Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of distributing methamphetamine, holding that the district court properly excluded evidence related to an entrapment defense. Evidence of a second threat was properly excluded because the threat was unrelated to drug trafficking and was not relevant to defendant's claim that he was coerced into drug trafficking. Furthermore, evidence of the threat was not necessary to show the bias of a confidential informant and his friend. View "United States v. Canales" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of attempted enticement of a minor, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's verdict. Even if some of defendant's text messages indicated that he did not intend to have sex with the minor immediately after their meeting, the evidence would still be sufficient to demonstrate his intent despite such a willingness to delay the sexual activity. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence under FRE 404(b) of defendant's contacts with two other minors. In this case, the evidence related to defendant's plan, knowledge, and preparation; the district court gave a limiting instruction; and the introduction of the evidence ultimately did not have a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict. View "United States v. Riepe" on Justia Law

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The district court granted in part petitioner's motion to vacate his drug-related conviction and sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court ordered the government to reoffer an earlier plea deal. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court clearly erred in finding that petitioner suffered from mental illness that impaired his ability to understand legal advice and make reasoned decisions; the district court erred in finding that counsel should have known that petitioner was not able to understand legal advice or make reasoned decisions; the district court's finding that counsel's communication style did not mesh well with petitioner's difficulties did not provide a basis for ineffective assistance of counsel; the district court did not err in finding counsel deficient in failing to explain the safety-valve exception; and the district court erred in directing the government to reoffer the five-year deal. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to determine whether petitioner was prejudiced by the safety-valve advice. View "Davis v. United States" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the denial of his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his criminal sentence. Petitioner was sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e), based on predicate offenses for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and two Nebraska felony convictions for making terroristic threats (one as a juvenile and one as an adult). The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the Nebraska statute qualifies under the ACCA force clause; an act of juvenile delinquency cannot qualify as a violent felony under any clause of the ACCA, including the residual clause, unless the court first determines that it involved the use or carrying of a firearm, knife, or destructive device; that question is completely separate from the question of whether the juvenile conviction is an enumerated offense or qualifies under the force clause; the court sua sponte determined that petitioner's claim that his juvenile offense did not involve the use or carrying of a firearm, knife, or destructive device is procedurally defaulted; and even if the theoretical possibility exists that the Nebraska statute could encompass threats only to property, petitioner has not demonstrated a realistic probability that Nebraska would apply the statute in that manner. View "Fletcher v. United States" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his 235 month sentence after pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court committed no procedural error where it specifically addressed the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors raised by defendant; the within-Guidelines sentence was presumptively reasonable; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing defendant where the sentencing practices of one district court are not a reference point for other courts. View "United States v. Soliz" on Justia Law

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This case arose from Martin Sigillito's Ponzi scheme known as the British Lending Program (BLP). Plaintiffs, seeking to recoup losses due to the BLP, filed suit against St. Louis Bank, alleging violations of Missouri's Uniform Fiduciaries Law (UFL); aiding and abetting the breach of Sigillito's fiduciary duties; conspiracy to breach Sigillito's fiduciary duties; and conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962(d). The Eighth Circuit held that the district court properly denied summary judgment to plaintiffs on their UFL claim where plaintiffs have failed to show that St. Louis Bank had actual knowledge that Sigillito misappropriated fiduciary funds; that St. Louis Bank acted in bad faith; and that St. Louis Bank knew that Sigillito was using the fiduciary funds for his personal benefit. The court also held that plaintiffs' common-law and RICO claims failed because the evidence did not create any genuine issues of material fact. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Rosemann v. St. Louis Bank" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence of 156 months in prison after pleading guilty to a drug-related offense. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that, although the district court did not expressly refer to the factors set forth in the commentary to USSG 3B1.2, defendant has not shown that he would have received a minimal role adjustment, much less that he would have received a lesser sentence, had the district court not procedurally erred; merely showing that defendant was less culpable than other participants was not enough to entitle him to the adjustment if defendant was deeply involved in the offense; although defendant's sentence was 36 months above the mandatory minimum sentence, the district court adequately considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and imposed a within-Guidelines sentence; and defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Cartagena" on Justia Law

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Defendants Jackson and Kemp appealed their convictions and sentences for drug-related charges. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of Kemp's prior bad acts under FRE 404(b) because the evidence was relevant; the government sufficiently explained how the evidence related to establishing a common intent, motive, and plan; and the district court's ruling revealed no error that substantially influenced the jury's verdict. Finally, the evidence was sufficient to convict Jackson of the conspiracy offense. View "United States v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Defendant moved to proceed pro se for the fourth time on the third day of trial. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of his motion, holding that defendant's motion was untimely. In this case, defendant made the motion midway through the third day of trial, he was not prepared to represent himself, and just because the district court advised defendant that he could make his motion to proceed pro se at any time did not make his motion timely. View "United States v. Prucha" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sex trafficking and drug-related convictions, holding that he was not denied a fair trial and rejecting his contention that the government failed to produce discovery in a timely manner and in a usable form that gave defendant an opportunity to review the information. Although defendant represented himself pro se, he was provided a pretrial investigator, subpoenaed numerous defense witnesses for trial, and made use of the government's discovery at trial. Furthermore, defendant provided no instances where lack of access to specific discovery prejudiced his trial defense. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's untimely request for a continuance on the day of the trial. View "United States v. Graves" on Justia Law