Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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In 2001, a jury convicted Muhammad of being a felon in possession of a firearm and stealing firearms from a federally licensed firearms dealer. Muhammad was sentenced as an armed career criminal and ordered to pay $10,421.66 in restitution to the firearms dealer and its insurer under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.On collateral review, the district court vacated Muhammad’s sentence, 28 U.S.C. 2241, finding that he was improperly sentenced as an armed career criminal. Muhammad was resentenced to time served plus supervised release. Relying on the restitution amount in the revised PSR and the parties’ statements that Muhammad had not made any restitution payments, the court also ordered Muhammad to pay $10,421.66 in restitution. While an appeal was pending, the parties learned that Muhammad paid $433.32 toward his restitution judgment while incarcerated. The district court updated the record on appeal to reflect that Muhammad now owes $7,993.63 in restitution. The $2,228.03 reduction included $433.32 Muhammad paid, $200 his codefendant paid, and $1,794.71 from a Treasury Department offset. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court declined to correct any error, given that Muhammad concedes that he originally owed $10,421.66 in restitution and that there is no disagreement that he should receive credit for his payments. View "United States v. Muhammad" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court denying Petitioner's petition for a writ of error coram nobis, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Petitioner's coram nobis petition.Petitioner had twenty-year old convictions for forgery and fraud/identity theft, which rendered her ineligible to receive the license required to work as a mortgage loan originator under Maryland law. After three appeals, the intermediate appellate court affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, considering the legislative purpose of the Maryland mortgage loan originator license statute and the circumstances of this case, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Petitioner's petition for a writ of coram nobis. View "Smith v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the court of special appeals reversing Defendant's conviction of one count of second-degree assault, holding that it was harmless error to fail to propound a voir dire question regarding Defendant's right to remain silent and not testify where Defendant actually testified.During trial, Defendant requested a voir dire question on her right not to testify, but the trial court declined to ask the question. During trial, Defendant testified in her defense. In reversing, the court of special appeals determined that the trial court erred under Kazadi v. State, 467 Md. 1 (2020), and that the error was not harmless. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the Kazadi error in this case was subject to the harmless error doctrine; and (2) the Kazadi error was harmless. View "State v. Jordan" on Justia Law

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A DEA task force investigated Jacobs, a Kentucky drug dealer. Jacobs sold drugs to a couple who allegedly were “good friends” with the local Commonwealth Attorney (CA). After Jacobs' arrest on state drug-trafficking charges, the couple had extensive conversations with the CA. After one conversation, an assistant state prosecutor requested Jacobs’s cell phone records from the task force, alerting the DEA to the CA’s relationship with Jacobs’s customers. The CA became involved in the case in other ways, impeding Jacobs’ use as a cooperating witness in other federal investigations by opposing a bond reduction and refusing to seek a state search warrant for an unrelated case if the DEA agent from the Jacobs investigation was involved. The DEA began investigating the CA’s conduct, “Operation Speakeasy.” Evidence was presented to the U.S. Attorney, who refused to bring obstruction charges against the CA.A Cincinnati Enquirer reporter filed a Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552 request with the DEA, seeking any document related to the Jacobs investigation or Operation Speakeasy. The DEA denied that request, citing an exception for “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes,” disclosure of which “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Enquirer’s suit. The documents “only minimally advance[d] a public interest in shedding light on the decision” to not prosecute the CA and “significant privacy interests outweigh[ed] the proffered public interest.” View "Cincinnati Enquirer v. Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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Defendant William Gladney was convicted in 2007 on three criminal counts: violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act; conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base; and using, carrying, or possessing a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Gladney was sentenced to concurrent life sentences on the RICO and drug conspiracy convictions, followed by a ten-year consecutive sentence on the firearms conviction. In 2020, Gladney filed a motion to reduce his sentence in light of changes that Congress implemented to the sentencing scheme for offenses involving cocaine base. Gladney also sought funds to hire an investigator to gather evidence to support his motion for reduction of sentence. The district court denied without prejudice Gladney’s request for funds. It then denied Gladney’s motion for reduction of sentence. Gladney appealed those rulings, arguing that the district court erred in finding him ineligible for a reduction of sentence under the First Step Act. The Tenth Circuit concluded Gladney’s arguments were largely foreclosed by its decision in United States v. Mannie, 971 F.3d 1145 (10th Cir. 2020). Because of Mannie, any reduction the district court could have made to the sentence on Gladney's covered offense under the First Step Act "would not actually reduce the length of [Gladney's] incarceration. The Tenth Circuit therefore concluded the district court could not redress Gladney's injury, and in turn, Gladney's motion for reduction of sentence under the First Step act "does not present a live controversy." The Court thus dismissed Gladney's appeal for lack of standing. View "United States v. Gladney" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of kidnapping resulting in death and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. On appeal, Defendant challenges several rulings of the district court* and the sufficiency of the evidence in support of the convictions.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Defendant’s first argument on appeal is that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress statements from the interviews on November 8 and 21, 2018. He contends that investigators subjected him to custodial interrogations without advising him of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona. The court concluded that there was no custodial interrogation of Defendant on November 8. Defendant responded to the FBI agent’s request for a conversation and agreed to let the agent come to his house for the meeting. The agent did not display a weapon or restrain Defendant in any way. The agent was dressed in plain clothes and allowed Defendant’s wife to sit nearby for the interview. Further, the court held that there is no indication that Defendant is particularly susceptible to undue influence: he is an adult of average intelligence who has earned an associate’s degree and is familiar with the protections afforded by the legal system due to an extensive criminal history.Moreover, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the probative value of the evidence was not substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice. Further, the court concluded that there was no error in declining to instruct the jury that the government must prove that Defendant knew in advance that death would result from the kidnapping. View "United States v. Ramon Simpson" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to transportation of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sections 2252A(a)(1) and (b)(1). At sentencing, the district court determined an advisory guidelines sentencing range of 108 to 135 months in prison, considered the 18 U.S.C. Section 3553(a) sentencing factors, and imposed a sentence of 96 months imprisonment and 20 years of supervised release. The court imposed seven special conditions of supervised release.Defendant appealed his sentence, presenting as the issue for review whether the district court abused its discretion in requiring Defendant to submit to periodic polygraph testing at the discretion of the U.S. Probation Office.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that here, the district court did not procedurally err. It conducted a thorough individualized analysis of the sentence it was imposing. The seven special conditions of supervised release require that Defendant (5) “participate in a sex offense-specific treatment program,” and (6) “submit to periodic polygraph testing . . . to ensure that he is in compliance with the requirements of his supervision or treatment program.” In response to Defendant’s timely objection, the court carefully explained why the sentence would include this polygraph testing special condition. Moreover, the court held that Defendant has not met his burden to establish that a special condition is unreasonable. View "United States v. Reynaldo Sanchez" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Defendant of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant appealed, arguing that evidence from his iPhone should have been suppressed because the government delayed unreasonably before seeking a search warrant, and that prior firearm convictions were improperly admitted under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b). He also appealed his sentence, arguing that neither his Iowa willful injury conviction nor his two Illinois armed robbery convictions qualifies as “violent felonies” under Section 924(e). He further argued the Illinois robbery convictions were not “committed on occasions different from one another,” Section 924(e)(1), and thus constitute only one prior violent felony conviction.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that although significantly longer delays have been upheld as not unreasonable, without question the twenty-four-day delay at issue is of concern. The court reasoned that because smartphones “retain data for long periods of time,” delay between the time a cell phone is seized and when it is searched is not likely to cause stored personal data to be lost, or data of potential evidentiary relevance to become stale. More important to the private interests at stake, Defendant was in police custody for the entire twenty-four-day period, and there is no evidence that either Defendant or anyone acting on his behalf made a request or demand for its return, or even inquired about it. Thus, the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress. Further, the court held that the district court properly determined that Defendant’s Section 708.4(1) willful injury conviction is an ACCA predicate violent felony. View "United States v. Darvill Bragg" on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. She reserved her right to appeal an order of the district court denying her motion to suppress evidence that police seized after conducting a protective sweep of a hotel room in which she was staying. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(a)(2).The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the officers permissibly entered and searched the hotel room. On appeal, Defendant argues that the district court erred in denying the motion to suppress because the police lacked specific and articulable facts suggesting that a person posing a danger to the officers was located inside the hotel room. She maintains that the officers violated her rights under the Fourth Amendment by entering the hotel room without a warrant and that all evidence seized as a result of the entry should be suppressed.The court explained that a protective sweep of the hotel room was justified here as an inspection of spaces immediately adjoining the place of arrest from which an attack could be immediately launched. It is undisputed that officers were positioned in the doorway to effect the arrest, and that police crossed the threshold into the room under the authority of the warrant. Accordingly, the court held that the officers observed evidence of unlawful drug activity in plain view while conducting the protective sweep did not violate Defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Angela Garges" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that because both offenses may be committed recklessly, manslaughter and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury are not predicate offenses under the force clause of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58A(1).While he was driving, Defendant struck several parked and moving vehicles, as well as a pedestrian who died as a result of the collision. Defendant was charged with crimes arising to that incident. The Commonwealth moved for pretrial detention pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58A, the dangerousness statute. At issue was whether the "force clause" of the statute includes the crimes of manslaughter and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions, holding that a crime that may be committed with a mens rea of recklessness does not fall within the ambit of the force clause in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58A(1). View "Commonwealth v. Escobar" on Justia Law