Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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Petitioner challenged the district court's denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, raising a due process challenge to the government's use of undisclosed classified information as a basis for his detention. The DC Circuit held that the district court's ruling that binding circuit precedent denied petitioner all rights to due process was in error. The court explained that Kiyemba v. Obama ruled only that the Due Process Clause does not invest detainees who have already been granted habeas corpus with a substantive due process right to be released into the United States. However, Kiyemba did not decide, or have any occasion to address, what constitutional procedural protections apply to the litigation of a detainee's habeas corpus petition in the first instance. Furthermore, no other decision of this circuit has adopted a categorical prohibition on affording detainees seeking habeas relief any constitutional procedural protections. The court held that the governing law is that petitioner and other alien detainees must be afforded a habeas process that ensures "meaningful review" of their detention pursuant to Boumediene v. Bush. Therefore, the court remanded the case for further proceedings to be conducted within the correct legal framework and to develop the needed factual record. View "Qassim v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Defendants Norman, Brantley, and Rowe appealed their convictions on multiple counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery, and conspiracy to distribute and possess marijuana with the intent to distribute. The DC Circuit held that the district court did not plainly err by interfering in Brantley's plea negotiations; the district court did not err in its guidelines calculations; but Rowe has made a colorable claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. The court held that defendants' remaining arguments lacked merit. Accordingly, the court remanded the ineffective assistance of counsel claim and affirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects. View "United States v. Norman" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions and sentences for health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The court rejected statutory and constitutional speedy trial claims. The court also held that the district court abused its discretion in denying severance; even assuming a Rule 16 violation, defendants failed to establish the requisite prejudice to their substantial rights for the court to conclude that the district court abused its discretion by not excluding Exhibit 439; the evidence was sufficient to convict defendants; and challenges to the unanimity and aiding-and-abetting instructions rejected on plain error review. The court also held that the district court properly concluded that the $80.6 million in payments from D.C. Medicaid to Global constituted loss under the Mandatory Victims Rights Act; the district court did not plainly violate the Excessive Fines Clause by ordering forfeitures without considering defendants' ability to pay them; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing four sentencing enhancements for committing crimes involving a loss of approximately $80 million, abusing positions of trust, playing a managerial role in the crimes, and violating an administrative order. View "United States v. Bikundi" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's 24 month sentence for violating his terms of supervised release. The court held that the sentencing judge reviewed and explained defendant's "very extensive" and "horrible" criminal record, as well as his repeated violations of the terms imposed on him by the current sentencing judge and others during his brief periods out of prison. Furthermore, the sentencing judge did not rely on mistakes of fact or plainly err in calculating his criminal history. The court considered defendant's remaining claims of error and rejected them. View "United States v. Duckett" on Justia Law

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As a result of newly discovered evidence of a Brady violation, the district court vacated defendant's narcoterrorism conviction and resentenced him to concurrent terms of 300 months on the two remaining convictions for conspiracy to distribute heroine and distributing heroin. The DC Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's motion for a continuance where the denial did not present a legal bar to prevent him from accessing jury selection records. However, the court agreed with defendant that there was insufficient evidence to support a two-point sentencing enhancement for possession of a firearm during a drug offense. Finally, defendant acknowledged that he could not prevail on his contention that the sentence was unconstitutional because the district court considered uncharged and acquitted conduct in calculating the base offense level. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing, but otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Bagcho" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for three counts of bank robbery, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to appoint substitute counsel for defendant, nor was it an error of law to conclude that defendant could voluntarily choose to proceed pro se. Furthermore, the district court's Faretta colloquy was not otherwise defective where the district court confirmed that defendant knew he was entitled to counsel regardless of his financial status and that he understood the nature of the charges against him and the maximum penalties he faced. View "United States v. Wright" on Justia Law

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Defendants Thompson and Knowles appealed their convictions for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine (5 kilograms or more) on an aircraft registered in the United States or owned by a United States citizen. The DC Circuit held that conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute does not have an extraterritorial reach because the underlying crime is not extraterritorial. Therefore, the charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute was defective, but the error was harmless because no possible prejudice could have arisen from the asserted error. The court also rejected defendants' challenges to the district court's rulings and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. View "United States v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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In 2004, defendants were indicted by a grand jury in Washington, D.C. for conspiracy to traffic cocaine, but the government moved to dismiss the charges in 2013 without prejudice because of the age of the case, government resources, and other factual and legal issues which indicated that the case was no longer viable. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to alter the dismissal without prejudice to a dismissal with prejudice. The court was bound by the Supreme Court's decision in Parr v. United States, 351 U.S. 513 (1956), which held that, without more, a criminal defendant whose indictment is dismissed without prejudice is not aggrieved and thus has no standing to appeal. Furthermore, even assuming arguendo that the threat of subsequent prosecution might be sufficient in some cases to support an appeal of a dismissal without prejudice, the statute of limitations has run on the charges against defendants and therefore the question was moot. Finally, defendants lacked standing to pursue claims of reputational injuries because dismissing the indictment with prejudice would not redress such harms. View "United States v. Scantlebury" on Justia Law

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After the DC Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions, the court remanded his ineffective assistance of counsel claims because he had previously raised them in district court. In this case, the court affirmed the district court's conclusion that defendant's claims lack merit. The court held that defendant failed to establish the second prong of Strickland v. Washington, because he failed to establish that he was prejudiced even if trial counsel did render ineffective assistance by failing to lay a proper foundation for an advice-of-counsel defense at trial. Furthermore, because the failure to secure funds for an accountant was defendant's fault rather than that of his attorneys, and given the damaging cross-examination that an accountant would have endured, the district court correctly found that trial counsel did not render deficient performance. Finally, defendant's contention that trial counsel failed to properly prepare him to testify failed both prongs of Strickland. View "United States v. Gray-Burriss" on Justia Law

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The United States appealed the district court's decision that it was unnecessary to detain defendant in order to ensure his presence at a criminal trial and that releasing him pre-trial meant that ICE could not civilly detain him in order to remove him from the country. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's decision declining to detain defendant pending trial and held that the district judge did not clearly err in finding that defendant was not a flight risk. However, the court reversed the district court's decision prohibiting ICE from civilly detaining him pending removal and held that there was no constitutional conflict where the Department of Homeland Security's detention of a criminal defendant alien for the purpose of removal did not infringe on the judiciary's role in criminal proceedings. View "United States v. Vasquez-Benitez" on Justia Law