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Contreras pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking offenses in three separately charged criminal cases assigned to three different district judges. When calculating the guidelines range at sentencing, each judge applied an upward adjustment of two offense levels after finding that Contreras maintained a premises—his home— “for the purpose of manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance,” U.S.S.G. 2D1.1(b)(12). The Seventh Circuit affirmed his concurrent 87-month sentences, rejecting an argument that each judge erred by not comparing the frequency of legal activity to the frequency of illegal activity that occurred at his residence. The eight drug transactions that Contreras conducted at his home support a finding that drug trafficking was a primary use of the residence, not an incidental or collateral one. View "United States v. Contreras" on Justia Law

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Contreras pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking offenses in three separately charged criminal cases assigned to three different district judges. When calculating the guidelines range at sentencing, each judge applied an upward adjustment of two offense levels after finding that Contreras maintained a premises—his home— “for the purpose of manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance,” U.S.S.G. 2D1.1(b)(12). The Seventh Circuit affirmed his concurrent 87-month sentences, rejecting an argument that each judge erred by not comparing the frequency of legal activity to the frequency of illegal activity that occurred at his residence. The eight drug transactions that Contreras conducted at his home support a finding that drug trafficking was a primary use of the residence, not an incidental or collateral one. View "United States v. Contreras" on Justia Law

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In 2001, Sherman died from gunshot wounds. When police arrived, Sherman lay on the ground with 50-60 people gathered around. Long was tried for first-degree murder. No physical evidence tied Long to the crime. The state presented four witnesses; two recanted at trial. In closing argument, the prosecutor made improper statements, resulting in a new trial. At Long’s second trial, the state again presented the four eyewitnesses. One maintained her identification of Long. Two, having previously recanted, continued to deny having seen Long shoot Sherman, despite their prior videotaped statements. The prosecutor failed to correct Irby when she claimed that she had not previously stated that her identification was coerced; defense counsel impeached that testimony. During closing arguments, the prosecutor made comments that no evidence was presented that another individual committed the crime and referenced the contents of a letter written by Irby that had not been admitted into evidence. The jury found Long guilty. His state court appeals and post-conviction petitions were unsuccessful. On rehearing en banc, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Long’s federal habeas petition, finding the prosecutorial misconduct claims procedurally defaulted and that Long had not shown a reasonable likelihood that Irby’s testimony or the closing argument prejudiced the outcome; and that Long’s ineffective assistance claim was without merit. “[W]hat occurred [Irby's testimony] may well have helped the defense rather than the prosecutor.” View "Long v. Pfister" on Justia Law

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In 2001, Sherman died from gunshot wounds. When police arrived, Sherman lay on the ground with 50-60 people gathered around. Long was tried for first-degree murder. No physical evidence tied Long to the crime. The state presented four witnesses; two recanted at trial. In closing argument, the prosecutor made improper statements, resulting in a new trial. At Long’s second trial, the state again presented the four eyewitnesses. One maintained her identification of Long. Two, having previously recanted, continued to deny having seen Long shoot Sherman, despite their prior videotaped statements. The prosecutor failed to correct Irby when she claimed that she had not previously stated that her identification was coerced; defense counsel impeached that testimony. During closing arguments, the prosecutor made comments that no evidence was presented that another individual committed the crime and referenced the contents of a letter written by Irby that had not been admitted into evidence. The jury found Long guilty. His state court appeals and post-conviction petitions were unsuccessful. On rehearing en banc, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Long’s federal habeas petition, finding the prosecutorial misconduct claims procedurally defaulted and that Long had not shown a reasonable likelihood that Irby’s testimony or the closing argument prejudiced the outcome; and that Long’s ineffective assistance claim was without merit. “[W]hat occurred [Irby's testimony] may well have helped the defense rather than the prosecutor.” View "Long v. Pfister" on Justia Law

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Defendant Kathleen Stegman was convicted by a jury of two counts of evading her personal taxes for the tax years 2007 and 2008. Stegman was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 51 months, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. The district court also ordered Stegman to pay a $100,000 fine, plus restitution in the amount of $68,733. Stegman established several limited liability corporations pertaining to a “medical aesthetics” business she owned, using these corporations to effectively launder client payments. As part of this process, Stegman would use the corporations to purchase money orders, typically in denominations of $500 or less, that she in turn used to purchase items for personal use. In 2007, Stegman purchased 162 money orders totaling $77,181.92. In 2008, she purchased 252 money orders totaling $121,869.99. And in 2009, she purchased 157 money orders totaling $73,697.31. Notably, Stegman reported zero cash income on her federal income tax returns during each of these years. At the conclusion of the evidence, the jury convicted Stegman of evading her personal taxes for the tax years 2007 and 2008 (Counts 4 and 5), as well as evading corporate taxes for the tax years 2008 and 2009 (Counts 1 and 2). The jury acquitted Stegman of evading corporate taxes for the tax year 2010 (Count 3). The jury also acquitted Stegman and Smith of the conspiracy charge (Count 6). Stegman moved for judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, a new trial. The district court granted the motion as to the two counts that related to the evasion of corporate taxes (Counts 1 and 2), but denied the remainder of the motion. In doing so, the district court chose to acquit Stegman of the corporate tax evasion counts not due to a lack of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt that this corporation evaded taxes,” but rather because “the indictment itself was flawed in attributing the loss as due and owing by Ms. Stegman, when actually it was due and owing by the corporation.” Stegman raised five issues on appeal, four of which pertain to her convictions and one of which pertained to her sentence. Although several of these issues require extensive discussion due to their fact-intensive nature, the Tenth Circuit concluded that all of these issues lacked merit. View "United States v. Stegman" on Justia Law

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Defendant Kathleen Stegman was convicted by a jury of two counts of evading her personal taxes for the tax years 2007 and 2008. Stegman was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 51 months, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. The district court also ordered Stegman to pay a $100,000 fine, plus restitution in the amount of $68,733. Stegman established several limited liability corporations pertaining to a “medical aesthetics” business she owned, using these corporations to effectively launder client payments. As part of this process, Stegman would use the corporations to purchase money orders, typically in denominations of $500 or less, that she in turn used to purchase items for personal use. In 2007, Stegman purchased 162 money orders totaling $77,181.92. In 2008, she purchased 252 money orders totaling $121,869.99. And in 2009, she purchased 157 money orders totaling $73,697.31. Notably, Stegman reported zero cash income on her federal income tax returns during each of these years. At the conclusion of the evidence, the jury convicted Stegman of evading her personal taxes for the tax years 2007 and 2008 (Counts 4 and 5), as well as evading corporate taxes for the tax years 2008 and 2009 (Counts 1 and 2). The jury acquitted Stegman of evading corporate taxes for the tax year 2010 (Count 3). The jury also acquitted Stegman and Smith of the conspiracy charge (Count 6). Stegman moved for judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, a new trial. The district court granted the motion as to the two counts that related to the evasion of corporate taxes (Counts 1 and 2), but denied the remainder of the motion. In doing so, the district court chose to acquit Stegman of the corporate tax evasion counts not due to a lack of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt that this corporation evaded taxes,” but rather because “the indictment itself was flawed in attributing the loss as due and owing by Ms. Stegman, when actually it was due and owing by the corporation.” Stegman raised five issues on appeal, four of which pertain to her convictions and one of which pertained to her sentence. Although several of these issues require extensive discussion due to their fact-intensive nature, the Tenth Circuit concluded that all of these issues lacked merit. View "United States v. Stegman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a petition for writ of certiorari, vacated the district court's judgment, and remanded for further consideration in light of Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016). The Eighth Circuit applied the categorical approach and held that petitioner's prior conviction for use of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3) is not a predicate offense under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The court held that section 924(c)(3) is not divisible where a judge decides whether an underlying offense constitutes a crime of violence, and the definition of crime of violence as it is used in section 924(c)(1) is contained in a separate statutory section, section 924(c)(3). Furthermore, petitioner's substantial rights were affected. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in applying a four-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B). Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. Boman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a petition for writ of certiorari, vacated the district court's judgment, and remanded for further consideration in light of Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016). The Eighth Circuit applied the categorical approach and held that petitioner's prior conviction for use of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3) is not a predicate offense under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The court held that section 924(c)(3) is not divisible where a judge decides whether an underlying offense constitutes a crime of violence, and the definition of crime of violence as it is used in section 924(c)(1) is contained in a separate statutory section, section 924(c)(3). Furthermore, petitioner's substantial rights were affected. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in applying a four-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B). Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. Boman" on Justia Law

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Convicted of multiple counts of sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, and attempted sex trafficking, 18 U.S.C. 1591(a) and 1594(c), Sawyer was sentenced to 50 years' incarceration. After unsuccessful appeals, Sawyer sought habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255, asserting ineffective assistance of trial counsel, stating that “the Government offered the Petitioner a plea offer, which included a term of imprisonment of 15 years” and that counsel advised him to reject it because “the Government’s case against him was weak.” Sawyer attached affidavits from his mother and grandmother, in which they attest to discussing the plea offer with Sawyer. The government argued that Sawyer’s petition failed to provide sufficient evidence that the government made him an offer. The district court denied Sawyer’s petition without holding an evidentiary hearing, noting that Sawyer did not attach a proposed plea agreement or an affidavit from trial counsel regarding any agreement. The Seventh Circuit vacated. If he is able to prove on remand that the government did offer a plea deal, Sawyer will have to establish that his attorney’s advice was objectively unreasonable and that, with competent advice, he would have accepted the plea deal, but at this point in the proceedings, Sawyer has sufficiently alleged both of those required elements. View "Sawyer v. United States" on Justia Law

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Convicted of multiple counts of sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, and attempted sex trafficking, 18 U.S.C. 1591(a) and 1594(c), Sawyer was sentenced to 50 years' incarceration. After unsuccessful appeals, Sawyer sought habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255, asserting ineffective assistance of trial counsel, stating that “the Government offered the Petitioner a plea offer, which included a term of imprisonment of 15 years” and that counsel advised him to reject it because “the Government’s case against him was weak.” Sawyer attached affidavits from his mother and grandmother, in which they attest to discussing the plea offer with Sawyer. The government argued that Sawyer’s petition failed to provide sufficient evidence that the government made him an offer. The district court denied Sawyer’s petition without holding an evidentiary hearing, noting that Sawyer did not attach a proposed plea agreement or an affidavit from trial counsel regarding any agreement. The Seventh Circuit vacated. If he is able to prove on remand that the government did offer a plea deal, Sawyer will have to establish that his attorney’s advice was objectively unreasonable and that, with competent advice, he would have accepted the plea deal, but at this point in the proceedings, Sawyer has sufficiently alleged both of those required elements. View "Sawyer v. United States" on Justia Law