Tanner v. United States

PETITIONER: Anthony R. Tanner, William M. Conover
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida

DOCKET NO.: 86-177
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 483 US 107 (1987)
ARGUED: Mar 31, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1987
GRANTED: Nov 03, 1986

John A. DeVault, III - on behalf of the Petitioners
Richard J. Lazarus - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Anthony Tanner and William Conover were indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and of mail fraud. After the jury ruled, Tanner and Conover filed a motion for a new trial based on an affidavit stating that several jurors consumed alcohol during lunch breaks. The district court held an evidentiary hearing and denied relief, holding that juror testimony was inadmissible to impeach a jury verdict under Rule 606(b). There was insufficient evidence other than that testimony of juror misconduct. Tanner and Conover filed another motion, this time alleging juror use of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine during the trial. The district court declined to hold another evidentiary hearing. On appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed the convictions, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to hold a second evidentiary hearing.


Was the district court required to hold a second evidentiary hearing to evaluate juror drug and alcohol use during the trial?

Media for Tanner v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1987 in Tanner v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. DeVault, you may proceed whenever you are ready:

John A. DeVault, III:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case is here on petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which affirmed criminal convictions for conspiracy and mail fraud arising out of the award of contracts by Seminole Electric Cooperative, a private Florida corporation.

Two issues are presented for this Court's consideration.

First, whether Section 371 of Title 18 U.S.C., which prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States or any agency thereof, extends to a conspiracy to defraud a private corporation which is neither an agency nor a representative of the federal government, and which only connection with the federal government is that it is the recipient of a loan guaranteed by the Rural Electrification Administration.

Secondly, where a sworn affidavit that jurors were consuming large amounts of alcohol, were utilizing and dealing in marijuana, and were ingesting cocaine throughout the course of a complex criminal proceeding, required an evidentiary hearing in order to make a determination as to whether these jurors were rendered incompetent to consider and decide the case in violation of their Sixth Amendment rights.

Seminole Electric Cooperative is a Florida corporation formed by 11 rural electric cooperatives in the State of Florida for the purpose of generating and transmitting electrical energy in north and central Florida.

That corporation in 1979 made application through the REA to borrow $1.1 billion from the Federal Financing Bank in order to construct a coal-fired generating plant near Polacta, Florida.

As part of the construction of that plant, it was necessary to construct a patrol road beneath an electrical transmission line which extended from the coal-fired plant to a substation outside of Ocala, a distance of practically 51 miles.

That patrol road was in order to construct the line itself and later to maintain the road and the transmission facilities.

That original contract was awarded to Jernigan Construction Company out of Missouri.

In 1979, work on the plant and the patrol road began, and by March of 1981 it became apparent that the materials being utilized by Jernigan were insufficient for the purpose.

They simply would not compact sufficiently to hold the trucks and vehicles that had to transgress this road.

Accordingly, the officials at Seminole Electric directed the Director of Procurement, the petitioner here, Mr. Conover, to find another source of material to construct the road.

Mr. Conover, in his position as Director of Procurement, went to his friend Anthony Tanner who was a local developer and is also a petitioner here.

Mr. Tanner owned a lime rock mine in the area and suggested the use of lime rock overburden as a material to be used in place of the sugar sand material which Jernigan was attempting to use.

That material was used on an interim basis under a purchase order after being inspected by the engineering department of Seminole Electric.

The material proved satisfactory.

Because of internal policies of Seminole Electric, a bid was required for any project which cost more than $200,000.

Accordingly, specifications were drawn up for two contracts, one for a fill contract which utilized the same specifications of the material being submitted by Mr. Tanner under the purchase order, and the second for spreading contract to complete work on the road.

Both of those contracts were let for bid and petitioner Tanner was low bidder with respect to each.

Accordingly, he was awarded the contracts and completed construction of the patrol roads in late 1981.

Just prior to the completion of construction, one of the electrical cooperatives raised questions concerning the business relationships between Tanner and Conover and whether they violated the conflict of interest policies of Seminole Electric.

As a result of that investigation, an indictment was brought in the United States District Court in June of 1983.

That indictment charged in count one a conspiracy to defraud the United States under Section 371 by impeding the lawful function of the REA in administering and enforcing its guaranteed loan program.

It contended that Tanner was given an advantage over competitors by the specifications drawn for the contracts, and that Tanner and Conover, by their personal business dealings, violated the conflict of interest policy of Seminole and therefore the program was not honestly and fairly administered.

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed these convictions and found that what the Court termed 371, based on the interest of the federal government in seeing that the entire project was administered honestly, and efficiently, and without corruption and waste.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Was that a divided opinion?

John A. DeVault, III:

There was a special concurring opinion by Judge Hill, Your Honor, and he consented and concurred in the judgment because he felt bound by a prior Fifth Circuit decision.

But with respect to the conspiracy issue, Judge Hill evidenced, and stated in his special concurring opinion, that if he were not bound by that opinion he would find that these actions did not violate Section 371.