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United States v. Hsia

January 16, 2001


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Facciola United States Magistrate Judge


This matter has been referred to me by Judge Friedman for resolution of the Kastigar issue that have arisen in the case. The Defendant, Maria Hsia, complains that her Fifth Amendment rights have been violated by being called before a Grand Jury, compelled to give testimony under a grant of immunity, and subjected to the improper use of that immunized testimony by prosecutors at her sentencing. On January 10 and 11, 2001, I conducted a Kastigar hearing on this matter to determine whether or not Hsia's Fifth Amendment rights had in fact been violated. Below follows my Findings of Fact and Analysis explaining my ultimate conclusion that one of the government's arguments at sentencing should be suppressed.


1. On March 3, 2000, the trial in United States v. Hsia concluded in a guilty verdict.

2. The Campaign Financing Task Force attorneys in charge of investigating and prosecuting Hsia were John McEnany and Eric Yaffe. Robert Conrad, presently the Chief of the Task Force, supervised McEnany and Yaffe through the trial to the present time.

3. Contemporaneous with the investigation of Hsia, the Task Force was investigating certain other campaign contributions. This investigation was being conducted primarily in California by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel O'Brien.

4. Conrad was also in charge of supervising the California Task Force investigation. Conrad testified to supervising both the Task Force's investigation of Hsia and the California campaign finance investigation in a "hands on" fashion.

5. Subsequent to Hsia's trial and conviction, O'Brien determined that Hsia might be able to provide valuable information to his California investigation and decided to seek her cooperation. Through her counsel, however, Hsia declined to cooperate. The Task Force then determined to compel her testimony by seeking an order granting her immunity. The order was secured and Hsia was called before the Grand Jury in California. O'Brien interrogated her before the Grand Jury.

6. At the insistence of Hsia's counsel, Nancy Luque, who complained on behalf of her client about the services of the interpreter who was assisting Hsia in the Grand Jury room, Hsia's first appearance before the Grand Jury was continued.

7. At one point after Hsia's initial grand jury appearance, Conrad and O'Brien discussed Hsia's language difficulties and the need to adjourn her first appearance because of them.

8. Conrad recalled that O'Brien articulated the perception that Hsia was not sincere in her complaints about having difficulties understanding O'Brien's questions. The two men discussed the remedies available to them because of Hsia's perceived lack of cooperation, which could be deemed a violation of the order granting her immunity and directing her to testify. They ultimately decided not to seek a contempt finding.

9. In seeking Hsia's testimony before the grand jury, O'Brien had expressed to Conrad O'Brien's concern that Hsia's status as a convicted but yet to be sentenced defendant could potentially raise problems of her grand jury testimony tainting the government's position at sentencing. O'Brien indicated that a cautious approach was appropriate, like a man who wears a belt and suspenders.

10. To that end, O'Brien discussed with Conrad whether an "ethical wall" should be erected. By this, O'Brien meant that there would be one person to whom the lawyers working on the California investigation and the lawyers working on the Hsia sentencing would report. That one person alone would determine whether information secured by one of the teams of the lawyers would be shared with the other team.

11. While no attorney was expressly appointed in that capacity, O'Brien believed on the basis of his conversation with Conrad that Conrad would function in that capacity or, at least, would prevent the information gathered from the California grand jury from being disseminated improperly. Further, O'Brien and Conrad agreed that O'Brien would not speak with the Washington prosecutors, McEnany and Yaffe, about Hsia's Grand Jury testimony.

12. No formal measures were put in place to shield the prosecutors in the Hsia case from Hsia's immunized testimony. McEnany, Yaffe, Conrad and O'Brien indicated that no one ever took any formal steps, by way of memoranda or other formal measures such as initialing and dating documents, to ensure that Ms. Hsia's immunized testimony was kept separate from the government's sentencing process. The attorneys recalled oral communications in which they warned one another not to discuss the substance of Hsia's testimony. O'Brien recalled reminding Yaffe and McEnany on several occasions that they were not to discuss the substance of ...

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