Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for threatening to murder a federal law enforcement officer. The court held that the indictment fairly informed defendant of the charge against him so as to satisfy the Constitution and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 7(c); the district court properly rejected defendant's entrapment defense as a matter of law; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by sentencing defendant to 96 months of imprisonment. Finally, defendant argued, and the government conceded that, the district court erred by denying him access to jury-commission records he was entitled to inspect under 28 U.S.C. 1867. Accordingly, the court remanded for the district court to allow defendant to access such records. View "United States v. Williamson" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas corpus relief to Moath Hamza Ahmed Al-Alwi, a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. Al-Alwi was captured in December 2001 for his Taliban-related activities and has remained in United States custody ever since. The court rejected Al-Alwi's argument that the United States' authority to detain him has "unraveled" where, although hostilities have been ongoing for a considerable amount of time, they have not ended. The court held, in the alternative, that the government's authority to detain Al-Alwi pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) has not expired. Finally, the court did not reach the merits of Al-Alwi's remaining arguments because he has forfeited them. View "Al-Alwi v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Defendants Lovo and Sorto were convicted of conspiring to interfere with interstate commerce by robbery, and using, carrying or possessing a firearm during a crime of violence. The DC Circuit rejected defendants' claim that the residual clause of the statutory crime of violence definition that affects them was unconstitutionally vague. After the court issued its opinion, the Supreme Court held in Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. 1204, 1210 (2018), that 18 U.S.C. 16(b) -- the residual clause of section 16's crime of violence definition -- was unconstitutionally vague. In light of the Supreme Court's decision in Dimaya, the court granted rehearing for the limited purpose of vacating defendants' firearm convictions. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Eshetu" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence after he pleaded guilty to drug-related charges. In this case, the government breached the agreement by failing to schedule defendant's superior court pleas to follow his federal sentencing and by recommending that he be sentenced to 33 months' incarceration. The DC Circuit held that the government breached its plea agreement with defendant, but that it could not vacate his sentence because the error was not plain. However, the court remanded defendant's ineffective assistance claim for further proceedings in the district court because plaintiff raised a colorable claim of ineffective assistance by asserting that counsel failed to object to the government's breach of the plea agreement. View "United States v. Murray" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a dual citizen of the United States and Canada and incarcerated in the United States where he was convicted of a felony, sought a transfer under a treaty between the United States and Canada to a Canadian prison. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint and held that the government's self-execution argument was non-jurisdictional and thus did not affect the court's subject matter jurisdiction to consider appellant's case under 28 U.S.C. 1331; even assuming the treaty was not self-executing, the government's position that appellant must rely exclusively on the implementing legislation was flawed, because the text and legislative history of the treaty and the legislation showed that the latter incorporated the substantive standards of the former, making those standards part of domestic law; the treaty provision on which appellant relied provides law to apply, although the scope of judicial review was narrow, limited to the terms of that provision and not reaching the correctness of the assessment or the outcome; and consistent with the narrow scope of judicial review, the denial of appellant's transfer was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Sluss v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed a pretrial detention order that was issued after release was revoked because of Paul Manafort's alleged commission of new crimes of witness tampering while he was on release. The Government contended that Manafort repeatedly contacted two witnesses, in violation of the district court's gag order, in an effort to secure materially false testimony concerning the activities of the Hapsburg group. The court found no clear error in the district court's finding that Manafort was unlikely to abide by any conditions of release. The court agreed with Manafort that the district court's finding that his communications violated the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia's Stay-Away Order was problematic. However, the court found no clear error in the district court's ultimate finding that there were no conditions that would assure that Manafort would comply with the most fundamental condition of release under the Bail Reform Act: that he not commit a Federal, State, or local crime during the period of release. View "United States v. Manafort" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Defendant was convicted of roughly two dozen criminal charges arising out of an armed robbery in 2005. Defendant argued that his appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to appeal one of his convictions for assault with intent to kill while armed with a knife based on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The court held that defendant failed to overcome the strong presumption that his appellate counsel's conduct met the objective standard of reasonableness. In this case, a rational juror could reject defendant's self-defense claim when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government and thus appellate counsel did not act deficiently by foregoing a losing argument. Furthermore, defendant was not prejudiced under Strickland v. Washington. Finally, the court held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear defendant's Fifth Amendment claim and declined to expand the certificate of appealability. View "Waters v. Lockett" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for a sentence reduction under Sentencing Guideline Amendment 782, 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2). The court held that the district court erred in holding that defendant was categorically ineligible for resentencing. In this case, the sentencing record documented that the later-amended base offense level provision was the starting point and a relevant factor in the sentence the district court imposed. Under Hughes v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1765 (2018), this was enough to open the resentencing door to defendant. Furthermore, the district court's alternative holding that a resentencing was not warranted contradicted its original finding that defendant's crime was nonviolent, and lacked the personalized analysis required to permit meaningful appellate review. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's 151 month sentence after he pleaded guilty to the distribution of child pornography. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when applying the two-level computer-use enhancement under USSG 2G2.2(b)(6); the district court adequately considered the need to avoid unwarranted disparities and did not abuse its discretion when concluding that defendant was differently situated from defendants for whom other district court judges granted downward variances; the district court did not procedurally err when invoking the particular characteristics of defendant's offense to justify his sentence; the district court considered the aspects of defendant's crime that justified the disparity between his within-Guidelines sentence and the below-Guidelines sentences in this circuit; challenged statements did not detract from the district court's reasoned consideration of defendant's arguments for a downward variance; and the within-Guidelines sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Mattea" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction under District of Columbia law of sexually abusing a minor, and under federal law of producing, possessing, and distributing child pornography. The court held that the jury heard sufficient evidence from which to infer that defendant induced the minor's lascivious exhibition of his genitals in order to photograph it. In regard to the form of the government's questions, the court held that the district court had discretion to let the government ask, a very reticent witness, to clarify the nature of his sexual contact with defendant in the manner that it did. View "United States v. Torres" on Justia Law