United States v. George, No. 11-1815 (1st Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
For 20 years, George was a clerk-magistrate. In 1995, he was charged with conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 371, 1343, 1346 for selling blank search warrants, used to commit robberies. George entered a plea for a sentence of 20 months and a $10,000 fine. George retired before his plea and began receiving a monthly benefit of $1,424.91, plus health-care. In 2003, the state retirement board suspended benefits; his attorney had advised him that he would remain eligible if he started receiving benefits before he entered a plea. The district court denied his petition for a writ of error coram nobis. The First Circuit affirmed. The Board authorized recoupment of benefits in excess of contributions. In 2010, the Supreme Court held that "intangible right of honest services," in 18 U.S.C. 1346, would be unconstitutionally vague unless limited to schemes involving bribes or kickbacks. George’s second petition was denied. The court found that, in light of Skilling, a fundamental error had occurred, but that cessation of benefits did not constitute a continuing collateral consequence sufficient to justify the remedy. The First Circuit affirmed, referring to a “Hail Mary pass.” A court has discretion to withhold the remedy where the interests of justice dictate.