Articles Posted in U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Defendants Henley, Smith, Elkins, Fry, Robinson, and Peteet pled guilty to racketeering conspiracy and various counts of violent crime in aid of racketeering in connection with their involvement in a motorcycle gang. Defendants appealed on numerous grounds. The court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendants of the racketeering conspiracy and various substantive counts; the judge sitting in the Eastern District of Missouri had jurisdiction to authorize a wiretap of a cell phone located in Illinois; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting recorded conversations; the district court did not abuse its discretion by not submitting the case with a special verdict form requiring that the jury unanimously find which predicate acts were attributable to any one of the defendants; the omission of the "substantial step" language in the jury instructions did not affect Robinson's substantial rights; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of an uncharged crime where it was relevant to establish both the continuity of the conspiracy and the common purpose underlying Robinson's acts; Smith failed to show that the district court erred by failing to sever his case; the district court did not clearly abuse its discretion in finding an affidavit which claimed that another person besides Peteet shot the victim at Bennigan's where it was unreliable and inadmissible; the district court did not plainly err in excluding the testimony of a witness's wife since Peteet failed to lay an evidentiary foundation; and the evidence supported the district court's application of the leadership enhancement under U.S.S.G. 3B1.1 to Peteet's sentence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Henley" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for failing to register as a sex offender under 18 U.S.C. 2250(a). In 2006, Congress enacted the Sex Offender Registration Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. 16901-16991. In 2007, the Attorney General promulgated an Interim Rule that made registration requirements applicable to all pre-Act offenders without establishing a period for pre-promulgation notice and comment and bypassed the 30-day publication requirement. Defendant argued that the Attorney General lacked good cause and thereby violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq. The court joined the Third, Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits and found that the Attorney General's stated reasons for finding good cause to bypass the 30-day advance-publication and notice-and-comment requirements were insufficient. Because the Attorney General lacked good cause to waive the procedural requirements of notice and comment when promulgating the Interim Rule, and this procedural error prejudiced defendant, SORNA did not apply to defendant in 2007. Therefore, his conviction for failing to register is invalid. The court did not address defendant's remaining argument that SORNA violates the nondelegation doctrine. The court reversed and remanded for the district court to vacate the conviction. View "United States v. Brewer" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the revocation of his supervised release and resulting 60-month commitment to the BOP. The court affirmed, concluding that the sentence was not substantively unreasonable considering the reasons given by the district court. The district court considered relevant sentencing factors before imposing the sentence and reminded defendant of what he had agreed to in exchange for the opportunity to return to the residential re-entry center in lieu of prison, and it expressed the importance of maintaining respect for the court's directives generally. Further, the district court noted that defendant had been difficult to supervise, and that he portrayed an attitude almost like the rules didn't apply to him. View "United States v. Hum" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession and appealed his sentence. The district court concluded that defendant's prior criminal history, including a conviction for a 1992 Kansas burglary, qualified him as an armed career criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1). The court concluded that the district court erred in determining that the Kansas burglary conviction qualified as a predicate offense under the ACCA and the district court lacked sufficient information upon which to find that defendant pleaded guilty to generic burglary, a qualifying violent felony for purposes of the ACCA. Accordingly, the court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Thornton" on Justia Law

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Defendant plead guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of children and appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized under a search warrant from his room at the YMCA camp. The court agreed with the district court that the information contained in the affidavit provided sufficient probable cause to issue the warrant to search defendant's room at camp where, according to the affidavit, one of the alleged victims identified himself to officers and voluntarily provided a detailed statement regarding how defendant approached him and the attempted sexual abuse; the identity of the victims were known to law enforcement at the time the affidavit was prepared; the affidavit also included similar information that a detective had received from a County Children's Division employee; and some of the information provided by the victims was corroborated by the detective's independent investigation. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. O'Dell" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of charges related to the unauthorized interception of cable service and illegal currency structuring for which he is serving 70 months imprisonment, argued that his Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated when his attorney left the courtroom, with the permission of the district court, to go to the bathroom during the government's direct examination of a co-conspirator. The parties agreed that petitioner's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated due to counsel's absence but disagree as to the degree of that error and whether harmless-error analysis can apply in light of Cronic v. United States. The court concluded that, although counsel's absence occurred at a "critical stage," the brevity of the absence - 3 minutes - distinguishes this case from the "complete denial of counsel" discussed in Cronic. The court agreed with the district court's reliance on Arizona v. Fulminante in concluding that counsel's brief absence constituted trial error and not a structured defect. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's ruling that the constitutional violation in this case was subject to harmless-error analysis. View "Sweeney v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that law enforcement officers used excessive force when they shot and killed her brother (Mahir S. Al-Hakim). The district court granted summary judgment to the City, its police chief, and Officers Ballard and Westrich. The court also granted summary judgment to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and Officers McLaughlin. The court agreed with the district court that the officers' use of deadly force was objectively reasonable and therefore Al-Hakim's Fourth Amendment rights were not violated. The court rejected plaintiff's primary argument that the district court erred in disregarding video footage taken from a news helicopter. The court concluded that the district court viewed the video and concluded that it could not answer the issue of objective reasonableness from the perspective of an officer on the ground. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Aipperspach v. McInerney, et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence. The court held that, assuming that the agents' warrantless entry into defendant's home was not justified by exigent circumstances, defendant's grant of consent to search was the product of free will sufficient to purge that taint of any Fourth Amendment violation occurring by virtue of the agents' entry. The court also held that the district court did not err in admitting defendant's statements to an agent. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Whisenton" on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to a charge of failing to register and update his sex offender registration, and subsequently appealed the denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment. Defendant argued that Congress lacked authority under Article I of the Constitution to impose the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act's (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. 16911 et seq., registration requirement on him. The court concluded that Congress acted within its power in light of the Supreme Court's recent decisions in United States v. Comstock and United States v. Kebodeaux. The court's decision applies only to a sex offender who - at the time the registration requirement came into effect - was under federal parole supervision based on a conviction under federal law, and thus remained in a "special relationship with the federal government." The court rejected defendant's alternative contentions and affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Coppock" on Justia Law

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Defendants Bennett, Jennifer, and Clayton were found guilty of several counts stemming from two fraudulent schemes. Bennett and Clayton appealed their convictions and sentences, and Jennifer appealed her convictions. Clayton died while this appeal was pending. The court vacated Clayton's convictions and remanded his case with instructions to dismiss the indictment as it pertains to him because the criminal proceedings against Clayton abated ab initio. The court concluded that the district court did not err in denying Bennett's motion to dismiss the mail-fraud and mail-fraud-conspiracy counts on the ground that they are barred by the statute of limitations; the district court did not err in denying Bennett's motion for a judgment of acquittal on the mail-fraud charge because the Government presented sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict; the facts found by the district court did not alter the statutory maximum or minimum sentence that Bennett faced and, therefore, the court rejected Bennett's Alleyne claim; Clayton's death does not necessitate reversal of Bennett's convictions and sentences; and the district court did not err in denying Jennifer's motion to sever her trial from the other defendants. View "United States v. Bennett" on Justia Law