On December 12, 2016, the Seventh Circuit ruled that a civil determination adverse to the federal government precluded a criminal indictment.
The case is U.S. v. Egan Marine Corporation and Dennis Michael Egan. On January 19, 2005, a barge being pushed by a tug, piloted by Dennis Egan, exploded. The US obtained an indictment charging Egan and the tug’s owner, Egan Marine Corp., with, inter alia, a violation of Title 18, U.S.C. Section 1115 (penalizing maritime negligence that results in death).
The US government first filed a civil suit in federal court seeking damages. In that first suit, the US District Court found that the government failed to prove its case. The US government did not appeal. Two years later, the US indicted Egan Marine and Egan. Both were found guilty and were ordered to pay $6,750,000.00 in restitution. Egan was also sentenced to six months imprisonment.
On appeal, the Seventh Circuit held that the outcome of the civil case precluded the criminal case and reversed the convictions. The Court stated: “The Supreme Court has said that the outcome of a civil case has preclusive force in a criminal prosecution. See Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298, 335–36 (1957). (Burks v. United States, 437 U.S. 1 (1978), overruled a different portion of Yates relating to double jeopardy; Burks did not question the portion of Yates dealing with preclusion.) If the United States cannot prove a factual claim on the preponderance standard, it cannot logically show the same thing beyond a reasonable doubt.” (emphasis added). The case was then remanded for an entry of judgments of acquittal.
Not the first time of over-reaching by our government . . . and probably not the last.
Let me know if you want a copy of the opinion.
As always, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org