The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently affirmed convictions for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and other related charges against three former executives of the Bank of the Commonwealth.
In 2008, the Bank of the Commonwealth, a community bank in southeastern Virginia, failed and ultimately caused the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to sustain approximately $333 million in losses as the bank’s receiver. In December 2012, the bank’s former executives were charged with a conspiracy to hide the bank’s deteriorating financial condition. Following a 10-week trial involving more than 80 witnesses and 1,000 exhibits, the executives were convicted on multiple charges. Three executives appealed their convictions on various substantive and procedural grounds. Most prominently addressed was one appellant’s claim that the District Court improperly limited his time on direct testimony.
The Fourth Circuit held that, although the District Court did eventually restrict the defendant’s time on direct examination, the District Court granted multiple extensions after warning defense counsel about straying into irrelevant topics. The Fourth Circuit also emphasized that the appellant testified on direct examination for more than seven hours, which was the longest witness examination of the trial. Similarly, the court noted that the appellant was charged with fewer counts yet testified longer than each of his co-defendants. In light of the extensions, warnings, and greater amount of time available to present his case, the Fourth Circuit found that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in limiting the duration of the appellant’s direct testimony.
United States v. Fields, Nos. 13-4711, 13-4818, 13-4863 (4th Cir. June 5, 2015).