United States v. Wade, No. 19-2061 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
To impress a woman he wanted to date (Bishop), Wade wore a badge and a holstered gun, discussed investigating a suspect, and left a business card that claimed Wade was a DEA special agent. The card had a hand-written note indicating that Bishop should go out with Wade. She reported Wade’s interactions. The police opened a stalking investigation. Wade was indicted for impersonating a federal employee and acting as such, 18 U.S.C. 912. The government successfully moved to preclude Wade from claiming his romantic motivation negated his culpability. During closing argument, defense counsel nonetheless stated: “Although [Wade] might be a hopeless romantic, he’s not a criminal.”
The judge also ruled against Wade’s proposed jury instructions that would have required the jury to find Wade acted to cause Bishop to follow some course she would not have pursued but for the deceitful conduct. The instruction actually given required the jury to find that Wade falsely assumed or pretended to be a DEA officer or employee and as such committed some overt act involving an assertion of claimed authority derived from that office. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Wade’s conviction. Wade’s alleged romantic intent does not negate the scienter requirement; his motivation has no bearing on whether he knew he was not a DEA agent. The only effect the romantic-motivation argument could have had was to cause the jury to conclude Wade’s crime was not serious or harmful, leading to jury nullification.