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The defendant pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit human trafficking based on allegations that for more than seven years, he and his coconspirators used threats, force, and violence in pimping at least three victims. The defendant also pleaded no contest to two counts of human trafficking for his conduct against one of the victims in 2011. For all three counts, the trial court sentenced Defendant to 16 years, eight months in prison. Defendant argued that the two consecutive terms imposed for the two substantive human trafficking counts must be stayed under Penal Code section 654(a), which provides, “An act or omission that is punishable in different ways by different provisions of law shall be punished under the provision that provides for the longest potential term of imprisonment, but in no case shall the act or omission be punished under more than one provision.” The court of appeal affirmed the sentence, rejecting the claim because the defendant’s conspiracy to commit human trafficking had broader objectives and involved more victims than the two substantive offenses. View "People v. Beman" on Justia Law

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In 1987, D’Antoni was charged with selling cocaine to a juvenile resulting in her death. While in jail, D’Antoni offered another inmate $4,000 to kill a government witness related to the charge. The inmate went to the police. D’Antoni was charged with conspiracy to kill a government witness and pleaded guilty to both charges. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his sentence of 35 years in prison on the drug charge and a consecutive 5-year term for the conspiracy. In 1991, D’Antoni was convicted of conspiracy to distribute LSD while in jail and received an enhanced sentence under the career offender provision of the 1990 Sentencing Guidelines, based on his prior felony drug and felony “crime of violence” convictions. The “crime of violence” definition included a residual clause, encompassing any felony “involv[ing] conduct that present[ed] a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." D’Antoni was sentenced before the Supreme Court (Booker) held that the Guidelines must be advisory. In 2015, the Supreme Court (Johnson), held the identical Armed Career Criminal Act residual clause “violent felony” definition was unconstitutional. D’Antoni sought resentencing, 28 U.S.C. 2255. In 2017, the Supreme Court held that Johnson did not extend to the post-Booker advisory Guidelines residual clause. The Seventh Circuit held, in its 2018 “Cross” decision, that Johnson did render the pre-Booker mandatory Guidelines residual clause unconstitutionally vague. The Seventh Circuit concluded that D’Antoni is entitled to resentencing even though “conspiracy,” “murder,” and “manslaughter” were listed as crimes of violence in the application notes to the 1990 version of USSG 4B1.2. The application notes’ list of qualifying crimes is valid only as an interpretation of USSG 4B1.2’s residual clause; because Cross invalidated that residual clause, the application notes no longer have legal force. View "D'Antoni v. United States" on Justia Law

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Tantchev, a native of Bulgaria, owned a trucking business that operated out of a warehouse in Chicago. Chogsom, a Mongolian immigrant, worked for Tantchev. Large deposits into Tantchev’s bank account prompted an investigation. After a six-day trial involving 29 witnesses, a federal jury convicted Tantchev of exporting and attempting to export stolen cars, submitting false documents to customs officials, and structuring financial transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements. That same jury acquitted Tantchev’s co-defendant, Chogsom, of charges related to the stolen cars and false documents, but convicted Chogsom of making a false statement to an IRS agent. The district court sentenced Tantchev to 40 months’ imprisonment and Chogsom to three years’ probation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court rejected Tantchev’s argument that the district court should not have given a deliberate avoidance or “ostrich” instruction. The jury was entitled to conclude Tantchev purposely did not subject the shipping containers to the scrutiny he exercised in the other part of his business and draw a negative inference from that change in behavior. The court upheld the use of a jury instruction, “If you find that the defendant was in possession of property that recently had been stolen, you may infer that he knew it was stolen.” View "United States v. Chogsom" on Justia Law

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Jose Jimenez led peace officers on a high-speed chase with his four- and six-year-old daughters in the car. At one point during the pursuit, he drove straight toward a patrol vehicle in an apparent game of "chicken." The deputies yielded to avoid the collision. A jury sentenced Jimenez to 13 years, four months. On appeal, Jimenez argued the prosecution's failure to disclose a purportedly exculpatory police report violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and the trial court's denial of his motion for a new trial based on that newly discovered evidence was reversible error. He also contended the imposition of separate punishments for the counts of assault and evasion of a peace officer violated Penal Code section 654.1 The Court of Appeal rejected these claims, but concluded Jimenez was entitled to a remand for resentencing to allow the trial court to exercise its discretion to determine whether to strike the five-year enhancement imposed under sections 667(a)(1) and 1385, which were amended after Jimenez's sentencing, effective January 1, 2019. In all other respects, the Court affirmed. View "California v. Jimenez" on Justia Law

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Jayvious Johnson was convicted of two counts of capital murder with firearm enhancement, one count of kidnapping with firearm enhancement, and one count of conspiracy. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded after automatic review that the verdicts were not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, and the trial court did not commit reversible error on the evidentiary issues Johnson raised. The Court therefore affirmed Johnson’s convictions. View "Johnson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Young of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, 18 U.S.C. 2339B, and two counts of attempting to obstruct justice, 18 U.S.C. 1512(c)(2). The Fourth Circuit affirmed the material support conviction, vacated the obstruction convictions, and remanded for resentencing. The court upheld the district court’s admission of the Nazi and white supremacist paraphernalia found during a search of Young’s home; the rejection of an entrapment defense; various evidentiary rulings; and the certification of an expert witness on militant Islamist and Nazi “convergence.” The evidence was insufficient to prove the nexus and foreseeability requirements of the obstruction statute; the government was required to prove Young “corruptly” attempted to “obstruct[], influence[], or impede[]” “an official proceeding. In neither specified situation in which Young made statements to the FBI or to others was Young’s conduct connected to a specific official proceeding, nor was such a specific official proceeding reasonably foreseeable to Young. View "United States v. Young" on Justia Law

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Appellant Kevin Walker appealed a Superior Court order finding that he violated the terms of his probation. Walker began probation on May 10, 2017, as a result of a felony driving- under-the-influence conviction. On June 1, the State received a tip from a past-proven reliable informant that Walker had heroin in his home that he planned to distribute. On June 5, Delaware probation officers conducted an administrative search of Walker’s residence pursuant to an administrative warrant. During the search, probation officers discovered 252 bags of heroin, drug paraphernalia, and a locked safe. When the safe was taken to the Delaware State Police, they found a loaded handgun, five doses of Suboxone, and five grams of marijuana. Walker was thereafter arrested and taken to the Sussex Correctional Institution; at the SCI facility, offers found 86 bags of heroin and nine grams of crack cocaine inside Walker's rectum. Walker moved to suppress all the evidence found as the result of the administrative search. The Superior Court determined the search was not conducted in accordance with 11 Del. C. 4321(d) and Procedure 7.19. In particular, it found there was a lack of detail concerning the informant’s tip and that no effort was made at all to corroborate the tip or consider the reason why the informant was supplying information. The State did not appeal the suppression order, instead, dismissing the criminal action against Walker, but continued to pursue a violation of probation. The Delaware Supreme Court found that probation officers are not required to “satisfy each technical requirement of the search and seizure regulations of the Department of Correction” for a search to be reasonable. The Court concluded that the "proper and orderly administration of justice called for suppression, and reversed the Superior Court. View "Walker v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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This case centered on whether the State presented substantial evidence to the district court to support an award of restitution for costs actually incurred by the State in prosecuting Jeremy Cunningham for drug charges. In the first appeal, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court’s award of restitution and remanded the case. After conducting a second restitution hearing and hearing live testimony from an administrative assistant with the Ada County prosecuting attorney’s office, the district court awarded restitution to the State in the amount of $906.75 (over $1000 less than awarded at the first hearing). Cunningham appealed again, arguing that the district court erred in awarding restitution. On appeal, Cunningham contended the district court improperly admitted hearsay evidence at the hearing and that the district court abused its discretion by awarding restitution without substantial evidence of the prosecution’s costs. The Supreme Court agreed with this latter point, and vacated the district court’s award of restitution. The Court did not remand: "[t]he State had two opportunities to claim restitution, and remanding for a third opportunity would be improper." View "Idaho v. Cunningham" on Justia Law

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Police arrested Johnson at a Madison, Wisconsin, bar carrying five hydrocodone pills, two cell phones, gem packs containing marijuana residue, a plastic bag of antihistamine, and a loaded pistol. Johnson pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver but went to trial and was convicted for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. 924(c). The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the jury instructions misstated the law and confused the jury. The administered jury instruction included the critical “Castillo” standard twice. The instruction effectively gave the jury its task, listed considerations to weigh in its discretion, and then iterated that legal standard; it clearly informed the jury that it must ultimately determine whether “the firearm furthered, advanced, moved forward or facilitated the crime.” The court upheld the admission of the government’s proffered expert testimony. The district court declined to conduct a Daubert hearing concerning that expert testimony on the relationship between drugs and guns in the narcotics underworld but considered the expert’s significant qualifications and experience, and properly applied the Daubert framework. The evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Michael Miller was convicted of possessing and distributing over 900 images and videos of child pornography through the use of online peer-to-peer file-sharing programs. He was also in possession of thirty-three CDs and DVDs, eleven of which contained photographs and recordings of child pornography separate from those found on his computer. The trial court ultimately sentenced Miller to seven years’ imprisonment for the distribution charge and one year of imprisonment for the possession charge. The court determined that the sentences must run consecutively, reasoning that Miller’s crimes “were independent of one another, involv[ing] separate acts committed at different times.” In this appeal, the issue presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court was whether it was an abuse of discretion for a trial court to apply aggravating factor one when sentencing a defendant convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography, and whether Miller was appropriately sentenced to consecutive terms of imprisonment. The Court concluded the Appellate Division’s opinion deprived trial judges of their discretion to make nuanced assessments of the nature and circumstances of offenses involving child pornography. Miller’s possession charge involved child pornographic material beyond that involved in his distribution charge -- there was pornographic material in Miller’s possession for an extended period of time that was not encompassed in the distribution charge. The possession and distribution offenses were therefore distinct, and the trial court appropriately determined that the offenses did not merge for sentencing purposes. View "New Jersey v.Miller" on Justia Law