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U.S. v. MODANLO, NO. 13-4378

Decided: August 7, 2014

The Fourth Circuit denied Modanlo’s midtrial notice of appeal, and held that the district court was not stripped of jurisdiction when Modanlo made his midtrial notice of appeal.

Modanlo was charged on eleven counts relating to his involvement in “conspiring to illegally avoid the [Iran] trade embargo[,]” money laundering, and transferring “criminally derived property[.]” Count Eleven of Modanlo’s indictment charged him with obstructing joint bankruptcy proceedings for him and his closely held business. However, eight months prior to the trial the joint proceedings were dismissed, and Modanlo argued that dismissal collaterally estopped the Government from bringing the obstruction charge against him. The district court denied Modanlo’s motion but failed to provide a written opinion until the sixth day of trial. During trial, Modanlo filed a notice of appeal on Count Eleven, which he argued could be severed from the other counts. The district court denied his motion and Modanlo was convicted on all but one count. Modanlo appealed, asserting that his midtrial appeals, “divested the court of jurisdiction to adjudicate his case,” therefore rendering his convictions and sentences a “legal nullity.”

The Court reasoned that Modanlo’s appeals were the “nullity” because he waited to file a notice of his appeal until after the trial began, and before the trial court entered a final judgment against him. Although the trial court failed to provide a written ruling on his pretrial motion until after the trial began, Modanlo was “without a basis for extraordinary relief[,]” and, therefore, had to wait for a final judgment to be entered against him before appealing. Thus, Modanlo’s midtrial appeals were dismissed.

Full Opinion

James Bull Sterling