United States v. Merida, No. 15-7043 (10th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Jason Merida, the former executive director of construction for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (the Nation), was convicted after a fifteen-day jury trial on six counts of a seven-count indictment. The indictment alleged Merida conspired to receive cash and other remuneration from subcontractors performing work on construction projects for the Nation, embezzled in excess of $500,000 by submitting and approving false subcontractor invoices, and willfully failed to report income on his 2009 and 2010 federal tax returns. Merida testified in his own defense at trial and, on cross-examination, prosecutors impeached his testimony using the transcript of an interview the Nation’s attorneys had conducted with him as part of a separate civil lawsuit, before the initiation of these criminal proceedings. Merida objected to the use of the transcript and moved for mistrial, arguing the transcript was protected by the attorney-client privilege and its use prejudicially damaged his credibility with the jury. The district court denied his motion for a mistrial and the jury convicted Merida on all but one count. Merida timely appealed the trial judge’s denial of his motion for mistrial. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed.