United States v. Martirossian, No. 18-4035 (6th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Martirossian, a citizen of Armenia now living in China, refused to answer criminal charges, relating to money-laundering and conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. 1956, in the Southern District of Ohio. When his lawyers moved to dismiss the indictment, the court declared him a fugitive and refused to rule on the motion until he submitted himself to its jurisdiction. Martirossian appealed and in the alternative filed a mandamus petition asking the Sixth Circuit to order the district court to rule on his motion. The Sixth Circuit held that, because the district court’s decision is not a final order, it lacked jurisdiction over Martirossian’s appeal. Martirossian did not meet the high bar for granting the “extraordinary writ” of mandamus. Federal courts do not play “catch me if you can.” If a defendant refuses to appear to answer an indictment, ignores an arrest warrant, or leaves the jurisdiction, the court may decline to resolve any objections to the indictment in his absence. The “fugitive disentitlement doctrine” generally permits a federal court to insist on a defendant’s presence in the jurisdiction before it resolves challenges to the criminal charges.