Hesser v. United States (11th Cir. July 2022)

The Federal Docket

July 26, 2022

Following a jury trial, Peter Hesser was convicted on three counts of tax fraud and one count of tax evasion in violation of 26 U.S.C. §7201. Hesser appealed on sufficiency grounds, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Hesser then filed a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. §2255, claiming, among other things, that his trial counsel was ineffective. The district court granted the motion as to his tax fraud convictions but denied as to the tax evasion count.

Reviewing the case de novo, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of the motion as to the tax evasion conviction and granted Hesser’s petition on all counts. The Government failed to present evidence sufficient to allow a rational trier of fact to find him guilty of tax evasion, as there was evidence that he hid gold bullion but no evidence that the gold he hid actually belonged to him. Since Hesser’s trial counsel failed to make what would have been a successful motion for a judgment of acquittal on sufficiency grounds, he was ineffective.

Appeal from the Middle District of Florida
Opinion by Tjoflat, joined by Lagoa and Brasher

Click here to read the opinion

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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