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United States v. Mullins

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

September 3, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
EUGENE MULLINS, Defendant-Appellant

Argued September 23, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 12 CR 596 -- Amy J. St. Eve, Judge.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Lindsay Jenkins, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Chicago, IL.

For Eugene Mullins, Defendant - Appellant: Brunell L. Donald-Kyei, Attorney, Law Offices of Brunell Donald, Chicago, IL.

Before POSNER, ROVNER, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 867

Williams, Circuit Judge.

Eugene Mullins, the former Director of Public Affairs and Communications for Cook County, Illinois, was indicted for wire fraud and bribery because he fraudulently arranged service contracts for several vendors and accepted over $34,000 in bribes from them. Jurors convicted him of four counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1343, and four counts of bribery, id. § 666. In this appeal Mullins challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions and contends that the prosecutor

Page 868

engaged in misconduct. Because the evidence was sufficient to convict Mullins of wire fraud and bribery offenses and because no harmful prosecutorial misconduct occurred, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Beginning in 2008 Mullins served as Cook County's Director of Public Affairs and Communications. During his time at that post, Cook County used a two-tiered system for approving service contracts. Contracts requiring the county to spend $25,000 or more had to be approved by its Board of Commissioners. Contracts that required the county to spend less than $25,000, however, required the approval of only the county's purchasing agent. The government charged Mullins and his codefendants--vendors to whom the county awarded contracts--with manipulating this system to their benefit.

The scheme was as follows. Mullins helped these vendors obtain payment under county service contracts, without the vendors having to complete any work, and in exchange they paid Mullins $34,748 in bribes. Specifically, Mullins helped Gwendolyn Moody, Clifford Borner, and Kenneth Demos secure contracts that ostensibly promoted census awareness. He assisted Gary Render in obtaining a contract that supposedly helped county residents affected by floods in 2008. And he aided Michael Peery, who sought a contract designed to promote energy efficiency.

The prosecution opened its case with the testimony of Mullins's secretary, Annette Goldsmith. She testified that to be approved for a contract under $25,000 a vendor must provide her with a proposal, an invoice of work, and tax forms so that she could create a justification letter. She explained that Mullins, the purchasing agent, the county comptroller, and others would review and sign the forms, invoice, and justification letter. Goldsmith testified that the county generally paid the selected vendor after the vendor had completed the contracted work. But, she testified, this procedure was ignored for the contracts awarded to Moody, Demos, Render, Borner, and Peery. Goldsmith identified Mullins's initials on the justification letters and invoices for their contracts. Mullins, however, later denied that the initials were his, reading them as " LU" rather than " EM."

Next to testify were the vendors and codefendants involved in Mullins's contract scheme--Borner, Demos, Moody, Render, and Peery. The government agreed to defer prosecution of them, under charges of misprision of ...


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