by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The court held that the district court did not commit a plain or obvious error in assigning a criminal history point to defendant's prior sentence for carrying a concealed weapon. Because defendant failed to show that his substantial rights were affected, the court did not consider whether the district court plainly erred in assigning a criminal history point to the 1999 simple battery offense. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

by
When a defendant is held to answer on charges brought in separate cases following separate preliminary hearings, the People do not need the court's permission to file a unitary information, covering the charges in both those cases, as their first pleading where the charges meet the requirements set out in Penal Code section 954. In this case, defendant challenged the inclusion of all counts in a unitary information by means of a motion to set aside the information pursuant to section 995. The court reversed the order granting the motion to set aside counts 1 through 4 of the information and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that the judge deliberately ignored half of the record before him, and erred in his interpretation of the controlling law and in his ruling. View "People v. Henson" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit held that, although the decision to allow the government to introduce inculpatory evidence while both defendant and her lawyer were absent for three to ten minutes in a trial that lasted more than 49 hours violated defendant's right to counsel, her right to confront the witnesses arrayed against her, and her right to be present at trial under both the Due Process Clause and Fed. R. Crim. P. 43, the errors did not affect defendant's substantial rights. The court also rejected defendant's other challenges to her convictions based on the sufficiency of the indictment and claimed errors in the jury instructions. In this case, the indictment was plainly adequate, and, to the extent that the district court may have erred in how it charged the jury, these errors did not prejudice defendant. Finally, defendant failed to establish prejudice under the doctrine of cumulative error. Accordingly, the court affirmed defendant's convictions. View "United States v. Margarita Garcia" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit held that, because 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) does not overcome the presumption against retroactivity, applying it to petitioner was impermissibly retroactive. The court granted the petition for review of the BIA's order finding petitioner inadmissible based on his conviction for possessing AB-CHMINACA in violation of Louisiana Revised Statutes 40.966(C). After petitioner's arrest, but before his conviction, AB-CHMINACA was added to the federal schedules of controlled substances. The court reasoned that, for purposes of retroactivity analysis, it is the timing of the defendant's conduct, not of his conviction, that controls. In this case, when petitioner possessed AB-CHMINACA, he had no notice that such a crime carried the consequence of inadmissibility. View "Lopez Ventura v. Sessions" on Justia Law

by
The statutory provision that prohibits ordering restitution to a participant in defendant's offense, 18 U.S.C. 3663(a)(1)(A), does not prohibit ordering restitution to the participant's family members in cases in which the family members are victims in their own right, whose losses are not merely derivative of the participant's losses. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's sentence and order of restitution after defendant was convicted of 13 criminal charges related to a heroin distribution conspiracy he operated. In this case, the family members were directly harmed by defendant's criminal conduct where they witnessed defendant commit murder and suffered incredibly traumatic injuries as a direct result of the event. View "United States v. Price" on Justia Law

by
Kevin Patterson has been incarcerated since 2013, having been convicted after a bench trial of seven counts of possession of child pornography. In May 2015 Patterson filed a 121-page civil complaint in superior court in Juneau. The complaint named as defendants the governor and his predecessor, the Alaska Legislature, a state senator, the then-current and two former attorneys general, an assistant attorney general, an attorney with the Office of Public Advocacy, and the State of Alaska. The complaint alleged that these state officials and entities had “directly harmed . . . Patterson in numerous ways and [had] violated his Constitutional Rights over and over.” It sought damages for Patterson’s incarceration, violence and emotional distress he allegedly suffered while in prison, and the alleged denial of medical care. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of Patterson’s complaint, holding a civil suit for damages allegedly caused by a criminal conviction or sentence may not be maintained if judgment for the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of the conviction or sentence, unless the conviction or sentence has first been set aside in the course of the criminal proceedings. The Court also rejected Patterson’s claim that the superior court demonstrated an unfair bias against him. View "Patterson v. Walker" on Justia Law

by
The Sixth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiring and attempting to possess, as well as possessing, cocaine with the intent to distribute it. The court held that the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion to exclude data obtained from his cell phone where the warrant's execution deadline established only the date by when the cellphone needed to be shipped to the data extraction laboratory to initiate the analysis of the phone's data, not when the extraction itself had to occur; the district court did not plainly err in overruling defendant's Batson objection to a peremptory juror challenge where there was no evidence of discriminatory intent inherent in the government's proffered explanation and defendant made no attempt to argue to the district court that the explanation was a pretext for discrimination; the testimony regarding the firearm found at the residence was admissible evidence indicative of the drug-trafficking conspiracy; and the government's comments did not constitute misconduct or rise to the level of argument that might mislead or inflame the jury concerning its duty. View "United States v. Cleveland" on Justia Law

by
The Seventh Circuit affirmed defendant's 20 year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to transporting methamphetamine as part of a 20-person conspiracy. The court held that the evidence, viewed apart from the base offense levels of defendant's coconspirators, was sufficient to support the district court's finding that defendant handled more than 1.5 kilograms of Ice. In this case, the decision not to treat defendant identically with his coconspirators did not plainly make a difference to his sentencing range or impair the fairness or integrity of the proceedings. The court also held that defendant was not entitled to insist on a minimal role for himself while still receiving credit for accepting responsibility. View "United States v. Castaneda" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to securities fraud crimes. The court held that the district court did not plainly err by concluding that FINRA's order was a prior administrative order for purposes of USSG 2B1.1(b)(9)(C), nor did the district court plainly err by applying the two-level sentencing enhancement to defendant because he was engaged in securities activity that violated FINRA's order. View "United States v. Blount" on Justia Law

by
The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence after he pleaded guilty to illegal possession of heroin and a firearm. In this case, officers detained and frisked defendant after observing him and his brother load paper bags into defendant's garage. The officer who ordered the stop had a hunch that the bags contained drug-trafficking contraband, but the officer was wrong. Nonetheless, eight officers continued to detain defendant. The court held that when the officers seized and searched defendant, they did not have a reasonable suspicion that he was engaged in crime. Even if the original stop had been justified, the officers continued detaining defendant beyond the original justification for the stop. The court held that either violation was sufficient to undermine the validity of defendant's eventual consent to the search of his house. View "United States v. Lopez" on Justia Law