United States v. Shah, No. 19-12319 (11th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for receiving healthcare kickback payments. At the request of the government, the district court instructed the jury that defendant violated the statute prohibiting kickbacks if one reason he accepted the payment was because it was in return for writing prescriptions. Both parties subsequently agreed at oral argument that the jury instruction was erroneous and that the statute requires no proof of the defendant's motivation for accepting the illegal payment, so long as he accepts the kickback knowingly and willfully. However, the parties disagreed about whether the error was harmful.
The court concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that the error caused defendant no harm because it required the government to prove even more than the statute required. Furthermore, the district court correctly instructed the jury about the burden the government bore in proving willfulness, and correctly instructed the jury that defendant committed no crime if he accepted the payments in good faith. The court saw no reason why adding an unnecessary "one purpose" instruction could have prejudiced defendant by detracting from the otherwise correct willfulness and good-faith instructions.