WASHINGTON (CN) – A former executive’s decades-old retaliation suit against the U.S. Postal Service ended with a 196-page decision denying him a new federal trial.
William Moore was the chief executive of Recognition Equipment Inc. (REI) in the 1980s as it pursued a contract to sell the Postal Service multiple-line optical character readers that would read addresses.
Already in the process of rolling out “zip+4” zip codes, the service was leaning toward technology from a rival of REI that used a single-line scanner to read the new nine-digit numbers.
Moore testified before congressional committees and lobbied lawmakers to oppose the zip+4 codes, causing the postmaster general at the time to personally admonish Moore “to be quiet” on the issue.
Though Gnau and Associates, the public-relations firm REI hired to take over lobbying efforts, succeeded in shifting the Postal Service to multiple-line scanners, the service still awarded the scanner contract to an REI competitor.
While Moore denounced the decision as retribution for his public criticism of the “zip+4” codes, postal inspectors discovered that Peter Voss, a member of its board of governors, had recommended Gnau and Associates to REI in exchange for a kickback.
This discovery led to indictments against Voss and top executives at Gnau, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges.
Moore and the vice president of REI were also indicted on seven counts of fraud and theft, but the court granted Moore an acquittal six weeks into his bench trial, concluding that the government had failed to establish a prima facie case.
The drama did not end there, however, as Moore then filed a malicious prosecution complaint in 1991 against the assistant U.S. attorney, and accused six postal inspectors of retaliatory inducement.
Moore’s civil case ended up setting U.S. Supreme Court precedent on the latter issue.
Finding Moore did not show that the Postal Service’s retaliatory intent was the sole probable cause to bring the case, a federal judge denied him relief.
Citing Moore’s failure to raise any probable-cause objections when the grand jury indicted him, the court said the indictment itself proved that the government had probable cause to bring the charges against him.
Moore’s appeal found some success , however, with the D.C. Circuit saying his claims should go to a jury.
Moore sought more than $235 million for lost compensation and damages in that four-week concurrent jury and bench trial, but the jury returned a verdict for the defendants.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell shot down Moore’s bid for a new trial against four living and one deceased former postal inspector. The massive opinion also denies Moore judgment on his malicious-prosecution claim against the United States.
“Many of the alleged grounds of error reflect nothing more than strategic choices made by plaintiff’s counsel during the course of a multi-week trial,” Howell wrote.
Though Moore complained about the uneven peremptory strikes the court granted each side in jury selection, Howell noted that he never complained in the moment.
The fact that Moore sued multiple defendants also gave the court discretion to allow the defendants additional strikes, according to the ruling.
Since Moore also “did not object to the final jury as selected,” Howell said he cannot show any harm resulting from the disparate award of peremptory strikes.”
As to Moore’s claim about four evidentiary rulings, Howell said some of Moore’s evidentiary objections were from his own witnesses.
“Although evidentiary issues can be a proper basis for an award of a new trial … the standard for granting a new trial is not whether minor evidentiary errors were made, but rather whether there was a clear miscarriage of justice,” the opinion states.
Moore complained about jury instructions as well, but Howell said his proposed “instruction would permit liability to attach to one defendant on the basis of the actions of others.”
Furthermore “the plaintiff does not allege that the probable cause instruction provided to the jury reflected an incorrect statement of the law,” the ruling states.
Howell had no patience either for Moore’s complaint “that the court failed to use particular language that the plaintiff felt most useful to his argument.”
“This is not the standard and the plaintiff’s claim must be rejected,” she wrote.
In dismissing Moore’s objection to the court’s questioning of witnesses, Howell noted that the questioning “was entirely appropriate.”
Moore has had his day in court, and then some, the opinion concludes.
“For the past twenty-five years, this litigation has cast a shadow over the careers, retirements, and estates, of the postal inspectors targeted by the plaintiff in this suit – only to have their long ago actions and motives vindicated at trial by two separate fact-finders,” Howell wrote.
The decision furthermore slams Moore’s damages claim of $235 million as “an astronomical award based on his inflated career aspirations and the profound sense of wrong the plaintiff believes himself to have suffered for what he discounts as merely ‘look[ing] like we made some bad decisions on people.'”
“Having examined the totality of the evidence presented at trial,” Howell wrote, “the plaintiff not only made ‘bad decisions,’ but those bad decisions helped fund a corrupt scheme that cost taxpayers millions of dollars. The indictment at issue in this case was not premised on retaliation or malice, but resulted from a diligent and comprehensive investigation following the corrupt payments back to their source.”
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