In Evdokimow v. United States, No. 19-14130 (NLH), 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13110 (D.N.J. Jan. 25, 2022), CL here, the court rejected Evdokimow ‘s request for relief “to vacate, correct, or set aside his federal sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.”  Evdokimow raised several claims for relief, all related to ineffective assistance of counsel.  All of Evdokimow’s unsuccessful claims are interesting but I focus on the first one considered in the opinion, which the district court titles “Correction of Petitioner’s Returns” (Slip Op. 9-12.)

Evdokimow’s argument was that his lawyer, Kridel, after learning of the criminal investigation, failed to have Evdokimow’s amended returns filed promptly “had a crushing impact on Evdokimow’s defense at trial, as Evdokimow was, as set forth above, barred from introducing evidence that he had amended his returns based entirely upon the delay between the time Evdokimow learned of the government’s investigation and the time his amended returns were filed, which this Court held to be too long to be considered ‘prompt;’ the Third Circuit affirmed the conviction on that basis.”

There was a substantial delay in filing amended returns.  In the criminal trial, the defense wanted to submit proof of the filing of amended returns to permit the jury to infer his good faith and lack of criminal intent with respect to the original returns.  The Government opposed the proffer, and the court rejected the proffer on motion in limine and again at trial.  Evdokimow raised the issue on the appeal from the conviction, but the Court of Appeals rejected the argument.  United States v. Evdokimow, 726 Fed. Appx. 889, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 6564 (3rd Cir. 2018) CA3 here & GS here, which I discuss in Court of Appeals Affirms Exclusion of Amended Returns and Payments after Start of Criminal Investigation (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 3/20/18), here.

In this § 2255 proceeding, the district court held that the argument did not meet did not meet the requirements of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984) that the petitioner show “(1) defense counsel’s performance was deficient and (2) the deficiency actually prejudiced the petitioner.”  The Court reiterated its holding from trial held that (i) proof of subsequent filing of the amended returns, even if filed more promptly, would have had “slight probative value” on the issue of his intent when filing the original returns forming the basis for the tax evasion charge and (ii) that slight probative value was “substantially outweighed by the potential for prejudice and confusion to the jury.”

In this regard, the Court dismissed Kridel’s claim of relevance of a mock jury experience and concluded:

            Kridel’s testimony regarding the mock trial underscores the Court’s concerns: “The jury was very interesting. The jury felt that – I’m trying to remember exactly what was said, but they said something about, well, if he paid his taxes, we wouldn’t be here.” Tr. Oct. 22, 2020, 122:22-25. The mock jury’s fixation on Petitioner’s subsequent payment of taxes shows the likelihood that the empaneled jury would have been misled or distracted from the actual issue in the case: Petitioner’s state of mind at the time he filed the false returns.

            Accordingly, the Court concludes that there is not a reasonable possibility the Court would have ruled differently on the motion in limine even if the corrected returns had been filed in a more expeditious manner. The Court will deny relief on this claim.

For comments on the filing of amended or delinquent returns after a criminal investigation has started, see my comments on the original blog for the Appeal linked above.