Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Defendant was convicted of five counts related to his role in a scheme to steal from a labor union. The DC Circuit applied de novo review and held that counts one and two charged the same conspiracy and were therefore not multiplicitous; the district court erroneously enhanced defendant's Guidelines offense level by two levels under USSG 2E5.1(b)(1); and the district court erroneously imposed concurrent prison terms as to counts one and two because the conspiracy statute prescribes a maximum of five years. Accordingly, the court vacated defendant's sentences and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Cooper" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The D.C. Circuit affirmed defendant's 20-month sentence for failing to remove asbestos-containing material prior to renovation. The court did not reach the merits of defendant's claims because he waived his ability to appeal on those grounds as part of his plea agreement. Furthermore, the court held that defendant forfeited his ineffective assistance of counsel claim by failing to assert it until his reply brief. View "United States v. Powers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The D.C. Circuit affirmed defendant's 20-month sentence for failing to remove asbestos-containing material prior to renovation. The court did not reach the merits of defendant's claims because he waived his ability to appeal on those grounds as part of his plea agreement. Furthermore, the court held that defendant forfeited his ineffective assistance of counsel claim by failing to assert it until his reply brief. View "United States v. Powers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A case in which a district court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a prisoner's state-law claims does not count as a strike under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. 1915(g). The PLRA does not require or allow a later district court to simply defer to an earlier district court's contemporaneous statement that a dismissal counts as a strike. The later district court must independently evaluate whether the prior dismissals were dismissed on one of the enumerated grounds and therefore count as strikes. In this case, the DC Circuit held that plaintiff had only one strike and thus he was entitled to in forma pauperis status and may maintain his lawsuit. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's denial of his in forma pauperis status and dismissal of his case. View "Fourstar v. Garden City Group, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The DC Circuit vacated defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to distribution of more than 28 grams of cocaine. In this case, the government breached its plea agreement with defendant to not use any incriminating statements he provided during a confidential debriefing session against him. The prosecutor relayed to the trial court information derived from the debriefing session and the government acknowledged that the transmittal of this information breached the agreement. The court held that there was at least a reasonable likelihood that defendant would have received a lower sentence in a proceeding untainted by the government's violation. The court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. King-Gore" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Appellant Glover and Price's petition to vacate their convictions under 28 U.S.C. 2255. Appellants were convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute one kilogram or more of PCP. The court held that counsel did not perform deficiently for failing to challenge evidence obtained from an electronic surveillance device installed in a vehicle outside of the authorizing court's geographic jurisdiction. In this case, the evidence against appellants was sufficiently strong that counsel's failure to object to specific instances of testimony by a case agent did not prejudice the defense. View "United States v. Glover" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The fact that most people now carry a cell phone was not enough to justify an intrusive search of a place lying at the center of the Fourth Amendment's protections—a home—for any phone defendant might own. Defendant appealed the district court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence after he was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Although the warrant authorized officers to search for and seize all cell phones and other electronic devices in defendant's residence, the supporting affidavit offered almost no reason to suspect that defendant in fact owned a cell phone, or that any phone or other device containing incriminating information would be found in his apartment. The DC Circuit vacated defendant's conviction and held that the warrant to search defendant's residence was unsupported by probable cause and rejected the government's arguments that, even if the warrant was invalid, the firearm still need not have been excluded from the evidence against him. View "United States v. Griffith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's pre-trial motion to dismiss the indictment for prosecutorial vindictiveness, and in permitting the government to make improper statements at trial. Defendant was convicted of fraudulently obtaining unemployment benefits from the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services. Assuming arguendo that a presumption of vindictiveness were warranted, the court held that the district court rightly concluded that the government met its burden of producing objective evidence justifying the prosecution's charging decisions. The court also held that no precedent or legal norm barred prosecutors from eliciting testimony about a dismissal motion when a defendant opens the door in the manner that defendant did. Nor did the references to the denied motion to dismiss prejudice defendant because any prejudice was extinguished by the district court's instruction. Finally, the prosecutor's statement that there was "one in nearly 60 million" possibility that there must have been a computer glitch was nothing more than a rhetorical flourish and there was no plain error in this case. View "United States v. Meadows" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The DC Circuit reversed defendant's conviction for attempted coercion and enticement of a minor and travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. The court held that trial counsel's failure to obtain expert mental health testimony was constitutionally deficient and counsel's deficient performance prejudiced defendant. Accordingly, the court remanded for a new trial. View "United States v. Laureys" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendants Slatten, Slough, Liberty, and Heard were contractors with Blackwater, which in 2007 was providing security services to the United States State Department in Iraq. Defendants were convicted of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and using and discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Slatten was also convicted of first degree murder. Defendants' convictions stemmed from shootings in Baghdad that injured or killed at least 31 Iraqi civilians. The D.C. Circuit held that the court has jurisdiction pursuant to the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), 18 U.S.C. 3261 et seq., and that venue in the District of Columbia was proper; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendants' motion for a new trial based on post-trial statements of a government witness; the evidence was sufficient as to all except one of Liberty's attempted manslaughter convictions; the evidence was sufficient as to Slatten; Slatten's indictment charging first degree murder did not constitute vindictive prosecution; the district court abused its discretion in denying Slatten's motion to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants; and imposition of the mandatory thirty-year minimum under 18 U.S.C. 924(c), as applied here, violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "United States v. Slatten" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law