April 1, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 12 CR 842-1 - Amy
J. St. Eve, Judge.
Posner, Easterbrook, and Williams, Circuit Judges.
Williams, Circuit Judge.
Mandell was convicted for conspiring to kidnap, and for
conspiring and attempting to extort, a wealthy businessman.
His plan involved a gun, and so he was also convicted for
possessing a gun in furtherance of a crime of violence, and
for possessing a gun as a convicted felon. The evidence
included videos from hidden cameras that the FBI installed at
the site of the planned extortion. As required by statute, a
federal court authorized the installation of the cameras.
Arguing that the court only did so because the FBI's
application was misleading due to certain omissions, Mandell
moved to suppress the video evidence. The district judge
denied that motion and we affirm because the omissions
Mandell complains about are not material.
also moved for a new trial, arguing that the government had
withheld important exculpatory information about the source
of the gun. We affirm because we agree with the district
judge that the information is irrelevant and the evidence
supporting Mandell's gun convictions was overwhelming.
Steven Mandell, formerly known as Steven Manning, is familiar
to us. We discuss his unusual history because it is relevant
to his current appeal. As we have previously described:
"[Mandell] was employed as a Chicago police officer and
later as an FBI informant. In 1986 after [he] ceased to be an
informer for the FBI he fell under suspicion for a variety of
crimes." Manning v. Miller, 355 F.3d 1028, 1030
(7th Cir. 2004) (Manning III).
1990, Mandell and a man named Gary Engel were charged for a
kidnapping that occurred in Missouri in 1984. See Manning
v. Bowersox, 310 F.3d 571, 574 (8th Cir. 2002)
(Manning II). What happened next is noteworthy:
Because [Mandell] was also a suspect in an Illinois murder,
the FBI planted a government informant in his cell to try to
collect evidence about the Illinois crimes. The
informant's agreement specified that he was not to elicit
any information about [Mandell's] pending Missouri
charges. However, the informant did talk about the Missouri
charges, and agreed to help [Mandell] fabricate an alibi
defense using the informant's girlfriend, Sylvia Herrera.
The FBI then met with Herrera to go over what information she
should attempt to elicit from [Mandell]. Pursuant to her
agreement with the FBI, Herrera began to record her
conversations with [Mandell]. Id.
was convicted but the Eighth Circuit granted his habeas
petition, holding that the government's use of
informants, after charges had been filed, violated his
constitutional right to counsel. Id. at 577.
Missouri declined to retry him. See Manning v. United
States, 546 F.3d 430, 431 (7th Cir. 2008) (Manning
IV). Gary Engel was tried separately and convicted, but
his conviction was vacated because the government failed to
disclose that one of its witnesses had been paid to testify.
See Engel v. Buchan, 710 F.3d 698, 700-01 (7th Cir.
1993, Mandell was charged for a murder that occurred in
Illinois in 1990. See Manning III, 355 F.3d at 1030.
Mandell tried to pin the murder on Engel, "who had ties
to both [Mandell] and the victim." People v.
Manning, 182 Ill.2d 193, 204 (1998) (Manning
I). Mandell was convicted but this conviction was
vacated too-this time because the trial judge admitted
inadmissible evidence. Id. at 215-18.
2002, Mandell sued the government for maliciously prosecuting
him, and two FBI agents for fabricating evidence against him.
See Manning III, 355 F.3d at 1030-31; Manning
IV, 546 F.3d at 431. A jury found against the agents and
awarded Mandell $6.5 million. Id. at 431-32;
Engel, 710 F.3d at 701. But a judge found that even
without the fabricated evidence, the government had probable
cause to prosecute. See Manning IV, 546 F.3d at
431-32; Engel, 710 F.3d at 701. For technical
reasons not pertinent here, the upshot is that Mandell
recovered nothing. Manning IV, 546 F.3d at 438;
see also Engel, 710 F.3d at 701.