Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court

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Jared Cowen owned a semi-truck that needed extensive maintenance. To pay the $37,485.65 repair bill, Cowen borrowed $15,000 from his brother and wrote two checks from his company’s bank account, one for $9,327.65 and the other for $13,158.00. Cowen admitted at trial that he knew he did not have sufficient funds to cover the checks when he wrote them, and his bank records corroborated his testimony. Believing it had been paid in full when it received Cowen’s checks, the repair shop released the semi-truck to him. A few days later, it learned that both of Cowen’s checks had failed to clear and that Cowen had issued a stop-payment on them. Cowen was thereafter charged with two counts of fraud by check: one count for each of the checks. He defended against the charges by asserting that he did not intend to defraud the repair shop. The jury convicted Cowen of the charge related to the first check, but acquitted him of the charge related to the second check. As part of Cowen’s sentence, the State requested restitution in the amount of $22,485.65, the total amount of the two checks. Cowen objected to any restitution being imposed for pecuniary losses suffered by the repair shop as a result of the second check because he was acquitted of the charge involving that check. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the State's request, finding that they had proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Cowen had written both checks knowing he had insufficient funds in his company’s account to cover them. The trial court acknowledged Cowen’s acquittal of the charge related to the second check, but explained that it was “absolutely convinced . . . , by far more than a preponderance of the evidence,” that Cowen knew he had failed to secure the financing company’s loan to fund that check. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether Colorado’s restitution statutes authorized a trial court to order a defendant who has been acquitted of a charge to pay restitution for pecuniary losses caused by the conduct that formed the basis of that charge. A division of the court of appeals upheld the restitution order in an unpublished, unanimous decision. The Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate division, however, and reversed. View "Cowen v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Steve Taylor unwittingly invested millions of dollars in what proved to be a massive Ponzi scheme. Before the scheme’s collapse, Taylor fortuitously withdrew his entire investment, plus nearly half a million dollars in profit. After the Ponzi scheme’s collapse, a court-appointed receiver brought what is commonly referred to as an “actual fraud” claim under the Colorado Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (“CUFTA”) section 38-8-105(1)(a), C.R.S. (2018), to claw back Taylor’s profits. As an innocent investor, Taylor argued he should be allowed to keep the money, contending (in the words of a statutory affirmative defense) that he provided “reasonably equivalent value” in exchange for his profits. A division of the court of appeals concluded that Taylor was not precluded as a matter of law from keeping some of the profit, because he may have provided reasonably equivalent value in the form of the time value of his investment. The receiver appealed. The Colorado Supreme Court determined Taylor could not keep the profit exceeding his initial investment based on the time value of money: under CUFTA, an innocent investor who profited from his investment in an equity-type Ponzi scheme, lacking any right to a return on investment, does not provide reasonably equivalent value based simply on the time value of his investment. View "Lewis v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Austin Veith pleaded guilty to theft and securities fraud. He asked the trial court to sentence him to probation instead of a term of incarceration. The trial court rejected his request for probation with no incarceration and sentenced Veith to ten years of incarceration on the theft count, and twenty-five years of probation on the securities fraud count. Veith did not object when the judge announced his sentence.  But, he did not sign the probation order acknowledging and accepting the terms and conditions of his sentence of probation. Instead, he filed a motion to correct his sentence pursuant to Crim. P. 35(a), arguing that the probationary portion of his sentence must be vacated because he did not consent to it. The trial court denied the motion, and Veith appealed.  The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, concluding that Veith had consented to the terms and conditions of the sentence of probation by requesting probation prior to the hearing, but that his consent did not include certain terms of probation added by the court. As a result, the court of appeals remanded the case to the trial court to remove the terms of probation from his sentence that Veith had not requested before sentencing.I t did not order any modification of the prison sentence. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine the legality of Veith’s sentence of probation, and reversed the appellate court's judgment. The Supreme Court held that a trial court cannot impose a sentence of probation without the defendant’s consent. In this case, Veith consented to probation in lieu of incarceration; therefore, the trial court exceeded the scope of Veith’s consent when it imposed a ten-year sentence of incarceration in addition to probation. The trial court lacked authority to impose the sentence of probation.  Accordingly, the Court vacated Veith’s sentence in its entirety, reversed the judgment of the court of appeals, and remanded the case to that court to return the case to the trial court for resentencing consistent with Veith’s plea agreement. View "Veith v. Colorado" on Justia Law