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Date: 08-27-2017

Case Style:

United States of America v. Enkhchimeg Ulzubayar "Eni" Edwards

Case Number: 16-2253

Judge: Hamilton

Court: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on appeal from the Northern District of Illinois (Cook County)

Plaintiff's Attorney: Megan Cunniff Church

Defendant's Attorney: Josh Adams

Description: Defendant‐Appellant
Enkhchimeg Ulziibayar Edwards goes by the nickname Eni
Edwards. She was charged with two counts of witness tampering
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3) (Counts I and II)
and two counts of making false statements on an official questionnaire
for federal employment in violation of 18 U.S.C.
2 No. 16‐2253
§ 1001(a)(2) (Counts III and IV). A jury convicted Edwards on
all four counts. The trial judge, who was skeptical about both
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.
Edwards has appealed her convictions, raising three issues.
She argues that the witness tampering statute,
§ 1512(b)(3), is void for vagueness. She also argues that the
evidence was insufficient to support any of the four counts of
conviction. We reject both of these arguments and affirm Edwards’s
false statement convictions, Counts III and IV.
We address first, though, Edwards’s strongest argument,
which is that the jury instructions for the witness tampering
charges were faulty and that the error denied her a fair trial
on Counts I and II. On that issue, we agree with Edwards. The
trial judge refused both sides’ request to instruct the jury on
one essential element of the charges. As this case was framed
under § 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. They could have allowed the
jury to convict Edwards of engaging in conduct that, under
Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States, 544 U.S. 696 (2005), did
not constitute corrupt persuasion and therefore did not
amount to criminal witness tampering. We cannot say this error
was harmless, so we vacate Edwards’s convictions on
Counts I and II and remand for a possible new trial on those
witness tampering counts, if the government opts to pursue
them. We also vacate Edwards’s sentence on all counts and
remand for resentencing.
No. 16‐2253 3
I. Factual Background and Procedural History
To explain how this unusual prosecution came about, we
first sketch Edwards’s personal history and her history of government
employment. Edwards is a naturalized United States
citizen who emigrated from Mongolia in 1996. She applied in
2008 to become an officer with United States Customs and
Border Protection (CBP). She was hired in 2009. Edwards
went through a federal background investigation in 2009 and
a reinvestigation in 2014.
To facilitate these investigations, Edwards was required to
submit Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security
Positions (SF‐86), and supplemental forms. The 2014 SF‐
86 required her to answer truthfully, among many other
things, whether she “EVER provided financial support for
any foreign national.” Edwards answered no. A supplemental
questionnaire asked Edwards in 2014 whether she “ever
helped anyone enter or stay in the U.S. illegally.” Again Edwards
answered no. The government charged, and the jury
found, that both answers were false. The path to those findings
began more than fifteen years ago.
A. Tsasa Erdenekhuu and her Marriage to Michael Rosel
Back in 2001, years before Eni Edwards applied to work
for CBP, her Mongolian cousin Tsansanchimeg Erdenekhuu,
known as “Tsasa” and sometimes as “Tasha,” entered the
United States on a student visa. Tsasa violated the terms of
her visa and was eventually arrested by immigration authorities
and placed in removal proceedings. Edwards posted a
cash bond to secure Tsasa’s release, using funds from Edwards’s
parents. Tsasa was released to Edwards’s custody.
4 No. 16‐2253
In early 2003, Edwards introduced Tsasa to her friend and
co‐worker, Michael Rosel. According to Rosel’s later testimony
at Edwards’s 2016 trial, he saw Tsasa casually a couple
of times. Edwards then surprised him by asking him to marry
Tsasa so she could remain in the United States. Rosel testified
that when Edwards floated the idea of a marriage, he had no
romantic interest in the much younger Tsasa, and she had expressed
no romantic interest in him. He also testified that he
told Edwards he was concerned about the potential illegality
of the arrangement, but that Edwards assured him he had
nothing to worry about.
According to Rosel’s testimony, Edwards badgered him
over several months about marrying Tsasa. Eventually Rosel
gave in. He and Tsasa were married in July 2003 in Las Vegas,
Nevada. Shortly after the wedding, the couple applied for a
“green card” for Tsasa to make her a lawful permanent resident
of the United States as the spouse of a U.S. citizen. The
marriage did not last long, though. Rosel abandoned the
green card petition and the couple filed for divorce. In May
2004 the marriage was dissolved and Tsasa and Rosel went
their separate ways.
B. The Visa Fraud Investigation and the Focus on Edwards
We now turn to a completely different episode, but the one
that first led to the investigation of Edwards and ultimately to
her criminal trial. In 2008, a Chicago‐based organization
called the American Mongolian Association (AMA) invited a
group of Mongolian throat singers to perform at a cultural
festival. Defendant Edwards had been volunteering with the
organization, and many of the throat singers listed her contact
information on their visa applications. Edwards communicated
with the consular section at the United States embassy
No. 16‐2253 5
in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. She identified herself as a vice
president of the AMA and advocated for the applicants. Ultimately,
the embassy official responsible for reviewing the petitions
denied most of them. Based in part on his past experience
with the AMA, the official believed the organization was
attempting to facilitate visa fraud.
The embassy referred the matter to the Diplomatic Security
Service, an investigative branch of the U.S. Department of
State. In July 2012, Special Agent Douglas Miller got in touch
with a contact at the Chicago office of CBP. That person introduced
Miller to Edwards, who by that time was employed as
a CBP officer at O’Hare International Airport. Unaware of Edwards’s
past involvement with the AMA, Miller asked her
whether she was willing to help with the visa fraud investigation.
Edwards agreed to help with English–Mongolian translation.
Some weeks later, just before a briefing with Edwards
about the investigation, Special Agent Miller came across a
file identifying Edwards as an AMA vice president. He was
stunned. He later testified that “at no point in the investigation”
had Edwards informed the agency about her involvement
with the AMA. Edwards did not attend the briefing. The
investigation moved forward, but the focus then shifted to Edwards
herself.
Investigators acquired Edwards’s bank records and discovered
that she maintained a joint account with her cousin
Tsasa. By reviewing Tsasa’s immigration file, investigators
learned of the 2003 marriage between Tsasa and Rosel, which
Special Agent Miller described as having “significant indicators
… for marriage fraud.” Miller located Rosel and interviewed
him. In what later became the focus of the witness
6 No. 16‐2253
tampering charges in Counts I and II, Miller asked Rosel to
call Edwards on a recorded line and to ask her questions that
the investigators had prepared. Rosel reluctantly agreed. He
made two such calls on January 8 and 9, 2013.
C. The January 2013 Calls
During the first call on January 8, Rosel told Edwards that
State Department agents had contacted him and asked about
Tsasa. Edwards did not immediately advise Rosel to cooperate
fully. She advised Rosel to tell the agents that he and Tsasa
“met at a common friend’s party, we dated, we got married, it
didn’t work out … we got divorced, and I haven’t … talked to
her or met with her at all since then.” Edwards repeated this
advice many times in the 23‐minute call. She added: “It’s not
like we’re lying, you know, we didn’t do anything … out of
[the] ordinary. … Tell them … if I’m willing to answer I’ll answer,
if I’m not willing to answer I’m not gonna answer, I
wanna talk to my lawyer.” Edwards complained that she had
become the target of the State Department investigation, a fact
she attributed to her law‐enforcement position at CBP and her
Mongolian origins.
During the follow‐up call on January 9, Rosel told Edwards
that he had spoken with Special Agent Miller and that
the investigators “seem to know an awful lot of information.”
Edwards repeated her advice from the previous call: “Tell
them, hey, we legally got married, we are both adults, we had
… mutual consent … we got divorced … . She didn’t get nothing
out of me, I didn’t get nothing out of her. … We had a
normal … relationship. Ups and downs. That’s it.” Rosel
pressed Edwards, saying that “the truth was we got married
so she wouldn’t get deported and I got the sex out of it, I just
don’t wanna try to come up with a lie.” Edwards did not take
No. 16‐2253 7
the bait to confirm that the marriage was fraudulent or that
any story to the contrary would be a lie. She replied: “In any
relationship, when somebody’s married or girlfriend/boyfriend,
they have sex, okay, that’s a normal, legal thing. … If
you want them to go away, you need to keep it simple.”
Rosel asked Edwards whether he should avoid mentioning
her name to the investigators. Edwards said no: “No, it’s
fine, tell them, hey, Eni’s my friend from my old job. … You
don’t have to lie about that because we worked together. …
And [tell them] I think she brought [Tsasa] to one of our parties
… and that’s how we met.” As the call ended, Edwards
cautioned: “Don’t let them intimidate you or try to put some
stuff into your mouth. … Simple facts are simple facts, that’s
it, and the less you talk to them and the less time you spend
with them [the] better for you, Mike.”
At trial, Rosel testified that Edwards did not accurately describe
the nature of his relationship with Tsasa during these
recorded telephone conversations. He testified that if he had
followed her advice and told investigators the relationship
was normal, that would have been a lie. Rosel testified that
Edwards was aware the marriage was a sham—that in fact she
had arranged the marriage. However, he also admitted that
he saw Tsasa on a few social occasions before their wedding,
that the two had one romantic encounter, and that at the time
of the marriage he hoped their relationship would evolve into
something meaningful.
Edwards testified in her own defense. She cast Rosel’s
marriage to Tsasa in a very different light. Edwards said that
she introduced Tsasa to Rosel, believing the connection would
help Tsasa “lead a normal life here in this country.” She hoped
the relationship would evolve. She said that Rosel and Tsasa
8 No. 16‐2253
“went out a couple of times” before their wedding and that
the two had been intimate. She believed the couple had a sexual
relationship, though Rosel had testified that they did not
and that this was one of the reasons he and Tsasa agreed to
end the marriage.
As explained below, one essential element of the witness
tampering charges was that Edwards must have acted “corruptly”
in trying to persuade Rosel how to answer questions
from investigators. Edwards testified that she did not intend
through the telephone conversations to pressure Rosel to
change his story or to lie. Edwards said she felt she was “having
[a] conversation with a friend, and … was trying to help
him out.” Under cross‐examination, however, Edwards admitted
that she asked Rosel to marry Tsasa so she could stay
in the country legally.1
D. Procedural History
The government charged Edwards in July 2014 with two
counts of witness tampering in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 1512(b)(3) stemming from her statements to Rosel during
their January 2013 phone conversations. The government
later added two counts of false statements in violation of 18

1 One can easily overstate the significance of this concession. We agree
with the trial judge’s explanation that a good‐faith marriage motivated
only in part by immigration benefits is not illegal: “Only ‘a marriage entered
into solely to obtain immigration benefits not otherwise available
without the marriage has as its purpose the evasion of immigration laws.’”
Dkt. No. 137 at 8, quoting Eid v. Thompson, 740 F.3d 118, 124 (3d Cir. 2014)
(emphasis added in trial court order), and 8 U.S.C. § 1154(c) (an official
finding that marriage was “entered into for the purpose of evading the
immigration laws” results in lifetime bar on lawful entry into the United
States).

No. 16‐2253 9

U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). Those latter counts were based on Edwards’s
2014 SF‐86 and supplemental questionnaire answers
that she had never provided financial support for a foreign
national and never helped anyone enter or stay illegally in the
United States. The government viewed these statements as
lies based on evidence that Edwards had supported Tsasa (a
non‐resident alien) financially and arranged Tsasa’s marriage
with Rosel.

Edwards moved to dismiss the witness tampering counts
on the theory that the statute, § 1512(b)(3), is void for vagueness,
both facially and as applied to Edwards. The district
court denied that motion, and the case proceeded to trial. In
February 2016, a jury convicted Edwards on all four counts.
The court sentenced Edwards to serve two years of probation
and to pay a $2,000 fine. Edwards appeals her convictions.
II. Jury Instructions for Witness Tampering
In her strongest argument on appeal, Edwards challenges
the jury instructions for the witness tampering charges in
Counts I and II. She argues that the instructions did not include
or define the term “corruptly,” which is an element of
the charges. “We review de novo whether jury instructions accurately
summarize the law, but give the district court substantial
discretion to formulate the instructions provided that
the instructions represent a complete and correct statement of
the law.” United States v. Daniel, 749 F.3d 608, 613 (7th Cir.
2014), quoting United States v. Dickerson, 705 F.3d 683, 688 (7th
Cir. 2013).
As we noted recently, 18 U.S.C. § 1512 “defies easy summary.”
United States v. Snyder, 865 F.3d 490, — (7th Cir. 2017).
The statute makes it a crime to obstruct a federal investigation
10 No. 16‐2253
or prosecution in a wide variety of ways, ranging from corruptly
trying to persuade a witness not to tell the truth up to
and including murder.
Our focus here is § 1512(b)(3), which imposes criminal
penalties on a person who “knowingly … corruptly persuades
another person, or attempts to do so … with intent to
… hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement
officer … of information relating to the commission
or possible commission of a Federal offense.” The Supreme
Court has explained that only persons “conscious of wrongdoing
can be said to ‘knowingly … corruptly persuad[e].’” Arthur
Andersen LLP v. United States, 544 U.S. 696, 706 (2005) (reviewing
conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(2)(A)–(B)). Similarly,
the pattern criminal jury instructions developed for use
in this circuit define “corruptly” as acting “with the purpose
of wrongfully impeding the due administration of justice.”
See Committee on Federal Criminal Jury Instructions of the
Seventh Circuit, Pattern Criminal Jury Instructions of the Seventh
Circuit, at 453 (2012), http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/pattern‐
jury‐instructions/7th_criminal_jury_instr.pdf.
Pattern instructions are not necessarily authoritative. The
instructions and their accompanying commentary are “approved
in principle” by the Seventh Circuit Judicial Council,
meaning that the Council has authorized their publication as
an aid to judges and lawyers. But the Council has not approved
(and, as an administrative body, could not approve)
their use in any particular case. See id. at i; United States v. Hill,
252 F.3d 919, 922 (7th Cir. 2001) (pattern instructions offer
“model instructions for occasions when they are appropriate
but do[] not identify those occasions; the need for an instruction
must be determined independently”); United States v.
No. 16‐2253 11
Doherty, 969 F.2d 425, 429 (7th Cir. 1992) (pattern instructions,
“while carrying some weight, were never intended to have the
force of law in this Circuit”).
Pattern instructions are not intended to be used mechanically
and uncritically. Trial judges routinely decide to use different
language tailored more closely to the particular case before
them. Yet pattern instructions reflect the collective experience
of the judges and lawyers who crafted them and can
serve as a helpful starting point to ensure that essential elements
of crimes and defenses are not overlooked.
In this case, the government proposed jury instructions
that tracked the Seventh Circuit pattern instructions for witness
tampering.2 The trial judge rejected the proposed instructions
during a pretrial conference because, in the judge’s view,
2 The pattern instruction states:
[The indictment charges the defendant[s] with;
Count[s] __ of the indictment charge[s] the defendant[s]
with] obstruction of justice. In order for you to find [a;
the] defendant guilty of this charge, the government must
prove each of the [four] following elements beyond a reasonable
doubt:
1. The defendant [[attempted to] [use[d] intimidation,
threaten[ed] or corruptly persuade[d] another person]] or
[engaged in misleading conduct toward another person];
and
2. The defendant acted knowingly; and
3. The defendant acted with the intent to hinder, delay
or prevent the communication of information to [a law
enforcement officer of the United States or judge of the
United States]; and
12 No. 16‐2253
they contained too much “legal jargon.” With respect to the
term “corruptly,” the judge told the lawyers: “no one knows
what ‘corruptly’ means. Then there’s a definition, a person
acts corruptly if he or she acts with the purpose of wrongfully
impeding the due administration of justice. Well, that doesn’t
help. You don’t need ‘corruptly.” Defense counsel protested
that “by eliminating some of this technical language which
has been approved by the Seventh Circuit … it will weaken
the burden that the government must meet in a criminal
case.” The judge disagreed. In his view, omission of technical
terms he deemed superfluous could not harm the defense
4. Such information related to the commission or possible
commission of a [[federal offense] or [violation of
conditions of probation], [supervised release], or [release
pending judicial proceedings]].
If you find from your consideration of all the evidence
that the government has proved each of these elements
beyond a reasonable doubt [as to the charge you
are considering], then you should find the defendant
guilty [of that charge].
If, on the other hand, you find from your consideration
of all the evidence that the government has failed to
prove any one of these elements beyond a reasonable
doubt [as to the charge you are considering], then you
should find the defendant not guilty [of that charge].
Pattern Criminal Jury Instructions of the Seventh Circuit at 447. The committee
then advises: “The court should define ‘corruptly’ and ‘misleading’
when these terms are used in these instructions, using the pattern instructions
set forth below.” The pattern instructions then offer this definition:
“A person acts ‘corruptly’ if he or she acts with the purpose of wrongfully
impeding the due administration of justice.” Id. at 453.
No. 16‐2253 13
“unless you’re counting on obscurantism in leading [the jury]
to acquit.”
In the final instructions to the jury, the judge did not include
the term “corruptly” or any comparable language. He
gave the following instruction for the elements of the witness
tampering offenses:
Remember that you can find the defendant
guilty only if the government proves the following
four things beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. The defendant attempted to persuade another
person to interfere with the government’s
investigation or prosecution of illegal activity;
2. She did this deliberately, knowing what she
was doing rather than acting in ignorance or by
mistake;
3. She intended to interfere with, delay, or prevent
another person from giving information to
a federal law enforcement officer;
4. That information related to a federal offense
that someone had committed, may have committed,
or was planning to commit.
To be sure, the final instructions required the jury to find
that Edwards intentionally sought, through her conversation
with Mike Rosel, to interfere with the State Department’s investigation.
But the instructions did not require the jury to
find that Edwards acted corruptly. As in Arthur Andersen, they
“simply failed to convey the requisite consciousness of
wrongdoing.” 544 U.S. at 706.
14 No. 16‐2253
The Supreme Court explained the difference in Arthur Andersen,
recognizing that certain forms of interference with an
investigation are “not inherently malign.” Id. at 704. “Consider,
for instance,” the Court wrote, “a mother who suggests
to her son that he invoke his right against compelled self‐incrimination,
or a wife who persuades her husband not to disclose
marital confidences. Nor is it necessarily corrupt for an
attorney to ‘persuad[e]’ a client ‘with intent to … cause’ that
client to ‘withhold’ documents from the Government.” Id. (citations
omitted).
The district court in Arthur Andersen had instructed the
jury that it should convict the accounting firm of obstruction
of justice in the investigation of the Enron Corporation collapse
if it found that the firm “intended to ‘subvert, undermine,
or impede’ governmental factfinding by suggesting to
its employees that they enforce [a] document retention policy.”
Id. at 706. The instructions omitted any element of dishonesty,
and the Court concluded that they were “flawed in
important respects” and reversed the conviction. Id. at 708.
We have relied on Arthur Andersen to affirm an instruction
that a defendant acted “corruptly” under § 1512 if he acted
“wrongfully.” United States v. Matthews, 505 F.3d 698, 706 (7th
Cir. 2007). In Matthews we affirmed a conviction for obstruction
of justice under § 1512(c), which also includes a “corruptly”
element. We found the pattern instruction use of
“wrongfully” was sufficient: “As explained in Arthur Andersen,
under limited circumstances, a defendant is privileged to
obstruct the prosecution of a crime. … By including the word
‘wrongfully’ in the definition of ‘corruptly’ and criminalizing
only the act of ‘wrongfully impeding the due administration
No. 16‐2253 15
of justice,’ the instructions directed the jury to convict only
those who have no legal right to impede justice.” Id.
Similarly, in United States v. McKibbins, 656 F.3d 707 (7th
Cir. 2011), we affirmed an obstruction of justice conviction under
§ 1512(c) where the focus on appeal was the evidence the
government used to prove the “corruptly” element. We explained:
“The intent element is important here because the
word ‘corruptly’ is what ‘serves to separate criminal and innocent
acts of obstruction.’” Id. at 711 (citation omitted); see
also United States v. Darif, 446 F.3d 701, 711 (7th Cir. 2006) (affirming
witness tampering conviction under § 1512(b)(1); jury
instructions with statutory phrase “corruptly persuade” without
further definition were sufficient under Arthur Andersen;
instruction “adequately convey[ed] that the jury must find
that Defendant acted dishonestly”).
Following Arthur Andersen, courts have disagreed around
the edges about just what does and does not count as corrupt
persuasion, but there is no doubt that a knowingly corrupt
mens rea (i.e., consciousness of wrongdoing) is an essential element
of the § 1512(b)(3) offenses charged here in Counts I
and II. See United States v. Doss, 630 F.3d 1181, 1186–90 (9th
Cir. 2011) (comparing interpretations of § 1512 and Arthur Andersen).
Some courts have suggested that an improper purpose,
such as the intent to avoid criminal liability, may satisfy
this requirement. Other courts require a more affirmative act
of deception such as urging a witness to lie to investigators.3
3 As Doss recounted, the Second and Eleventh Circuits have held that
“that persuasion with an ‘improper purpose’ qualifies (such as self‐interest
in impeding an investigation),” while the Third and Ninth Circuits
have held that “there must be something more inherently wrongful about
the persuasion (such as bribery or encouraging someone to testify
16 No. 16‐2253
Whatever the contours of the corrupt persuasion element,
however, the error here was that the jury instructions did not
say anything about wrongfulness at all: no reference to improper
purpose, no requirement of deception, and no mention
of conscious wrongdoing. The instructions left the door
open for the jury to convict Edwards on the basis of innocent
rather than corrupt persuasion. As the government acknowledged
at oral argument, the instructions would not have permitted
an attorney defending Arthur Andersen’s hypothetical
mother who tells her son to invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege
or wife who asks her husband to invoke the spousal
privilege to argue that her client did not thereby violate the
statute.
The fundamental rule when instructing a jury in a criminal
case is that the instructions must identify for the jury all elements
of the offense that must be proved beyond a reasonable
doubt. See Neder v. United States, 527 U.S. 1, 6–8 (1999) (government
conceded failure to instruct jury on essential element
of materiality was constitutional error); see also United States
falsely).” 630 F.3d at 1186, 1189. Compare, e.g., United States v. Thompson,
76 F.3d 442, 452 (2d Cir. 1996) (“The inclusion of the qualifying term ‘corrupt[
]’ means that the government must prove that the defendant’s attempts
to persuade were motivated by an improper purpose.”), and
United States v. Shotts, 145 F.3d 1289, 1301 (11th Cir. 1998) (endorsing the
reasoning of Thompson), with United States v. Farrell, 126 F.3d 484, 489 (3d
Cir. 1997) (“[M]ore culpability is required for a statutory violation than
that involved in the act of attempting to discourage disclosure in order to
hinder an investigation”), and Doss, 630 F.3d at 1187‐89 (endorsing the
reasoning of Farrell and disapproving Thompson and Shotts). Thompson and
Shotts predate Arthur Andersen, and while the Supreme Court did not expressly
disapprove them, it is difficult to square their looser “improper
purpose” standard with the Arthur Andersen emphasis on conscious
wrongdoing and dishonesty.
No. 16‐2253 17
v. Gaudin, 515 U.S. 506, 510 (1995) (Fifth and Sixth Amendments
“require criminal convictions to rest upon a jury determination
that the defendant is guilty of every element of the
crime with which he is charged, beyond a reasonable doubt”);
Sullivan v. Louisiana, 508 U.S. 275, 277–78 (1993) (“prosecution
bears the burden of proving all elements of the offense
charged, and must persuade the factfinder ‘beyond a reasonable
doubt’ of the facts necessary to establish each of those elements”)
(citations omitted).
This need to instruct the jury on all elements of the offense
applies even when the trial judge believes an element may be
confusing, ambiguous, or difficult to describe in terms that jurors
will understand. In such situations, the trial judge may
find that pattern jury instructions are inadequate. That’s fine:
as noted above, pattern instructions are helpful resources, not
holy writ. The trial judge is empowered to improve on the
pattern language or even to start from scratch. But whether
the judge uses a pattern instruction verbatim, adapts a pattern
instruction to the specifics of the case, or drafts an instruction
from scratch, the judge must ensure that the instructions convey
each element of the charged crime. The instructions here
did not. They failed to inform the jury about an essential element
of the witness tampering charges—the corrupt mental
state that distinguishes unlawful from innocent interference
with an investigation.4
4 To the extent the pattern instruction for the “corruptly” element of
18 U.S.C. § 1512 seemed inadequate to the trial judge, Arthur Andersen itself
includes some amplifying language specific to the “knowingly … corruptly”
phrasing in § 1512(b): “‘Knowledge’ and ‘knowingly’ are normally
associated with awareness, understanding, or consciousness. ‘Corrupt’
18 No. 16‐2253
We therefore must vacate Edwards’s convictions under
Counts I and II unless the instruction error was “harmless beyond
a reasonable doubt.” McDonnell v. United States, 579 U.S.
—, —, 136 S. Ct. 2355, 2375 (2016), quoting Neder, 527 U.S. at
16; accord, United States v. Carter, 695 F.3d 690, 696–97 (7th Cir.
2012); United States v. Hatfield, 591 F.3d 945, 951 (7th Cir. 2010);
United States v. Ramsey, 406 F.3d 426, 432 (7th Cir. 2005).
We cannot treat this error as harmless. It’s true that the
government’s evidence was legally sufficient to support
guilty verdicts on Counts I and II, as we explain below. The
jury might have disbelieved Edwards’s testimony, believed
Rosel’s, and found that Edwards urged Rosel to lie to investigators.
But the jury might also have believed Edwards’s testimony
and found that she believed she was advising Rosel to
do nothing more than tell the truth without volunteering information.
Under the instructions given in this case, a jury
that believed Edwards could still have convicted her on the
basis of that non‐criminal intent.
At no point during the two January 2013 phone conversations
(which together took nearly an hour) did Edwards admit
that the marriage between Rosel and Tsasa was a sham,
i.e., motivated solely to gain immigration benefits. Edwards
insisted that the marriage had been normal: a wedding, a falling
out, an amicable divorce. Perhaps Edwards was simply
trying to control the narrative. Perhaps she suspected that Rosel
might cooperate with authorities against her. Or perhaps
and ‘corruptly’ are normally associated with wrongful, immoral, depraved,
or evil. Joining these meanings together … makes sense both linguistically
and in the statutory scheme. Only persons conscious of wrongdoing
can be said to ‘knowingly … corruptly persuade.’” Arthur Andersen,
544 U.S. at 705–06 (alterations and citations omitted).
No. 16‐2253 19
she genuinely believed, as she testified, that Rosel and Tsasa
had a real (albeit brief and disappointing) relationship. Perhaps
she and Rosel both testified honestly about their very
different recollections of and perspectives on the nature of Rosel’s
brief relationship with Tsasa, which had ended almost
ten years before the telephone calls and thirteen years before
trial. These are questions for properly instructed jurors, not
judges. We are not privy to the jurors’ deliberations, and the
verdict form offers no clues.
In considering the harmless error issue, we must also note
that the trial judge viewed the government’s case on these
counts as weak. The judge found only “with regret” that the
evidence was legally sufficient to support conviction, and he
did not think those counts should even have been charged.
See Dkt. No. 137 at 9, 10 (also noting Rosel’s credibility problems
in characterizing relationship ten years earlier); Dkt. No.
157 at 51–52 (questioning whether Rosel–Tsasa marriage was
a sham at the time they married, noting that no money had
changed hands).
Under these circumstances, we cannot say beyond a reasonable
doubt that a properly instructed jury would still have
convicted Edwards for witness tampering. See Neder, 527 U.S.
at 15, citing Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 24 (1967). Edwards
is entitled to a new trial on Counts I and II.
III. Vagueness Challenge
Edwards also argues that the district court erred when it
denied her motion to dismiss the witness tampering counts
on vagueness grounds. We review de novo the district court’s
legal conclusion regarding the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C.
§ 1512(b)(3). See United States v. Novak, 841 F.3d 721, 726 (7th
20 No. 16‐2253
Cir. 2016). We must consider this issue because if Edwards
were correct, she could not be retried on those charges.
The crux of Edwards’s argument is that the term “corruptly”
in § 1512(b) is ambiguous and that the statute therefore
“does not sufficiently define prohibited conduct.” On this
point, we agree with the trial judge’s comment that the argument
is a bit strange. After all, Edwards’s challenge to the jury
instructions for Counts I and II was based on the absence of
“corruptly” or similar language in those instructions. However,
no rule bars Edwards from arguing in the alternative
both that the statute is unconstitutional and that if it is not, the
instructions were flawed, so we turn to the merits of her
vagueness argument.
We find no constitutional flaw. Edwards relies on United
States v. Poindexter, 951 F.2d 369, 379 (D.C. Cir. 1991), which
held the term “corruptly” was unconstitutionally vague
where the defendant was prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 1505,
which made it a crime to attempt to influence Congress “corruptly.”
The defendant in Poindexter was accused of lying to a
Congressional committee. The discussion of the term “corruptly”
in Poindexter does not undermine Edwards’s convictions
here for several reasons.
First, the Poindexter majority focused on the linguistic
gymnastics needed to apply the phrase “corruptly . . . influences,
obstructs, or impedes” a Congressional inquiry to a
person’s own false statements to Congress. 951 F.2d at 377–84.
Even the Poindexter majority would have had no difficulty
finding the term “corruptly” sufficiently clear as applied to a
defendant’s efforts to persuade someone else to lie to Congress.
Id. at 379 (“Narrowing the transitive interpretation to
include only ‘corrupting’ another person by influencing him
No. 16‐2253 21
to violate his legal duty would both take account of the context
in which the term ‘corruptly’ appears and avoid the vagueness
inherent in words like ‘immorally.’”) (emphasis in original).
Second, Poindexter construed a different obstruction statute.
In Poindexter, President Reagan’s National Security Advisor
during the Iran/Contra Affair was charged with, among
other things, corruptly obstructing a congressional investigation
by making false and misleading statements to Congress
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1505. In reversing Poindexter’s convictions,
the court held that the term “corruptly” as used in
§ 1505 was “too vague to provide constitutionally adequate
notice that it prohibits lying to the Congress.” Id. at 379.
Based on the narrow reasoning used in Poindexter, other
courts have cabined that vagueness holding to its unusual circumstances.
E.g., United States v. Shotts, 145 F.3d 1289, 1300
(11th Cir. 1998) (“We … decline to extend Poindexter to another
section of the obstruction‐of‐justice statutes. We continue to
believe that Poindexter must be read narrowly, and not as a
broad indictment of the use of ‘corruptly’ in the various obstruction‐
of‐justice statutes.”); United States v. Brenson, 104
F.3d 1267, 1280 (11th Cir. 1997) (“The holding of unconstitutionality
was closely tied to the alleged illegal conduct by
Poindexter and the unique nature of § 1505.”). The District of
Columbia Circuit itself has limited the Poindexter holding in a
way that supports application of § 1512(b)(3) here. In United
States v. Morrison, 98 F.3d 619, 630 (D.C. Cir. 1996), the court
affirmed a witness tampering conviction under § 1512(b)
where the defendant tried to persuade another person to lie
in court. Morrison found this was an example of what Poindexter
had called “transitive” corruption.
22 No. 16‐2253
Third, Poindexter predated Arthur Andersen. The Supreme
Court found in Arthur Andersen that the instructions in that
case did not sufficiently inform the jury about the “corruptly”
element, but the Court did not imply that the term was too
vague.5
For these reasons, the term “corruptly” in § 1512(b)(3) is
not unconstitutionally vague as applied to a person who tries
to persuade another person to lie when the other person has
a legal duty to tell the truth. While there may be some uncertainty
around the edges of § 1512(b), as with many criminal
statutes, all circuits that have considered the question have
agreed that, “at a minimum, persuading a witness to affirmatively
lie to investigators would violate § 1512(b).” Doss, 630
F.3d at 1186 (citation omitted); see also United States v.
Baldridge, 559 F.3d 1126, 1142 (10th Cir. 2009) (“[A] non‐coercive
attempt to persuade a witness to lie to investigators constitutes
a violation of § 1512(b). All circuits that have considered
the issue have concluded likewise.”) (citations omitted).
Other circuits have also rejected the same vagueness argument
that Edwards raises here. E.g., Shotts, 145 F.3d at 1301;
United States v. Thompson, 76 F.3d 442, 452 (2d Cir. 1996).
The government accused Edwards of pressuring Mike Rosel
to lie to investigators about his relationship with Tsasa.
Based largely on his testimony, a properly instructed jury
could convict Edwards if it believed she acted dishonestly.
5 Poindexter was superseded in significant part by the False Statements
Accountability Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104‐292, 110 Stat. 3459. As codified
at 18 U.S.C. § 1515(b), the Act provides that the term “corruptly” in § 1505
“means acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another,
including making a false or misleading statement.” (Emphasis
added.)
No. 16‐2253 23
While the corrupt‐persuasion element might raise vagueness
questions at the margins, the wrongdoing alleged here falls
comfortably within the ambit of the statute. The statute is not
unconstitutionally vague as applied to Edwards.
IV. Sufficiency of the Evidence
Finally, Edwards contends that the evidence introduced at
trial was insufficient to support any of her four counts of conviction.
“In a sufficiency of the evidence challenge, we view
the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution
and ask whether any rational trier of fact could have found
the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable
doubt.” United States v. Salinas, 763 F.3d 869, 877 (7th Cir.
2014), citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979). We
neither reweigh evidence nor assess witness credibility. If
there is a reasonable basis in the record supporting the verdict,
then (absent other reversible error) the verdict must
stand. United States v. Moshiri, 858 F.3d 1077, 1082 (7th Cir.
2017).
A. Witness Tampering
To convict Edwards under 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3), the government
had to prove that she “knowingly … corruptly” attempted
to persuade another person with intent to “hinder,
delay, or prevent” the communication of information relating
to the “commission or possible commission” of a federal offense
to a federal law enforcement officer. Mapping the facts
of this case onto those statutory elements, the government
had to prove that Edwards “knowingly … corruptly” attempted
to persuade Mike Rosel to “hinder, delay, or prevent”
the communication of information relating to the allegedly
24 No. 16‐2253
fraudulent marriage between Rosel and Tsasa to State Department
investigators. Even though the five‐year statute of limitations
had long since run on any possible prosecution of alleged
marriage fraud itself, Rosel’s information might have
assisted the agents as they conducted their broader investigation
into instances of Mongolian visa fraud and Edwards’s involvement,
if any, in such fraud.
As discussed above, while there is some disagreement
among the circuits about the limits of conduct proscribed by
§ 1512(b)(3), all agree that persuading another person to lie to
investigators violates the statute. The persuasion need not be
explicit. We have recognized that corrupt persuasion may occur
“where a defendant tells a potential witness a false story
as if the story were true, intending that the witness believe the
story and testify to it.” United States v. LaShay, 417 F.3d 715,
718 (7th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).
The government offered sufficient evidence to support the
convictions under Counts I and II. The jury heard the two recorded
phone calls that are the basis for the witness tampering
charges. The jury also heard extensive testimony from Rosel
and Edwards concerning the substance of those calls. The jury
could have believed Edwards’s account rather than Rosel’s.
Given the jury instruction error, for all we know the jury did
believe Edwards’s account. But the jury was also entitled to
credit Rosel’s testimony, which supports a finding that Edwards
was urging him to lie about his relationship with Tsasa.
If the case is retried on remand, a properly instructed jury
could conclude that Edwards’s persistent advice to Rosel—
“Tell them hey, we dated, we got married, we lived together,
it didn’t work out, we got divorced, we did everything accordingly
by law”—amounted to witness tampering in violation
No. 16‐2253 25
of § 1512(b)(3) if she did not honestly believe that account and
acted with a corrupt purpose.
B. False Statements

To convict Edwards on Counts III and IV under 18 U.S.C.
§ 1001(a)(2), the government had to prove that she knowingly
and willfully made materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent
statements “within the jurisdiction of the executive … branch
of the Government of the United States,” that is, in connection
with her CBP background investigations.

While the indictment described a number of statements
Edwards made during the initial investigation and 2014 reinvestigation
that could be deemed false, Counts III and IV focus
on just two statements: Edwards’s declaration on the 2014
SF‐86 that she never provided financial support to a foreign
national and her declaration on the 2014 supplemental questionnaire
that she never helped anyone enter or stay in the
United States illegally. The government introduced sufficient
evidence for the jury to conclude that Edwards made these
statements willfully and knowing that they were false.6
As for Count III, ample evidence supports the jury’s conclusion
that Edwards falsely denied providing financial support
for a foreign national. In 2002, Edwards posted a $4,000
6 The government also offered evidence that the statements were material.
Joseph Westmoreland, director of the Personnel Security Division
at CBP’s Office of Internal Affairs, testified that CBP relies on truthful disclosures
on background check forms (particularly with respect to questions
about foreign contacts) in determining whether an applicant is suitable
for employment. Truthful disclosures are especially critical for sworn
CBP officers, who are expected to testify in court and who occupy positions
potentially vulnerable to bribery and coercion.
26 No. 16‐2253
cash bond to secure Tsasa’s release from immigration detention,
though Edwards testified that her parents helped supply
the funds. The bond was ultimately forfeited after Tsasa failed
to appear for deportation. Edwards also acknowledged that
Tsasa lived at Edwards’s house in Des Plaines, Illinois, for one
or two months in 2002. On cross‐examination, Edwards admitted
that she provided Tsasa with food, shelter, and spending
money during that period. Bank records show that Edwards
and Tsasa opened a joint account with survivorship
rights in 2008. A series of checks and deposit slips showed that
Tsasa paid $10,000 to Edwards in September 2008 and that Edwards
paid $3,000 to Tsasa in December 2008. (Edwards
claims she brought $10,000 in cash to Tsasa’s mother in Mongolia
to help finance a condominium and then brought the remaining
$3,000 back to Tsasa.) The jury was not required to
find that Edwards knowingly and willfully falsified her SF‐
86, but it heard sufficient evidence to support such a finding.
As for Count IV, the same evidence that would allow the
jury to convict Edwards for obstruction would allow it to convict
her for falsely stating that she never helped anyone enter
or stay in the country illegally. The jury could have believed
Mike Rosel’s testimony that his marriage to Tsasa was a sham
and that Edwards was not only aware of but instrumental in
facilitating that sham for the purpose of securing a green card
for Tsasa. The government’s case against Edwards was not a
slam dunk, but the Jackson v. Virginia standard is deferential.
See 443 U.S. at 319. The government introduced sufficient evidence
to show that Edwards violated 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2).
V. Resentencing
Though we vacate only two of Edwards’s four convictions,
the district court on remand should reconsider all terms of her
No. 16‐2253 27
sentence, including the length of probation and the fine. The
trial judge imposed a below‐guideline sentence after finding
under the Sentencing Guidelines a total offense level of 17 and
a guideline range of 24 to 30 months in prison. The guideline
calculation depended on the combination of all four crimes,
see U.S.S.G. § 3D1.4, particularly since the witness tampering
convictions were deemed the more serious crimes. If Edwards
is not properly convicted of witness tampering, her total offense
level would drop to 8. See U.S.S.G. § 3D1.3(a). With
criminal history category I, the guideline range for a level 8
offense would be 0 to 6 months in prison.
Of course, the trial judge did not sentence Edwards to any
prison term. The judge sentenced her to two years of probation
on each of the four counts of conviction, to run concurrently,
and a $2,000 fine plus the mandatory special assessments
of $100 for each of the four felony convictions. Still, the
district court on remand may conclude that a reduction in the
length of probation or a decrease in the fine is appropriate
given the substantial decrease in the guideline range if Edwards
is not ultimately convicted by a properly instructed
jury on Counts I and II. If nothing else, the special assessments
of $400 would be cut in half if Edwards is not convicted of
witness tampering.
* * *

Outcome: To summarize, then, we AFFIRM Edwards’s convictions
under Counts III and IV but VACATE Edwards’s sentence on
those counts and REMAND for resentencing. We VACATE
Edwards’s convictions and sentences under Counts I and II
and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this
opinion.

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