Case Caption: Willis Todmann v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2012-0078Date: 10/15/2013Author: Swan, Ive Arlington Citation: Summary:

Several convictions arising from the defendant's obtaining unauthorized additional salary payments while serving as an official of the Virgin Islands Government Employees' Retirement System are affirmed. Jury questions allowed by the trial court in the examination of witnesses in the absence of Superior Court rules regulating this practice, while subject to some procedural safeguards, were error in this case, but that error was harmless since the questions were limited, controlled, submitted in writing, and scrutinized by the trial judge. They did not prejudice the defendant or violate any rule of evidence. It was not error to refuse to excuse a juror who tendered a question to be asked of a witness concerning a forged or fraudulent document since juror partiality is not presumed, and there is no indication that - even if this juror made a premature conclusion of guilt - it was based upon anything other than what was presented at trial. Accordingly, there could not have been any prejudice, and the defendant's constitutional right to an impartial jury could not have been violated. Interpreted in a light most favorable to the People, there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on charges of knowingly submitting a memorandum to payroll for processing, knowing its authorization to be false, with intent to defraud the Retirement System of a salary not authorized by the proper officials, and to find him guilty of submitting a forged assurance or obligation of money in violation of 14 V.I.C. § 791(2), falsifying a proposed budget in an attempt to defraud, and fraudulently concealing that he was receiving two salaries in violation of 3 V.I.C. § 724(a). In this case it is immaterial whether the defendant believed he was taking rightful compensation for extra services performed, since he knowingly and unlawfully gave himself additional compensation couched as a “salary” without any lawful authorization from the Retirement System's board. However, the evidence was insufficient for a reasonable juror to convict the defendant on a count charging him with obtaining money by false pretenses involving use of a corporate credit card issued on the credit of the Retirement System without authorization violation of 14 V.I.C. § 834(2). While the evidence supported a finding that defendant surreptitiously obtained the credit card, it did not show that any damages occurred as a result of this fraud in the form of losses suffered by another party or receipt of any benefit by the defendant. Thus the conviction on the count related to this credit card is reversed, and defendant's convictions on all other counts are affirmed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion