10th Circuit affirms convictions in the NM Secretary of State scandal, but orders resentencing

Last month, as I reported here, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the tax evasion¬†convictions of Elizabeth Kupfer, who was a participant in the scandal involving the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office, which broke in 2010.

Yesterday, it was her husband’s turn. A federal jury convicted Joseph Kupfer of tax evasion, and another jury convicted him of stealing and conspiracy to steal government property.

In an opinion by Judge Bacharach, the Tenth Circuit affirmed all of Mr. Kupfer’s convictions, but remanded for resentencing. See United States v. Joseph Kupfer.

Some of Mr. Kupfer’s arguments were the same as those his wife raised in her appeal, and the Court rejected them on the same grounds. Mr. Kupfer also claimed that evidence of transactions was improperly admitted because there was no allegation that he committed any misconduct in them, but the Court held that those events provided necessary context for the jury to understand Mr. Kupfer’s participation in the criminal acts.

The Court did agree with Mr. Kupfer’s challenge to his sentence. As with Mrs. Kupfer, the Court held that it was improper to increase the offense level for willfully obstructing the investigation, when all that Mr. Kupfer did was fail to tell the investigators about his own misconduct. In addition, the Tenth Circuit held that the district court applied the wrong offense guideline.

The case will be remanded for resentencing, and I presume Mr. Kupfer will receive a reduced sentence.


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