United States v. Maslenjak, No. 14-3864 (6th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Maslenjak, an ethnic Serb and native of Bosnia, came to the U.S. as a refugee, claiming she and her family feared persecution in Bosnia because her husband had evaded conscription into the Serbian army. In fact, Maslenjak’s husband was an officer in a unit implicated in war crimes. Maslenjak ultimately obtained naturalization. She was later convicted of knowingly procuring her naturalization contrary to law, 18 U.S.C. 1425(a) and of knowingly using an unlawfully issued certificate of naturalization, 18 U.S.C. 1423. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court improperly instructed the jury that her false statements need not be material in order to convict or erroneously instructed that the jury could also convict Maslenjak if it found that she lacked good moral character. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that lies told in the immigration process must be material and have “played some role in [the] acquisition of citizenship.” The Court instructed that the government could satisfy this materiality element by proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the facts the applicant misrepresented would themselves disqualify her from receiving citizenship or that the applicant’s false statements hid facts that, if known, would have triggered an investigation that likely would have led to the discovery of other disqualifying facts. The Sixth Circuit remanded to the district court. The government has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a properly instructed jury would have convicted Maslenjak; the instructional error was not harmless.
This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on April 7, 2016.