Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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As a result of newly discovered evidence of a Brady violation, the district court vacated defendant's narcoterrorism conviction and resentenced him to concurrent terms of 300 months on the two remaining convictions for conspiracy to distribute heroine and distributing heroin. The DC Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's motion for a continuance where the denial did not present a legal bar to prevent him from accessing jury selection records. However, the court agreed with defendant that there was insufficient evidence to support a two-point sentencing enhancement for possession of a firearm during a drug offense. Finally, defendant acknowledged that he could not prevail on his contention that the sentence was unconstitutional because the district court considered uncharged and acquitted conduct in calculating the base offense level. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing, but otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Bagcho" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for three counts of bank robbery, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to appoint substitute counsel for defendant, nor was it an error of law to conclude that defendant could voluntarily choose to proceed pro se. Furthermore, the district court's Faretta colloquy was not otherwise defective where the district court confirmed that defendant knew he was entitled to counsel regardless of his financial status and that he understood the nature of the charges against him and the maximum penalties he faced. View "United States v. Wright" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendants Thompson and Knowles appealed their convictions for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine (5 kilograms or more) on an aircraft registered in the United States or owned by a United States citizen. The DC Circuit held that conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute does not have an extraterritorial reach because the underlying crime is not extraterritorial. Therefore, the charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute was defective, but the error was harmless because no possible prejudice could have arisen from the asserted error. The court also rejected defendants' challenges to the district court's rulings and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. View "United States v. Thompson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In 2004, defendants were indicted by a grand jury in Washington, D.C. for conspiracy to traffic cocaine, but the government moved to dismiss the charges in 2013 without prejudice because of the age of the case, government resources, and other factual and legal issues which indicated that the case was no longer viable. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to alter the dismissal without prejudice to a dismissal with prejudice. The court was bound by the Supreme Court's decision in Parr v. United States, 351 U.S. 513 (1956), which held that, without more, a criminal defendant whose indictment is dismissed without prejudice is not aggrieved and thus has no standing to appeal. Furthermore, even assuming arguendo that the threat of subsequent prosecution might be sufficient in some cases to support an appeal of a dismissal without prejudice, the statute of limitations has run on the charges against defendants and therefore the question was moot. Finally, defendants lacked standing to pursue claims of reputational injuries because dismissing the indictment with prejudice would not redress such harms. View "United States v. Scantlebury" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After the DC Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions, the court remanded his ineffective assistance of counsel claims because he had previously raised them in district court. In this case, the court affirmed the district court's conclusion that defendant's claims lack merit. The court held that defendant failed to establish the second prong of Strickland v. Washington, because he failed to establish that he was prejudiced even if trial counsel did render ineffective assistance by failing to lay a proper foundation for an advice-of-counsel defense at trial. Furthermore, because the failure to secure funds for an accountant was defendant's fault rather than that of his attorneys, and given the damaging cross-examination that an accountant would have endured, the district court correctly found that trial counsel did not render deficient performance. Finally, defendant's contention that trial counsel failed to properly prepare him to testify failed both prongs of Strickland. View "United States v. Gray-Burriss" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The United States appealed the district court's decision that it was unnecessary to detain defendant in order to ensure his presence at a criminal trial and that releasing him pre-trial meant that ICE could not civilly detain him in order to remove him from the country. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's decision declining to detain defendant pending trial and held that the district judge did not clearly err in finding that defendant was not a flight risk. However, the court reversed the district court's decision prohibiting ICE from civilly detaining him pending removal and held that there was no constitutional conflict where the Department of Homeland Security's detention of a criminal defendant alien for the purpose of removal did not infringe on the judiciary's role in criminal proceedings. View "United States v. Vasquez-Benitez" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for bank robbery and rejected defendant's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The court held that, even assuming that counsel was inadequately prepared, defendant failed to show that this caused him to plead guilty; defendant's contention that counsel failed to object to an erroneous finding by the district court was based on a mischaracterization of the record; and defendant failed to allege that the purported conflict of interest actually affected his counsel's performance. Finally, the court held that the record established that the trial judge did not attempt to influence or coerce defendant into taking a plea, nor did the judge otherwise inappropriately participate in plea bargaining. View "United States v. Smoot" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, and first-degree child sexual abuse with aggravating circumstances. The court held that there was no improper expert testimony on DNA evidence; the photo array from which the victim identified defendant was not impermissibly suggestive; and the statements defendant made to the police were voluntary. View "United States v. Kelsey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellant moved to vacate his rape and murder conviction under 28 U.S.C. 2255 and the holding in Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264 (1959), after the government conceded that the testimony of a forensic expert was false and misleading and that the government knew or should have known so at the time of appellant's trial. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's denial of appellant's section 2255 motion, holding that he demonstrated a reasonable likelihood that the forensic expert's admittedly false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury. In this case, without the agent's hair-comparison testimony, there was a reasonable likelihood that the jury could have accepted appellant's defense theory that he had been in the victim's apartment, but not during the day of her rape and murder. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Ausby" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea and affirmed the district court's judgment. In this case, defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine in the United States and then later sought to withdraw his guilty plea. The court held that defendant's plea proceeding substantially complied with the requirements of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11 and that any deviations were harmless; the district court communicated the essential information required by Rule 11(b)(1)(M); and defendant had actual notice of the possibility of forfeiture through the indictment. The court also held that the fact that defendant did not assert a viable claim of innocence lends further support to the district court's decision not to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea. As to sentencing issues, the court held that the district court did not err by applying 12 points in sentencing enhancements and in denying defendant a three point adjustment for acceptance of responsibility. Finally, the court rejected defendant's challenges to the forfeiture element of his sentence. View "United States v. Leyva" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law