• March 11, 2010

Back in late 2008, Derrick Riddle appears to have thought he would be able to score some serious cash by proposing that he would facilitate a bribe of Thomas Petters’ trial judge for Petters’ criminal case.

There were more than a few problems with the scheme, not the least of which was that, at the time of his proposal, no judge had been assigned.  On this basis, Riddle’s defense counsel raised the defense of impossibility.  Minnesota’s pattern jury instructions with regard to impossibility provide:

Even though the commission of a crime was impossible because of the circumstances under which the act was performed or because of the inadequacy of the means employed, a person is guilty of an attempt to commit that crime if the person intended to commit the crime and took a substantial step toward its commission. However, if the impossibility of committing the crime would have been obvious to a person of normal understanding, you cannot find that an attempt to commit a crime occurred.
Likely in light of the fact that Petters’ defense counsel, John Hopeman, was not duped for an instant by Mr. Riddle’s gambit (impossibility might not have been obvious to the person of normal understanding, but was to Hopeman), the prosecution sought and obtained an additional instruction:
In order to find someone guilty of Attempt to Commit Theft By Swindle, it is not necessary that the target or targets of the alleged swindle believed that the false representations were true.
The Court of Appeals (Peterson, Wright, Ross) rejected Riddle’s challenge to the pattern instruction and rejected his challenge to the added instruction addressing Hopeman’s imperviousness to the scam, as well.

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