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Daniele v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 27, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's second Amended Petition for Writ of Error Coram Nobis [Doc. No. 6] pursuant to the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651.[1] Respondent filed a Response to the Court's Order to Show Cause Why Relief Should Not be Granted [Doc. No. 22], to which Petitioner filed a Reply [Doc. No. 29]. For the reasons explained below, the Response to the Order to Show Cause Why Relief Should not be Granted is well taken and the second Amended Petition will be dismissed.


         In 1988, a jury convicted Petitioner of ten counts of mail fraud, one count of conspiracy, and four counts of extortion or attempted extortion stemming from Petitioner's activities as the Chairman of the St. Louis Police Department Pension System (“Pension Fund”) between 1985 and 1987. Petitioner's convictions arose out of a scheme to direct the brokerage of the Pension Fund in return for unlawful kickbacks. Donald Anton orchestrated the scheme from 1982 until 1987. The government did not allege that Petitioner received money from the scheme, rather his motive was political support for a promotion within the police department. Petitioner was sentenced to eight years imprisonment and ordered to pay $200, 000 in restitution. All co-defendants pleaded guilty to the charges against them.

         Petitioner raised several points on direct appeal. United States v. Daniele, 886 F.2d 1046 (8th Cir. 1989). Inter alia, Petitioner contended that the district court erred in excluding as inadmissible hearsay the testimony of Louis Bliele, the Pension Fund's Secretary, as well as a videotape of a Board meeting. He also argued that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction.

         Petitioner claimed that Bliele would have testified to a prior inconsistent statement of James Bridges, a government witness. Bridges was a money manager whose firm was terminated by the Pension Fund Board on Petitioner's motion. At trial, Bridges testified that he learned of the termination only after he had executed trades for the Pension Fund that generated a $90, 000 commission on the morning of June 28, 1986, and that Petitioner had orally authorized those trades on June 26. In a letter to the SEC, however, Bliele wrote that Bridges had said that he (Bridges)

         had been notified of the Pension Fund Board's termination decision on June 27, the night before the trades. Petitioner argued that Bliele's testimony was improperly excluded because it constituted a prior inconsistent statement. The Eighth Circuit agreed, but found that Petitioner was not prejudiced by the omission of Bliele's testimony. The Eighth Circuit found that Bliele's testimony would have contained the same information as Bliele's SEC letter, which Petitioner was allowed to use in cross-examination of Bridges.

         The videotape captured a Pension Fund Board meeting at which Petitioner and the Board agreed to rescind their vote to hire an Anton-friendly brokerage firm and use competitive bidding instead. The minutes of that meeting were admitted into evidence at the trial. The Eighth Circuit found no reversible error, ruling that Petitioner's counsel did not cite any rule of evidence at trial to support admission of the videotape, and that the trial court could have exercised its broad discretion in admitting evidence to exclude the videotape as cumulative.

         As to the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction, Petitioner claimed that he had no knowledge of the nature and scope of the conspiracy and no specific intent to defraud. The Eighth Circuit acknowledged that there was evidence that supported Petitioner's position, and that the evidence against him was not overwhelming. Nevertheless, the Eighth Circuit found that the evidence was such that the jury could reasonably conclude that Petitioner had knowledge of the scheme, acted for Anton, and directed brokerage himself. Petitioner's direct appeal resulted in affirmance of the district court judgment.

         After Petitioner's criminal trial, the Police Retirement System of St. Louis had also filed a civil suit against Petitioner and others for mismanaging the pension funds. Police Retirement Sys. v. Midwest Inv. Advisory Servs., No. 87-2076 (E.D.Mo. 1989). Anton represented himself in the civil trial. During his closing argument, he stated that there were never any agreements between him and Petitioner, he recommended Petitioner for promotion because of Petitioner's qualifications, and “[i]n my opinion, he should not be liable in this case; and he should not even have been sued in this case.” United States v. Daniele, 931 F.2d 486, 488 (8th Cir. 1991). The civil jury's verdict absolved Petitioner of liability for losses to the Pension Fund.

         Upon obtaining the favorable civil verdict, Petitioner moved for a new criminal trial based on newly discovered evidence, and also moved for a reduction in sentence. The district court denied Petitioner's new trial motion, but granted a one year reduction in sentence and reduced Petitioner's liability for restitution from $200, 000 to $133, 000.

         Petitioner appealed the district court's resentencing and denial of a new trial. United States v. Daniele, 931 F.2d 486, 488 (8th Cir. 1991). The Eighth Circuit affirmed the sentence but extinguished Petitioner's obligation to make restitution to the Pension Fund. The Eighth Circuit also rejected Petitioner's argument that the statements made in Anton's closing argument at the civil trial were newly discovered evidence, finding instead that those statements were “purely legal arguments based on the evidence at trial.” Id. at 489. Regarding the remainder of Petitioner's “new” evidence claims, the Eighth Circuit found that:

much of the proffered “new” evidence was merely cumulative or impeaching. Additionally, Daniele failed to show that a reasonably diligent pretrial investigation would not have uncovered the evidence. Under these circumstances, we see no abuse of discretion in ...

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