Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than fifty kilograms of marijuana. The court held that defendant's sentence is based on his initial guideline range because that range played a relevant part in the framework the sentencing judge used in imposing his sentence. The court also held that the guideline range applicable to defendant is his initial guideline range of 292 to 365 months. The court explained that Amendment 780 lowered the guideline range applicable to defendant from 292 to 365 months to 262 to 327 months. Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to determine whether a reduction of defendant's sentence is warranted. View "United States v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendants Goldstein and Bercoon's convictions for charges related to their involvement in a market-manipulation scheme involving shares of MedCareers Group, Inc. (MCGI) and a scheme to defraud investors in Find.com Acquisition, Inc. (Find.com).The court concluded that the magistrate judge did not err in concluding that there was probable cause to support the wiretap affidavit and satisfied the necessity requirement. Furthermore, defendants have not shown that the district court erred in concluding that the wiretap evidence was admissible under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule, even assuming there was some deficiency in the necessity or probable cause showing. The court also concluded that, because defendants did not make a substantial preliminary showing that the law enforcement agent deliberately or recklessly omitted material information from his wiretap affidavit, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying their motions for a Franks hearing; any variance in the indictment did not cause prejudice warranting relief; defendants' claims of prosecutorial misconduct failed; the district court did not err in suppressing Goldstein's statements to an SEC attorney; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Goldstein's request for an evidentiary hearing; the district court did not err in imposing joint and several liability; and the court found no basis to dismiss Bercoon's indictment. View "United States v. Goldstein" on Justia Law

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Defendants Young and Volious were convicted of (1) a criminal conspiracy with several objectives; (2) aiding and abetting the transportation of an explosive in interstate commerce to kill an individual; (3) aiding and abetting the mailing of a non-mailable item with intent to kill; and (4) aiding and abetting the carrying of an explosive during the commission of a felony. Defendants' convictions stemmed from their plan to kill Young's ex-wife by mailing her a bomb.The Fourth Circuit concluded that, as a matter of law, an inert bomb that contains explosives qualifies as a nonmailable item under 18 U.S.C. 1716, and that sufficient evidence supported defendants' convictions for aiding and abetting the mailing of a nonmailable item. Furthermore, because mailing a nonmailable item with intent to kill under section 1716(j) was the predicate felony, the court upheld the jury's convictions for aiding and abetting the carrying of an explosive during the commission of a felony in violation of 18 U.S.C. 844(h). Finally, the court rejected Volious's challenges to the indictment, the jury instructions, and the district court's denial of his pre-trial motion to sever. View "United States v. Young" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision holding that petitioner's 1999 conviction for simple possession of cocaine in violation of California Health and Safety Code 11350 qualifies as a "controlled substance offense," thereby rendering him removable under section 237(a)(2)(B)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B)(i).Although California Health and Safety Code 11350, by its terms, applies to a broader range of "controlled substance[s]" than the narrower federal definition that governs under section 237(a)(2)(B)(i), the panel agreed with the BIA that petitioner's conviction nonetheless qualifies under the so-called "modified categorical" approach to analyzing prior convictions. Applying this approach, the panel concluded that section 11350 is a "divisible" statute that defines multiple alternative offenses, depending upon which controlled substance was possessed. In this case, because petitioner's conviction under section 11350 was for possession of cocaine, and because cocaine qualifies as a "controlled substance" under the applicable federal definition, it follows that petitioner was convicted of an offense "relating to a controlled substance" within the meaning of section 237(a)(2)(B)(i). Therefore, the panel concluded that petitioner was properly ordered to be removed from the United States. View "Lazo v. Wilkinson" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order dismissing an indictment charging defendant with illegal reentry to the United States. The court concluded that the district court erred in ruling that defendant made a sufficient showing to attack the deportation order that underlies the charge in this criminal case. In this case, defendant may not challenge in this criminal case the validity of the immigration court’s underlying deportation order from 1998. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Leal-Monroy" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the convictions received by Defendants, three former employees of the New England Compounding Center (NECC), for a number of federal offenses related to aspects of NECC's operation that were identified in the course of a federal criminal investigation into NECC's medication, holding that there was no prejudicial error.In 2012, patients across the country began falling ill after having been injected with a contaminated medication compounded by NECC. After many of these patients died, a federal criminal investigation ensued. A jury found Stepanets, Svirskiy, and Leary each guilty of committing multiple federal crimes. The First Circuit affirmed Defendants' convictions and Stepanets' sentence, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions; (2) it was not clear or obvious error under the Eighth Amendment for the district court to impose the sentence that Stepanets received; (3) Svirskiy's challenges to his convictions were without merit; and (4) Leary's arguments on appeal were unavailing. View "United States v. Stepanets" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the State properly charges a defendant with only a single violation of Nev. Rev. Stat. 202.360(1)(b) when it alleges, without more, that the defendant is a felon who possessed "any firearms" - or, one or more firearms - at one time and place.Anthony Martinez shot two individuals. The police recovered five firearms at the scene - four from Martinez's car and the fifth from beside the car. The State charged Martinez with five counts of violating Nev. Rev. Stat. 202.360(1)(b) - possession of a firearm by a person previously convicted of a felony offense - one count per firearm. The district court granted Martinez's motion to consolidate the five felon-in-possession counts into a single count, concluding that Martinez committed, at most, a single violation of section 202.360(1)(b). The State filed a pretrial petition for extraordinary relief, arguing that the court wrongly interpreted the statute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the State properly charges a defendant with only a single violation of section 202.360(1)(b) when it alleges, without more, that the defendant is a felon who possessed "any firearms" - i.e., one or more firearms - at one time and place. View "State v. Fourth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A) motion for compassionate release based on her medical conditions of lupus, scleroderma, hypertension, glaucoma, and past cases of bronchitis and sinus infections, which she argued put her at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding that defendant's medical conditions were not "extraordinary and compelling reasons" to grant compassionate release. Furthermore, the district court considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and section 1B1.13 n.1, which further contributes to the court's holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. The court explained that regardless of whether the district court was required to consider USSG 1B1.13 n.1, it did so. In this case, the district court's order makes clear that it independently considered whether defendant's reasons were "extraordinary and compelling" under section 3582(c)(1)(A), and then separately and "[m]oreover" considered and rejected her reasons in light of section 1B1.13 n.1. View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the sentences imposed upon Defendant for his plea-based convictions for one Class IIA felony and three Class IV felonies, holding that Defendant's three sentences for Class IV felonies were plain error.Defendant was sentenced to consecutive terms of eight to sixteen years' imprisonment for the Class IIA felony and two years' imprisonment for each Class IV felony. On appeal, Defendant argued that the terms of his total sentence were excessive. The Supreme Court affirmed the sentence for Defendant's Class IIA felony but vacated the sentences imposed for his Class IV felonies and remanded the cause for resentencing, holding (1) Defendant's sentences were not excessive; but (2) the district court erred in rendering determinate sentences for each of Defendant's Class IV felonies. View "State v. Starks" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court dismissing Defendant's motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the motion pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 29-2102(2).Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and two counts of possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentences. Defendant later filed a pro se motion for new trial. The district court dismissed the motion. Defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that the district court erred when it failed to treat his motion as a postconviction motion and to consider his claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err when it considered Defendant's motion as a motion for new trial rather than considering it as a motion for postconviction relief; and (2) properly dismissed the motion without an evidentiary hearing. View "State v. Hill" on Justia Law