Can indifference, even if deliberate, satisfy a criminal statute’s requirement of knowledge? This is the issue raised by the defendant in United States v. Clay, in which a petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc is presently pending. The defendants in Clay were prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 1347(a), which states, in relevant part:
(a) Whoever knowingly and willfully executes, or attempts to execute, a scheme or artifice—
(1) to defraud any health care benefit program; or
(2) to obtain, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, any of the money or property owned by, or under the custody of control of, any health care benefit program,
in connection with the delivery of or payment for health care benefits, items, or services, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both. If the violation results in serious bodily injury (as defined in section 1365 of this title), such person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both; and if the violation results in death, such person shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both.
(b) With respect to violations of this section, a person need not have actual knowledge of this section or specific intent to commit a violation of this section.
At trial, the court charged that the defendants could be found guilty based on “deliberate indifference.” The defendant were convicted and the conviction was affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit. See the Brief for Amici Curiae NACDL, Twelve Criminal and Business Law Professors, the Washington Legal Foundation and the Cato Institute listed below.