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Defendant and others chased Isaiah, Alvaro, and Julian, a student whom he perceived had “jumped” him 14 months earlier, and accosted Julian. Julian told police that one man hit the back of his head with a blunt object; another raised a hammer before Julian ran. Julian did not have visible injuries or identify his assailant. Alvaro stated someone said: “Get him,” and that an Asian male hit Julian in the back of the head with a hammer. Isaiah said that Julian was struck with a “short handled sledgehammer.” Isaiah looked through photographs of former students and identified defendant as the man who said: “Get him.” Officers searched defendant’s residence, seizing gang paraphernalia, metal knuckles, a loaded firearm, and ammunition, from defendant's shared bedroom. They seized a small sledgehammer and collapsible baton from a car. Defendant said the brass knuckles, the drawer where the gun was found, and the car were his, but he knew nothing about the baton, the hammer, or the gun. He said he “went after [Julian]” but denied striking him. The court of appeal upheld his convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon, and possession of metal knuckles and of a weapon "commonly known as a billy,” with gang enhancements. Defendant failed to establish prejudicial discovery or evidentiary error; the conviction for possession of a billy and related gang enhancement were supported by substantial evidence. View "People v. Huynh" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendant Presendieu's convictions, and vacated Defendant Jean's sentence in a case involving an illegal check-cashing scheme. The court held that Presendieu did not show that the district court plainly erred, either as a matter of constitutional due process or under Rule 11, in accepting defendant's guilty plea. The court held, however, that the district court clearly erred in holding Jean responsible for the approximately $84,000 of loss incurred as a result of a codefendant's independent check-cashing activity. The court also held that the district court did not err in applying to Jean's sentence a two-level sentence enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(11)(B)(i) and a two-level enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(10)(C) for the use of sophisticated means. Finally, the district court did not err by denying Jean's request for a minor role reduction under USSG 3B1.2(b). The court remanded for the district court to resentence Jean. View "United States v. Presendieu" on Justia Law

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In this matter, a police officer pulled over a car under the belief that the vehicle was in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-61(a) and -66 because one of the vehicle’s taillights was not working. The trial court determined that the officer was mistaken about the law and granted defendant’s motion to suppress the fruits of the motor vehicle stop. The Appellate Division reversed, finding that the relevant motor vehicle statutes were ambiguous and that, applying the reasoning of the United States Supreme Court in Heien v. North Carolina, 574 U.S. ___ (2014), the officer’s stop of defendant’s car constituted at most an objectively reasonable mistake of law that should be treated in the same manner as a mistake of fact. Accordingly, the panel held that the officer’s mistake of law did not require suppression of the motor vehicle stop. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed: the Appellate Division erred in concluding that the holding in "Heien" was applicable here. Because the motor vehicle statutes pertinent here were not ambiguous, the Court did not consider the issue in light of Heien. "The officer’s stop of defendant’s motor vehicle was not an objectively reasonable mistake of law that gave rise to constitutional reasonable suspicion; the stop was therefore unconstitutional." View "New Jersey v. Sutherland" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted defendant Alexis Sanchez-Medina of various sexual-assault crimes that involved four separate victims: R.D., D.J., A.M., and A.B. The issue this case presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's review centered on whether defendant was denied his right to a fair trial on sexual assault charges. The prosecution asked defendant whether he had come to the United States legally. Over an objection, the jury learned that defendant had not. Next, although the allegations related to different incidents that involved four separate victims, the case rested heavily on an identification by a single witness. Despite that, neither party requested a jury charge on eyewitness identification, and the trial court did not instruct the jury on the subject. On appeal, the State acknowledged that the prosecution should not have elicited testimony about defendant’s immigration status. The panel found that defendant was not prejudiced by the testimony in light of the trial court’s limiting instructions. The Appellate Division also found that the trial court should have charged the jury on identification. The panel, though, concluded that the omission did not constitute plain error in light of the strong evidence that corroborated R.D.’s identification, specifically, defendant’s statement. The Supreme Court determined the cumulative effect of both errors denied defendant his right to a fair trial, reversed the conviction, and remanded for further proceedings. View "New Jersey v. Sanchez-Medina" on Justia Law

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Brown, the manager of a company that provided home physician visits, and Talaga, who handled the company’s billing, were convicted of conspiracy to commit health-care fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349; six counts of health-care fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1347; and three counts of falsifying a matter or providing false statements, 18 U.S.C. 1035(a). The district court sentenced Mr. Brown to 87 months’ imprisonment, 34 months below the Guidelines’ range, stating that a significant sentence was warranted because of the duration of the scheme, the amount of the fraud, the need for general deterrence, and Brown’s failure to accept responsibility. Ms. Talaga was sentenced to 45 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Brown’s argument that the court’s assumptions about the need for general deterrence were unfounded and constituted procedural error and Talaga’s arguments that the court calculated the amount of loss for which she was responsible by impermissibly including losses that occurred before she joined the conspiracy. The district court was under no obligation to accept or to comment further on Brown’s deterrence argument. Talaga, as a trained Medicare biller, knew that that the high-volume billings were fraudulent. View "United States v. Talaga" on Justia Law

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Williams, a citizen of Guyana and a lawful U.S. permanent resident, immigrated to this country in 1970, when he was 13 months old. He has no family in Guyana; his relatives are all U.S. citizens. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree forgery under Georgia Code 16-9-1(a). Williams was charged as removable for having been convicted of an aggravated felony, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). The IJ denied relief. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed, rejecting an argument that the Georgia forgery statute is broader than generic forgery because it criminalizes the use of a fictitious name when signing a document and because the statute does not require a showing of prejudice. The BIA later denied a motion for reconsideration under the Supreme Court’s 2016 "Mathis" decision, arguing that Georgia’s forgery statute is indivisible under Mathis and is overbroad in criminalizing some conduct that does not relate to forgery--false agency endorsements. The Third Circuit denied relief. Employing a “looser categorical approach,” the court considered the “logical connection” between the federal offense the state law and concluded that concerns about the inauthenticity or unauthorized nature of a written instrument establish a logical relationship between common law forgery and false agency endorsement. The intent elements are “directly analogous” and target the “same core criminal conduct.” View "Williams v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for charges related to his involvement in a scheme to defraud TierOne Bank's shareholders and to mislead its regulators by concealing millions of dollars in losses related to the failure of certain real estate loans. The court held that the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal, because the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant possessed the knowledge and intent required to sustain his convictions; the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for a bill of particulars where the government's disclosures were sufficient to enable defendant to understand the nature of the charges against him, prepare a defense, and avoid any surprise; the court rejected defendant's evidentiary challenges; and the district court properly declined to issue defendant's requested jury instructions. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in adopting the loss calculation methodology set forth in the Sentencing Guidelines; the district court did not err in applying a 4-level leadership enhancement under USSG 3B1.1(a); and defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable. Finally, the district court did not err in its calculation of the restitution award. View "United States v. Lundstrom" on Justia Law

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This case presented a narrow question regarding the meaning of ORS 162.375(1), which defined the crime of “initiating a false report.” Defendant Robert Branch was convicted of that crime based on evidence that, in response to questions from sheriff’s deputies about a report that defendant left the scene of a traffic collision without exchanging the required driver information, defendant falsely claimed that he left the scene because the other driver had pointed a gun at him. Defendant argued on appeal of his conviction to the Oregon Supreme Court that a person does not “initiat[e] a false report” within the meaning of ORS 162.375(1), if the person lies in response to police questioning “about a report someone else initiated” and, thus, that the evidence was insufficient to permit his conviction under that statute. Although the Supreme Court agreed the legislature did not intend the statute to apply when a person merely responds to police questioning with false information regarding the circumstances of the same crime or emergency situation about which the person is being questioned, defendant’s proposed rule swept too broadly. The Supreme Court concluded the legislature intended the phrase “initiates a false alarm or report” to reach, at a minimum, the conduct of a person who, during questioning about one crime or emergency situation, falsely alleges new circumstances to which the law enforcement agency is reasonably likely to respond as a separate crime on an emergency basis. View "Oregon v. Branch" on Justia Law

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Chicago police officers executed a search warrant at an apartment, forced entry and detained four individuals. Officers approached a locked, rear room, knocked and heard people moving, but got no response. Forcing entry, officers saw defendant holding a handgun (loaded with live rounds) and plastic bags, one containing 53 smaller bags of suspected crack cocaine and the other containing 92 bags of suspected heroin. Drugs, cash, ammunition, and narcotics packaging materials were also recovered from other areas. A chemist verified the contents of the bags defendant was holding. Defendant had prior convictions for robbery and aggravated robbery. Defendant was convicted as an armed habitual criminal, armed violence, and two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The possession counts merged into the armed violence count. Defendant was sentenced to 7 years in prison on the armed habitual criminal count, consecutive to 15 years on the armed violence count. Consecutive sentences were mandated under Unified Code of Corrections section 5-8-4(d)(3). The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting defendant’s argument that his convictions for both armed violence and armed habitual criminal violated the one-act, one-crime rule because they were predicated on the same physical act of gun possession. The offenses did not result from precisely the same physical act and neither was a lesser-included offense of the other. Defendant’s conduct consisted of possession of the handgun and possession of the drugs. Although the two offenses shared the common act of possession of the handgun, the armed violence conviction involved a separate act, possessing the drugs. View "People v. Coats" on Justia Law

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Defendant and his brother, Jimmy, ambushed armored truck guards. Defendant was shot in the head. Jimmy died from gunshot wounds. Defendant was charged with first-degree felony murder based on attempted armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(3)), attempted armed robbery while armed with a firearm (8-4, 18-2(a)(2)), and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon (24-1.1(a)). Defendant was found fit to stand trial although his ability to recollect the incident was impaired. Possession of a firearm was an element of the predicate offense to attempted armed robbery. Jimmy had an apparent sawed-off shotgun that actually consisted of metal pipes taped to a piece of wood. Defendant had an inoperable unloaded .22-caliber derringer. Before jury selection, the state entered a nolle prosequi on attempted armed robbery and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon charges. During the jury instruction conference, the prosecutor sought a firearm sentencing enhancement instruction. Defense counsel objected. The jury found defendant guilty of first-degree murder while armed with a firearm. The court sentenced defendant to 25 years’ plus a 15-year term for possession of a firearm. The appellate court reversed because count I did not identify which of the attempted armed robbery offenses was the predicate for the felony murder charge. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. Defendant was aware that the felony murder charge was predicated on attempted armed robbery with a firearm; his attorney presented a defense to that charge. Neither defendant nor the appellate court identified what other actions defendant could have taken, had the count I allegations particularly referenced possession of a firearm. View "People v. Carey" on Justia Law