Juror faces 3 days in prison after taking business trip — during trial
By Natasha Korecki Federal Courts Reporter email@example.com June 12, 2012 4:19PM
Updated: July 14, 2012 6:33AM
He was picked to serve as a juror in a criminal case.
But now it’s the juror — Scott C. Enke — who finds himself in the hot seat.
After serving on a jury for a short time in March, he went on a business trip — in the middle of the ongoing trial.
Now he faces up to three days in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, community service, or any combination of the punishments.
U.S. District Judge James Holderman found Enke in contempt of court for failing to appear for trial on March 8th and found that he did not have a good cause for his “intentional absence” during a Medicare fraud trial.
“It is plain that Enke acted under the assumption that fulfilling his obligation to serve on a
jury was not as important as his business trip for his employer,” Holderman said in a ruling. “Sadly, that assumption is all too widespread among both potential jurors and their employers, presenting a significant challenge to the ongoing effectiveness of the jury as an institution.”
One Chicago defense lawyer was amazed by the charge.
“Never heard of a juror doing that. Ever. Wow,” said lawyer Phil Turner. “I think it’s probably a good chance that person will spend some time somewhere.”
In his ruling, Holderman expressed his frustration with what he believed was an apathetic attitude of fulfilling the duty to serve on a jury. On Tuesday though, Holderman delayed the sentencing, saying he would find out more about Enke’s background before handing out his punishment.
Enke’s lawyer, Kevin P. Bolger, said he was glad Holderman waited, stressing that his client is a good person and a hard-working family man who simply made a mistake.
“He’s extremely sorry for it,” Bolger said. “There were a lot of crossed signals. This is not some guy who disrespects the law. He thought he was in the right. When he found out he wasn’t, he was very, very upset and very contrite and by that time it was too late.”
Holderman, who is the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Chicago, has a reputation for holding people’s feet to the fire when it comes to jury duty. That includes holding companies responsible when they put pressure on employees not to sit for jury service.
In 2007, in what then appeared to be a first-of-its-kind move, Holderman appointed attorneys to represent two jurors and determine whether federal lawsuits should be filed against their ex-employers after they were fired while serving on grand juries.
Bolger said he hadn’t seen a similar charge in the past against a juror: “This was the first time I’ve seen anything like this happen. It is certainly unusual.”
Enke, 33 of Plainfield, whose Tuesday sentencing was reset for July 10, works as a neurovascular clinical sales representative for Covidien PLC, a medical device supplier. The sales representative receives pay based on clients’ use of Covidien’s products. Enke was scheduled to attend a procedure where Covidien products would be used at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, one of his biggest clients, on March 8th and 9th. After a physician failed to appear at a previous procedure in January, the hospital stated that if the procedure in March did not go as planned, it would drop Covidien. Enke believed he had to be present at the procedure in order not to lose the client. Enke eventually earned $1,600 from the trip.
The problem, however, was that Enke didn’t say anything during jury selection to flag a conflict with the trial.
Though Enke was able to receive leave from work for the first five trial days, he did not ask to be excused from court the 8th of March nor did he inform anyone in the court of his conflict, nor did he try to find a replacement for the procedure in Iowa, according to the court ruling. Enke called Conlon’s courtroom deputy clerk Alberta Rone on March 7th. Enke said Rone had excused him from court the following day — something Rone denies. Enke called the presiding judge in the criminal case, U.S. District Judge Suzanne Conlon, and attempted to ask to be excused the next day because of a pending business trip that was critical to his company’s client. Rone said she indicated she could not authorize his absence but said she passed the message to the judge. Enke also left a message on the judge’s voicemail.
“Every potential juror is crucial to the ability of the jury as an institution to perform its function successfully. … The jury system cannot survive if jurors are allowed to place their own private business interests above their public service,” Holderman said.
Turner said Holderman had to put his foot down, otherwise no one would take jury service seriously.
“If you allow this to happen like this, then people will do it all the time,” Turner said. “You have to have sort of a zero-tolerance attitude toward it.”