Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. CR-93-00202-SBA. Saundra B. Armstrong, District Judge, Presiding. Original Opinion Previously Reported at:,.
Before: Jerome Farris and Robert R. Beezer, Circuit Judges, and Linda H. McLaughlin, District Judge.*fn** Opinion by Judge Beezer.
Johannes Van Krieken appeals his conviction following a bench trial for three counts of filing a false return or document, 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1), and one count of corrupt interference with the administration of Internal Revenue Laws, 26 U.S.C. § 7212(a). He contends that his waiver of his right to counsel was not knowing, intelligent and voluntary. Van Krieken also asserts that the district court applied the incorrect sentencing guideline to his conviction for corrupt interference with the administration of the Internal Revenue laws. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.
Since 1983, Van Krieken has had disagreements with the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") regarding his tax obligations. He has been assessed tax deficiencies for multiple years and refused to file returns and complete tax forms which employers are required to file. The actions that led to the present convictions include engaging in a "redemption" scheme which interfered with administration of the tax laws and filing false tax returns. To effectuate the redemption scheme, Van Krieken used Forms 1099 and 1096 to falsely indicate that compensation was paid to targets of the scheme. Those targets would then be subject to IRS review when they failed to report income that Van Krieken had reported as paid. Van Krieken also sent bills to people seeking to collect money that they did not owe. Van Krieken then attempted to have the IRS levy on those taxpayers. Van Krieken's 1989 individual tax return contained false information and failed to report compensation Van Krieken received during the tax year. The return also falsely claimed an overpayment in excess of four million dollars and sought a refund for that overpayment. In March 1990, Van Krieken filed an amendment to his 1989 return seeking to increase the amount of the refund due.
Van Krieken was indicted for three counts of filing a false tax return and one count of corrupt interference with the administration of the tax laws. At his initial appearance before the magistrate Judge, Van Krieken met with a public defender and was advised by the court that counsel would be appointed if he completed a financial disclosure form. Van Krieken expressed reservations about disclosing financial information that would be released to the government. He informed the court that he would attempt to procure counsel. At the scheduled detention hearing Van Krieken again appeared without counsel. A public defender was again present and explained to the court Van Krieken's concerns regarding possible incrimination by the disclosure of the financial information required as a condition for obtaining appointed counsel. The public defender advised Van Krieken that no guarantee could be made that a financial affidavit would not be disclosed to the government. The magistrate Judge considered the financial disclosure issue and postponed the detention hearing to provide the government and public defender an opportunity to explore possible alternatives. At the detention hearing two days later, Van Krieken appeared with retained counsel and the issue of financial disclosure was not addressed.
At an initial appearance before the district Judge, Van Krieken again appeared without counsel. The district Judge advised Van Krieken of his right to an attorney and stated that one would be appointed if he could not afford an attorney. The district Judge explained the charges and the possible penalties as well as the disadvantages of appearing without counsel. Despite repeated encouragement by the district Judge to obtain counsel, Van Krieken insisted on representing himself. Van Krieken was convicted on all four counts of the indictment. He was sentenced to twenty-four months imprisonment and one year supervised release.*fn1
Van Krieken contends that the waiver of his right to counsel was invalid because it was not knowing, intelligent and voluntary. Van Krieken also contends that he was forced to choose between his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and his Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
Before a waiver of the right to counsel will be considered knowing, intelligent and voluntary, "a criminal defendant must be aware of the nature of the charges against him, the possible penalties, and the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation." United States v. Balough, 820 F.2d 1485, 1487 (9th Cir. 1987). Further, the record should "establish that he knows what he is doing and his choice is made with eyes open." Id. at 1487 (quotation omitted). "Throughout this inquiry, [the court] must focus on what the defendant understood, rather than on what the court said or understood." Id. at 1487-88 (citing United States v. Harris, 683 F.2d 322, 325 (9th Cir. 1982)). Finally, a request to proceed without counsel must be unequivocal. Adams v. Carroll, 875 F.2d 1441, 1444 (9th Cir. 1989).
At the initial appearance before the district Judge, Van Krieken appeared without counsel. The district Judge explained to Van Krieken his right to counsel and his right to have one provided at no cost if necessary. The district Judge also apprised Van Krieken of the charges against him, the possible penalties, and the dangers of self-representation. It was explained that Van Krieken may have limited access to a law library and that the rules of evidence and criminal procedure would govern the trial.
The issue was raised again at the motions hearing and pretrial conference. In each instance, Van Krieken refused an attorney when the district Judge explained the circumstances of why he needed an attorney or made a recommendation that he obtain one. Van Krieken specifically stated to the district Judge, "I feel that you can't force me to get a lawyer that I don't want." The court responded: "I would definitely not force you to do that. That is entirely your choice. . . . I'm just giving you my strong recommendation, but it is nothing but a recommendation, because the choice is entirely yours." On more than one occasion the district Judge made a sufficient inquiry about whether Van Krieken understood his right to counsel and concluded that he had waived that right knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily.
Van Krieken's waiver of his right to counsel was also unequivocal. Van Krieken repeatedly expressed to the court his desire to waive his right to counsel. When asked directly by the court if, "it is your desire to give up your right to have a lawyer," Van Krieken answered "yes, ma'am." The record reflects that Van Krieken persisted in waiving his right "despite the trial court's having engaged him in extensive Discussion about the dangers" of self-representation. United States v. Robinson, 913 F.2d 712, 714 (9th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1104, 112 L. Ed. 2d 1089, 111 S. Ct. 1006 (1991). After the court's explanation, Van Krieken ...