Judge Richard Berman

Shi Yong Wei sought habeas relief, challenging conviction and sentence for conspiracy to commit extortion under the Hobbs Act and eight counts of extortion violating 18 U.S.C. §1951. Shi argued that trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to object to a misstatement during the court’s reading of the conspiracy instruction to the jury. The transcription indicated the court referred to defendant rather than the government and stated "[b]ecause the defendant contends that the substantive violations charged in counts 2 through 9 actually occurred in this case, one or more of the defendants is charged in the indictment also with committing the substantive offenses of extortion as well as conspiracy." The court noted that written jury instructions given jurors during deliberations did not contain this error. It found that the error did not create any prejudice because Shi maintained his innocence throughout trial and his counsel made "vigorous jury addresses, aggressive cross-examinations and [offered] a significant defense case." The court concluded that the alleged misstatement reasonably could not have been understood by the jury to mean that Shi admitted to the charges against him. Accordingly, the petition was denied.