Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Court Rejects Jury Instructions In Marriage Fraud Case

US v. Sonmez: Sonmez came to the United States on a tourist visa in 2000 but remained past its expiration date.  In 2008 he wed Eckloff and sought a green card based on marriage to a US citizen.  The green card was never awarded and eventually an investigation led to Albrecht, who told investigators of a scheme where citizens would marry nationals from the Middle East in order favorably impact their immigration status.  She had introduced Eckloff to Sonmez, who were married two weeks later.  Both Sonmez and Eckloff were charged with marriage fraud, but Eckloff pleaded guilty and testified against Sonmez.  She testified that received $2000 for marrying Sonmez and that they never had a romantic or sexual relationship with each other.  Sonmez testified that the relationship was real, had lasted six months prior to marriage, and the marriage was "real" for him.  He was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed Sonmez's conviction.  Sonmez argued that the district court had erred by not giving two requested instructions to the jury, one that required the Government to prove that Sonmez's "only reason" for marrying was the obtain a green card and one that required proof that he and Eckloff had "no intent to establish a life together."  Instead, the court instructed the jury that the Government had to prove that the marriage was "entered into for the purpose of evading" US immigration laws.  The court found that Sonmez's requested instructions were properly rejected because they were improper statements of the law.

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