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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, holding that the district court did not err, much less commit plain error, in accepting Defendant’s guilty plea. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Consistent with the terms of the plea agreement, the district court imposed a sentence of eight years’ imprisonment. The First Circuit held (1) there was no error in the district court’s acceptance of Defendant’s guilty plea; and (2) even if Defendant established that an error occurred, in light of the strength of the government’s evidence and the substantial benefit Defendant received by pleading guilty, Defendant could not demonstrate a reasonable probability that he would not have pled guilty but for the purported error. View "United States v. Diaz-Concepcion" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit remanded this case for further proceedings, holding that the district court abused its discretion in failing to rule on the merits of Appellant’s ineffective assistance claim prior to sentencing. Appellant was charged with several counts related to a drug distribution conspiracy. Appellant was originally represented by court-appointed counsel, but after seven months Defendant retained private counsel Prior to sentencing, Appellant raised his ineffective assistance of counsel claim, arguing that his prior counsel allegedly failed to provide him with effective assistance throughout plea negotiations. The district court declined to rule on Appellant’s claim, finding it to be “premature.” Appellant ultimately pled guilty to a high plea offer negotiated by his new counsel. The First Circuit disagreed with the district court’s ruling, holding that, at times, it may be imperative for a district court to rule on a claim of ineffective assistance prior to the defendant seeking post-conviction relief, and such was true in this case. View "United States v. Ortiz-Vega" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction of committing the offense of terroristic threatening in the second degree, rendered after a bench trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that his substantial rights were violated when, during closing argument, the prosecutor read a portion of the complainant’s prior statement to the police where its contents had not been admitted into evidence. The Supreme Court agreed that error occurred, holding that the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because the prior statement was clearly relevant to proving the terroristic threatening offense, the State’s case was enhanced by the statement, and the defense’s case was significantly prejudiced. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "State v. McGhee" on Justia Law

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In eight separate criminal cases, International Fidelity Insurance Company issued eight separate powers of attorney (POAs) to either Ida Peppers of Freedom Bail Bond or Charles Fisher of AAA Local Bail Bonds to execute a bail bond on behalf of the defendants in each case. In each case, the bonded defendant failed to appear, and the circuit court entered a judgment and order of forfeiture of bail bond. The court provided notice of those judgments to the surety listed on the bonds. International Fidelity moved to set aside each of the forfeiture judgments, arguing that it did not receive notice of the judgments as required under Haw. Rev. Stat. 804-51. The circuit court denied the motions. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed, concluding that due process and the requirements of section 804-51 were satisfied when notice of the forfeiture judgments were issued to Peppers or Fisher. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ICA did not err (1) in determining that notice to International Fidelity of the forfeiture judgments was not required by due process or under section 804-51; and (2) to the extent the forfeiture judgments were ambiguous, they were entered against the sureties on the bond - Peppers or Fisher. View "State v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 360 month sentence after he was convicted of drug-related charges. The court held that the district court did not err by applying a two-level enhancement for possession of a weapon under USSG 2D1.1(b)(1) where the government provided the district court with sufficient evidence to support a finding that defendant possessed a firearm in connection with his drug distribution activities. View "United States v. Mondragon" on Justia Law

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Jose S., a former ward of the juvenile court, moved under Welfare and Institutions Code section 781 to seal juvenile records related to an admitted charge of lewd and lascivious conduct that occurred in 2002. The juvenile court denied the motion, finding Jose was precluded from relief under section 781 because of an additional admitted and disqualifying charge of assault with a deadly weapon in 2005. On appeal, Jose argued each offense constituted a separate case for purposes of section 781 and that the records related to his 2002 offense should have been sealed. Jose argued in the alternative that the court's denial of his motion to seal was improper because the 2005 assault did not fall within the list of disqualifying offenses set forth in section 707, subdivision (b). The Court of Appeal rejected both these contentions and found the juvenile court did not err in refusing to seal Jose’s records. View "In re Jose S." on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with two counts of second-degree intentional murder. Defendant filed a petition to plead guilty to both counts, but the petition was denied based on the State’s notice, right before the guilty-plea hearing, of its intent to seek a grand-jury indictment on first-degree murder charges. Thereafter, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Defendant with six counts of first-degree murder. The State dismissed the second-degree murder charges. Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree premeditated murder and one count of first-degree murder while committing a burglary. Defendant filed a petition for postconviction relief requesting that he be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea and instead plead guilty to the original second-degree murder charges. The postconviction court denied the petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the postconviction court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Defendant’s petition for postconviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing because Defendant failed to establish that withdrawal was necessary to correct a manifest injustice. View "Dikken v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was entitled to withdraw his plea of guilty to rape because the district court abused its discretion by mechanically applying the factors set forth in State v. Shickles, 760 P.2d 291 (Utah 1988) to assess the probative value of the state’s Utah R. Evid. 404(b) evidence. In making this determination, the Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in concluding that the district court was required to apply the doctrine of chances’ four foundational requirements, outlined in State v. Verde, 296 P.3d 673 (Utah 2012), to conclude that certain testimony was admissible under Utah R. Evid. 403. Thus the court affirmed the court of appeals’ ultimate conclusion that the district court’s evidentiary ruling was in error but under different reasoning. View "State v. Lowther" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Mexico, challenged the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's finding that he was not eligible for cancellation of removal or voluntary departure because he had a prior criminal conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT). The Eighth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the BIA did not err by affirming the IJ's finding that petitioner had a conviction for Aggravated Forgery and that he was ineligible for cancellation of removal. The court held that petitioner's probation, community service, and fines constitute court-imposed penalties under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(48). View "Mendoza-Saenz v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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After the Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for abusive sexual contact, the district court sua sponte scheduled a restitution hearing and subsequently ordered defendant to pay $14,967.47 in restitution for the minor victim's medical expenses. The court affirmed the district court's restitution order, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding restitution where defendant had notice and any delay did not prejudice him; the district court did not clearly err in determining defendant owed the full amount of restitution requested where his actions were the proximate cause of the victim's medical costs; the district court sensibly directed defendant and the probation office to develop a suitable schedule of payments when he was released; and the district court did not abuse its discretion or clearly err in determining defendant's economic circumstances. View "United States v. Thunderhawk" on Justia Law