In United States v. Ahmed, No. 20-14264 (July 13, 2023) (Rosenbaum, Branch, Brasher), the Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for healthcare fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.
irst, the Court found no Sixth Amendment violation due to counsel’s failure to visit the defendant during an overnight recess out of concerns about the pandemic. Any lack of communication was not due to the government or the court but rather the lawyer’s concern for his own health. There is no indication he would have otherwise visited the client during that recess. And the district court otherwise went to great lengths to facilitate communication. The Court also declined to address an ineffective assistance of counsel claim on direct appeal because the record was not sufficiently developed. Finally, the Court rejected a series of pandemic-related complaints—i.e., that the defendant was not provided Adderall during trial, he sustained a slip and fall injury in jail, the jail confiscated his legal materials, he was shackled during trial, and the jury was unengaged—because the district court remedied these issues, the jury did not see him shackled, and there was no indication that the jury was unengaged.
Second, the Court rejected a claim of prosecutorial misconduct arising from the government’s insinuation during cross examination that a defense witness illegally prescribed medication under Florida law. The Court held that, even if that was correct, the defense did not hinge on that issue and there was no prejudice.
Third, the Court rejected three evidentiary claims. First, the district court excluded the defendant’s expert after she invoked her Fifth Amendment privilege. The Court upheld that exclusion because the district court conducted a particularized inquiry, the witness had a basis for invoking the privilege, and the expert’s unwillingness to answer certain questions prevented the district court and the government from challenging her qualifications and probing her credibility. Second, the Court upheld the exclusion of certain documentary evidence because they were hearsay and, although a close question, there was no abuse of discretion in finding that they were not business records. Finally, the Court upheld the exclusion of testimony by the defendant’s former attorney about the defendant’s conduct because such character evidence was barred by Rule 404(a).