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In upholding Yates’s conviction under that provision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rejected his lawyers’ argument that the law was aimed solely at a “document offense.” The Eleventh Circuit said that, since the specific law did not define its terms, they were to be given their ordinary or natural meaning, and under that reading, a fish qualifies as a “tangible object.”
That is the ruling the Supreme Court agreed to review, last April, declining to also review a separate claim that Yates had made about exclusion by the trial judge of an expert witness his lawyers had wanted to call to the stand.
His petition was supported by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, urging the Court to hear the case and to act against the “over-criminalization” of conduct by expansive interpretations of federal laws by prosecutors. The same argument was made by another advocacy group, Cause of Action.