United States v. Beaulieu, No. 19-30609 (5th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's conviction for felony criminal contempt. The court first held that Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 42(a)(3) does not apply to this case because the particular conduct that led to defendant's contempt charge was his refusal to testify, rather than an instance of "disrespect toward or criticism of" Chief Judge Brown. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's motion to recuse under 28 U.S.C. 455(a).
In this case, the government concedes that an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) made numerous improper remarks, but contends that defendant failed to show that the prosecutorial misconduct prejudiced him. The court held, however, that the magnitude of the misconduct was overwhelming; the district judge did little to intervene or offer cautionary instructions; and it is impossible to separate the AUSA's misconduct from the other evidence against defendant. Therefore, defendant has shown a constitutional error and that he is entitled to relief under any standard of review.