber to the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida. Gelber, prior to taking office, arranged with his former law partner, Stephen Glass, to appoint Glass as special assistant public defender (SAPD). In return for SAPD appointments, Glass agreed to give Gelber one-third of the fees received.*fn1 Gelber made similar kickback arrangements with other lawyers in Miami while in office.*fn2 Also in 1988, Gelber became close friends with Dade County Court judicial candidate Harvey N. Shenberg. Shenberg, who also won his bid for election, advised Gelber regarding the acceptance of kickbacks and other illegal schemes. During one of Shenberg's conversations with Gelber, Shenberg suggested that Gelber add one of Shenberg's former law partners, Manny Casabielle, to the court appointment list in exchange for kickbacks of twenty-five percent. Gelber agreed. Thereafter, Shenberg periodically gave Gelber money in amounts ranging from $500 to $1,200 on Casabielle's behalf. Oftentimes, Gelber directed Shenberg to hold the money for safekeeping. During this same time period, Circuit Judge Alfonso C. Sepe talked with Gelber about appointing Arthur Massey, a private lawyer, as SAPD. Gelber appointed Massey in two cases for which Massey paid Gelber $1,000 in cash. Gelber eventually grew concerned that his repeated appointments of the same lawyers would raise suspicion; thus, in an attempt to avoid detection, Judge Sepe began appointing lawyers from Gelber's court appointment list.

State and federal officials (the government) eventually learned of the kickback scheme, and in l989, the government launched a sting operation called "Operation Court Broom" to investigate corruption in the Circuit Court of Dade County. The government employed Raymond Takiff, a lawyer and a longtime friend of Gelber, to work undercover and tape-record telephone conversations and meetings with Gelber and others suspected of corruption. In August 1989, Takiff, posing as a corrupt lawyer with ties to a fictitious South American drug trafficker named "Peter," approached Gelber requesting Gelber's assistance in influencing criminal cases pending against Peter's employees. Gelber accepted $11,000 from Takiff and gave Shenberg $5,000 of the money to place in Shenberg's home safe. The next month, Takiff asked Gelber to investigate whether Peter's employee, Jose Angel Rapard, cooperated with authorities in exchange for the dismissal of an attempted murder charge pending against him. During their meeting, Takiff disclosed to Gelber that Peter believed that Rapard informed the police of a pending cocaine deal in exchange for the dismissal of the charge. Gelber and Shenberg, after reviewing Rapard's court file, agreed that the circuit judge handling the case dismissed it after the victim failed to appear. Gelber subsequently reported to Takiff that the circuit judge dismissed the attempted murder charges against Rapard for legitimate reasons.

Several months later, in March 1990, Takiff informed Gelber that the police searched one of Peter's employee's hotel room pursuant to a warrant Gelber signed.*fn3 Takiff told Gelber that Peter wanted the $143,000 in cash and jewelry seized in the search returned and information regarding the identity of the confidential informant. Gelber initially told Takiff that he could not assist him because he placed the warrant affidavit under seal. Gelber, however, subsequently agreed to hear Takiff's motion to return property and unseal the affidavit. After Gelber's meeting with Takiff, Gelber discussed Takiff's latest request with Shenberg. Gelber told Shenberg that he intended to receive a portion of the seized jewelry and money as payment for granting the motion. Shenberg responded stating that he did not believe that the request would raise any "red flags."

On March 20, 1990, Gelber conducted a hearing on Takiff's motion to return property and to unseal the affidavit. Gelber deferred ruling on the motion until March 22, 1990, and ordered the prosecutor to provide him with a copy of the sealed affidavit for in camera review. The following day, after Gelber had made a photocopy of the affidavit, he met with Takiff intending to provide Takiff with the name of the informant. Before Gelber divulged the name, Takiff informed Gelber that Peter intended to kill the informant. After learning of the murder plot, Gelber refused to disclose to Takiff the name of the informant. The next morning, Gelber ruled on the motion to return property ordering that the state return the seized jewelry to the defendant, that the state file a forfeiture action within ten days or return the seized cash, and that the warrant affidavit remain under seal to protect the informant's identity. Later that evening, Gelber met with Shenberg to inform him that Peter intended to kill the informant. Shenberg responded to this news stating, "I don't know what the big deal is. He's just a drug dealer." Subsequently, Shenberg decided to disclose the informant's name to Takiff, and on March 24, 1990, Shenberg met with Takiff for the first time. Shenberg, identifying himself as Gelber's best friend, stated that he had the information Takiff requested from Gelber. Shenberg then told Takiff that he would provide him with the name of the informant upon three conditions: (l) that Peter not murder the informant for forty-five days; (2) that Peter pay Shenberg $50,000; and (3) that Gelber receive a portion of the seized money and jewelry. Takiff agreed to Shenberg's terms, and Shenberg provided him with the name of the informant and facts contained in the affidavit.*fn4 In return, Takiff gave Shenberg $25,000 on April 2, 1990, as a partial payment for the informant's name and paid the remaining $25,000 on May 15, 1990. On May 16, 1990, Takiff gave Gelber $20,000 for his share of the seized money and property. Due to the success of this transaction, Shenberg and Gelber agreed that Takiff would deal directly with Shenberg in the future.

On July 5, 1990, Takiff telephoned Shenberg at his home requesting that Shenberg expedite a bond hearing for another one of Peter's employees. While on the telephone, Takiff stated that he had $10,000 to $12,000 available and that "the level of gratitude will at least be equal to that shown in the past." Shenberg told Takiff that he was unable to assist him but consented to meet with Takiff the next day. At their meeting the following morning, Shenberg angrily stated,

thanks to the phone call, we're dead meat. I mean, we're never going to be able to do anything again . . . I'm never going to talk on the phone with someone who talks that way . . . if you would have heard the conversation, God forbid it was recorded, it was the worse conversation that I ever, ever heard.

Shenberg met with Gelber later that morning and discussed the possibility that Takiff was an informant. Although Gelber did not believe Takiff was an informant and tried to alleviate Shenberg's concern, Shenberg told Gelber that Shenberg would not resume his dealings with Takiff.

In September 1990, Takiff approached Circuit Judge Phillip Davis seeking his assistance with case-fixing. Davis told Takiff that he, Gelber, and Shenberg intended to join up with him, stating that "we want to make some money, man." The following week, Takiff gave Davis a list of four names and asked Davis to determine whether these persons had any outstanding warrants against them. Davis provided the information. After learning that two of the persons had outstanding warrants, Takiff asked Gelber to fix the outstanding warrants against them. Gelber informed Takiff that he could only fix the warrant for the individual's case assigned to Circuit Judge Arthur Snyder. Following this discussion, Gelber conferred with Shenberg to discuss the possibility of influencing the case pending before Snyder. Shenberg, still expressing distrust for Takiff, stated that he believed Sepe should approach Snyder. Sepe agreed to approach Snyder on Takiff's behalf. Sepe, however, later informed Gelber that Snyder would not agree to fix the warrant. Consequently, Gelber reported to Takiff that he could not assist him on this matter.

In December 1990, the government assigned two fictitious drug trafficking cases to Sepe's criminal docket. A short time later, Takiff informed Gelber that outstanding warrants existed against Peter's sister-in-law, Bonnie Carrillo, and her husband, Hector Penna. Takiff also informed Gelber that Peter wished to obtain low bail on Carrillo and the dismissal of the charges against her through a motion to suppress the evidence. Gelber conferred with Shenberg and discussed his conversation with Takiff. Again, Shenberg stated that he had bad feelings about Takiff and cautioned Gelber about dealing with Takiff. Gelber then attended a meeting with Sepe. At this meeting, Sepe stated he had no problem with complying with Takiff's request. Following this meeting, Gelber met with Takiff requesting $325,000 in advance. Takiff complained about Gelber's terms and inquired whether the $325,000 figure included the dismissal of the charges against both Carrillo and Penna. Sepe and Gelber subsequently agreed that they would fix the cases for $200,000 for each person. On December 19, 1990, Gelber told Takiff that Sepe wanted the transaction completed on that day or not at all. Takiff failed to comply with the deadline, and Sepe cancelled the deal.

On December 28, 1990, Gelber again approached Sepe about the Carrillo case, informing him that Takiff could now proceed with the transaction. Sepe agreed to resume the negotiations with Takiff on the condition that David Goodhart, a lawyer, receive the bribery payment from Takiff. Goodhart agreed to act as "bag man" in return for $25,000 of Gelber's share of the bribery payment. Thereafter, Takiff conducted all future dealings with Goodhart. Takiff first met with Goodhart on January 8, 1991, and explained to Goodhart that the outstanding warrant against Carrillo concerned Peter most because of their relation and that Peter would pay any amount within reason to get the matter solved. Goodhart at that point wrote "$150,000, $150,000" on a legal pad stating that the transaction involved "two different things." In response, Takiff asked whether Sepe could fix the case for $200,000, and Goodhart responded that he had to discuss the new terms with Sepe. The following weeks, Takiff and Goodhart had several conversations concerning the Carrillo case; finally, on February 11, 1991, during a meeting, Takiff attempted to give Goodhart $75,000 in cash agreeing to pay another $75,000 upon dismissal of Carrillo's charges. Goodhart refused to accept the money noting that Sepe expected full payment. Approximately two weeks later, Takiff gave Goodhart $150,000 in cash. The following afternoon, Takiff brought Carrillo to Sepe's courtroom so that the state could arrest her. Sepe, over the state's objection, released Carrillo on $50,000 bail.

Takiff subsequently filed a motion to suppress the cocaine that had been seized. On April 2, 1991, Sepe conducted an evidentiary hearing and granted Carrillo's motion to suppress. The next day, Takiff gave Goodhart a proposed order suppressing the evidence in the Carrillo case. After reviewing the order, Goodhart discussed the Penna case. Both Takiff and Goodhart concluded that Penna, unlike Carrillo, did not have standing to contest the legality of the seizure. Consequently, they agreed to find alternative grounds to dismiss the charges against Penna. A few weeks later, Sepe gave Gelber a folder containing $50,000 in cash stating that "these are the papers that you've been waiting for." Gelber then gave $10,000 to Shenberg to place in Shenberg's safe admitting that he obtained the money from fixing Carrillo's case.

On May 2, 1991, Takiff discussed with Goodhart a case pending before Circuit Judge Ellen Morphonios stating that Peter also wished to secure the release and the dismissal of that case. Goodhart, believing that Judge Morphonios would fix the case for $75,000, approached Morphonios on Takiff's behalf. On May 14, 1991, Goodhart met with Takiff and told him that Morphonios refused to fix the case. The state, on June 3, 1991, dismissed the case against Carrillo because it lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute. The next day, Goodhart told Takiff to surrender Penna in Sepe's courtroom during the week of June l9. On June 8, 1991, the government ended "Operation Court Broom" and executed search warrants at the homes and offices of Gelber, Shenberg, Sepe, Goodhart, and Davis. During the execution of the search warrant, government agents seized monies matching the serial numbers of Takiff's April 2, 1990 and February 26, 1991 bribery payments to Gelber, Sepe, Shenberg, and Goodhart. Shortly after the seizure, Gelber agreed to cooperate with the government in its investigation of corruption in the Dade County Circuit Court.


On May 27, 1992, a grand jury in the Southern District of Florida returned a l06-count superseding indictment against Shenberg, Goodhart, Sepe, Davis, and five other defendants. Count l charged all of them with conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Count 2 charged Shenberg, Goodhart, Sepe, Davis, and one co-defendant with violation of RICO provisions 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(c) and 1963(a).*fn5 The indictment also charged Shenberg with attempted extortion, in violation of l 8 U.S.C. §§ 1951 and 2 (Counts 87, 90, 97, 98); conspiracy to commit extortion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (Count 92); and money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(A)(i) and (a)(1)(B)(i) (Counts 88 and 91). The indictment charged Goodhart with attempted extortion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1951 and 2 (Counts 97, 104, and 106); conspiracy to commit extortion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (Count 103); and money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(A)(1) (Counts 98 through 100). The indictment charged Sepe with conspiracy to commit extortion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (Counts 95 and 103); attempted extortion, in violation of l8 U.S.C. §§ l95l and 2 (Counts 3, 4, 89, 96, 97, and 104); mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1346, and 2 (Counts 61 through 80); and money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(A)(i) and (a)(1)(B)(i) (Counts 98 and 100 through 102).

On May 13, 1993, the district court severed the trial of Shenberg, Goodhart, Sepe, and Davis from the trial of the remaining defendants. On September 21, 1992, the trial commenced. Approximately fifteen weeks into the trial a juror discovered a cocaine-laced baggie in the jury room bathroom. The district court did not inform the parties of the juror's discovery or conduct a hearing at that time. At the close of the evidence, the defense requested a special verdict on Counts 1 and 2 requiring the jury to identify which predicate acts each defendant committed. The district court required a special verdict on Count 2; however, it denied their request with respect to Count 1. The defense also requested the district court to replace a pregnant juror prior to jury deliberations. The district court also denied this request.

The jury began deliberating on March 11, 1993. On April, 15, 1993, the pregnant juror went into labor causing the district court to stay deliberations until April 26. On April 26, the district court dismissed the pregnant juror for cause because her physician would not authorize her return on that date. Then, the district court instructed the remaining eleven jurors to continue deliberations. Later that day, the jury returned the following verdicts: Shenberg--guilty of Counts l and 90, not guilty of Counts 87, 88, 97, 98, and the jury could not reach a verdict on Counts 2, 9l, and 92; Goodhart--guilty on Count l, not guilty on Count 99, and the jury could not reach a verdict as to Counts 2, 97, 98, l03, and l04; Sepe--not guilty on Counts 4, 6l through 80, 89, 95 through 98, l0l, and the jury could not reach a verdict on Counts l through 3, l03, and l04. The jury acquitted Davis on all counts.

On May 6, 1993, the district court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the discovery of the cocaine-laced baggie in the jury room. Following the evidentiary hearing, Shenberg and Goodhart filed motions for new trial. On May 24, 1993, Shenberg, Goodhart, and Sepe filed motions for acquittal. They also filed a motion to bar the government from using acquitted counts as predicate acts in Counts 1 and 2. On July 14, 1993, the district court denied Shenberg and Goodhart's motions for new trial. The court granted the motion for judgment of acquittal in part, and denied it in part, dismissing Count 104 against Goodhart and Sepe. On July 15, 1993, the district court granted motions to bar reprosecution on acquitted counts. Thereafter, the court sentenced as follows: Shenberg to l88 months imprisonment and 3 years supervised release for RICO conspiracy and extortion; Goodhart to 99 months imprisonment, 3 years supervised release, and a $100 assessment for RICO conspiracy. The government wishes to retry Shenberg and Sepe on the mistried counts. The government does not wish to retry Goodhart as to Counts 2, 97, 98, and l03. Shenberg and Goodhart appeal their convictions and sentences, and the government cross-appeals.


Appellants Shenberg and Goodhart raise several contentions on appeal. First, appellants contend that insufficient evidence supports their RICO conspiracy convictions claiming that the government failed to prove that they agreed to personally commit or agreed to have others commit two predicate acts. Second, appellants contend that the district court's denial of their request for a special verdict on the RICO conspiracy count denied them their Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. Third, appellants contend that the district court abused its discretion in continuing jury deliberations with only eleven jurors after dismissing the twelfth juror for cause. Fourth, appellants contend that the juror's discovery of a cocaine-laced baggie constituted a communication, and the court erred in failing to disclose the discovery to the appellants. Finally, appellants contend that the district court improperly calculated Shenberg's sentence under the 1989 Sentencing Guidelines and Goodhart's sentence under the 1990 Sentencing Guidelines.

On cross-appeal, the government contends that the district court erroneously applied the 1989 Sentencing Guidelines in sentencing Shenberg, claiming that Shenberg's racketeering activity continued past the date that the 1990 Sentencing Guidelines took effect. The government also contends on cross appeal that the district court erred in ruling that the doctrine of collateral estoppel bars the use of acquitted counts as predicate acts for substantive RICO and RICO conspiracy charges in a retrial of mistried counts.


The following issues presented are: (1) whether sufficient evidence supports appellants' convictions; (2) whether the district court acted within its discretion in denying appellants' request for a special verdict on the RICO conspiracy count; (3) whether the district court abused its discretion in continuing jury deliberations with an eleven-member jury; (4) whether the district court erred in failing to inform appellants that a juror found a cocaine-laced baggie in the jury room; (5) whether the district court properly sentenced appellants under the ...

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