United States v. Edwards, No. 16-2253 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Edwards is a naturalized U.S. citizen who emigrated from Mongolia in 1996. She was hired as an officer with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in 2009. Edwards went through a federal background investigation in 2009 and reinvestigation in 2014. Asked whether she “EVER provided financial support for any foreign national,” and whether she “ever helped anyone enter or stay in the U.S. illegally,” Edwards answered no. Both answers were false. She was convicted of two counts of witness tampering, 18 U.S.C. 1512(b)(3) and two counts of making false statements on an official questionnaire for federal employment. 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2). The trial judge, skeptical about the strength of the government’s evidence and whether the case merited criminal prosecution, imposed a below‐guideline sentence of two years of probation and a $2,000 fine. The Seventh Circuit vacated in part, first rejecting arguments that the witness tampering statute was void for vagueness and that the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions. The jury instructions for the witness tampering charges were faulty, however; under section 1512(b)(3), Edwards could be convicted only if she “corruptly” attempted to persuade another person to hinder, delay, or prevent communication of information to federal criminal investigators. The instructions given at trial failed to include the corruption element.