a conviction under section 5324. This definitional change thus requires that the petitioner receive an opportunity to challenge his conviction via collateral review.
Retroactive application of the instant petition is supported by several Second Circuit decisions. In Ingber v. Enzor, 841 F.2d 450, 453-55 (2d Cir. 1988), for example, the Court determined that a new Supreme Court interpretation of the mail fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1341, must be applied retroactively on a section 2255 motion. In particular, the Court found that, where a petition is based on a substantive change in law that was unavailable on direct appeal, retroactive application is necessary in order to avoid an unfair result. Id. at 454. Similarly, in Ianniello v. United States, 10 F.3d 59, 62 (2d Cir. 1993), the Court determined that the petitioner was entitled to retroactive application of a change in law announced in United States v. Indelicato, 865 F.2d 1370, 1381 (2d Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 811, 107 L. Ed. 2d 24, 110 S. Ct. 56 (1989), in order to avoid a "fundamental wrong: conviction for conduct that is not illegal." The present case similarly involves a change in law subsequent to final sentence and raises the specter of permitting a conviction to stand for conduct that since has been deemed lawful. See also United States v. Akins, 93 Cr. 327, 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5036, at **7-8 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 12, 1994) (addressing petitioner's section 2255 motion on the merits, in part, because a "change in law removing [a] class of conduct from [the] reach of criminal law applies retroactively on habeas review") (motion to vacate section 5324 conviction post-Ratzlaf) (citing Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 346, 41 L. Ed. 2d 109, 94 S. Ct. 2298 (1974)). Accordingly, the Court finds that Ratzlaf applies retroactively to Caming's section 2255 claim.
II. The Merits
The Government argues that, despite the change in law rendered by Ratzlaf, the evidence at trial established beyond a reasonable doubt that Caming was aware that his conduct was illegal. The Court agrees.
It is well-settled that a court may determine whether "facts found by a jury are so conclusive on an ultimate factual issue-- an issue undecided by the jury because of a faulty charge-- that the error in the charge and resultant absence of an actual jury finding on the ultimate issue are harmless." Ianniello v. United States, 10 F.3d at 64 (citing Pope v. Illinois, 481 U.S. 497, 501-04, 95 L. Ed. 2d 439, 107 S. Ct. 1918 (1987); Rose v. Clark, 478 U.S. 570, 576-82, 92 L. Ed. 2d 460, 106 S. Ct. 3101 (1986)); see also Napoli v. United States, 32 F.3d 31, 35-36 (2d Cir. 1994) (affirming dismissal of section 2255 petition despite faulty jury instruction in light of overwhelming evidence). In deciding whether to affirm a conviction absent an actual jury finding, the court must evaluate whether the record at trial established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Ianniello v. United States, 10 F.3d at 65. If the court concludes that no rational juror could have concluded otherwise, then the faulty jury instruction is harmless error and the conviction must be affirmed. Id. at 64-65.
In the case at hand, the Court finds that an instruction under the new law regarding the knowledge requirement, rather than the pre-Ratzlaf instruction given to the jury, would have led to the same result. The evidence presented at trial established beyond a reasonable doubt that Caming knew that he was illegally structuring transactions in order to evade the bank's reporting requirements. Thus, the Court finds that no reasonable jury could have found that Caming acted without the requisite knowledge that he was engaging in illegal conduct.
First, the Government presented evidence directly proving that Caming knew that his conduct was unlawful through the testimony of several Bank employees and the introduction of Bank surveillance photos. Specifically, Carter and Fischetti credibly testified that the Signs were posted in several locations throughout the Bank, including in the teller areas facing the customers.
Carter testified further that one of the surveillance photos depicted Caming looking at one of the Signs during one of his transactions. Contrary to Caming's suggestion, the Court finds that no reasonable juror viewing the photographs could have concluded that Caming was not reading the Sign. As the Signs informed customers that structuring transactions to evade the Bank's reporting obligation was illegal, no rational juror could have found that Caming acted without knowledge that he was breaking the law by engaging in the structuring scheme.
Second, the Court finds that certain circumstantial evidence supports the conclusion that Caming acted with the requisite intent. See Ratzlaf v. United States, 114 S. Ct. at 663 n.19 ("A jury may, of course, find the requisite knowledge on defendant's part by drawing reasonable inferences from the evidence of defendant's conduct."). Caming's scheme was complex, involving the use of a post office box and fictitious names, bank accounts and social security numbers. His attempt to disguise his activities through an elaborate network of bogus information undoubtedly was based on the knowledge that his conduct was unlawful. This circumstantial evidence, in conjunction with the direct evidence noted above, overwhelmingly established that Caming acted "willfully" under Ratzlaf. Accordingly, as the Court finds that no reasonable juror could have concluded that Caming did not know that his conduct was illegal, Caming's petition is denied.
For the reasons set forth above, Caming's motion, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2255, to vacate his conviction is denied.
SHIRLEY WOHL KRAM
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
DATED: New York, New York
June 14, 1995