Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for four counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and two counts of abusive sexual conduct of a child in Indian country. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of a prior sexual assault, commenting to the child witness "to try to answer the questions so that you can get off the stand," and limiting the testimony of a defense witness regarding a financial dispute between defendant and one victim's parents and his beliefs regarding defendant's reasons for giving gifts to the victim. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's motion for a variance and by imposing a 540 month term of imprisonment. View "United States v. Keys" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of an unregistered firearm. The court held that defendant's failure to file a timely pretrial motion under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(3) foreclosed each of the defective indictment issues he sought to raise on appeal. Although defendant acknowledged that the district court appropriately rejected his Speedy Trial Act claim, he asked the court to adopt a new rule giving preference to the defendant's assertion of his speedy trial rights over the wishes of his attorney and the court. The court declined to do so and explained that this rule would be contrary to the plain text of the statute and the court's prior decisions. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence regarding the drugs seized at the time of defendant's arrest because the evidence was clearly intrinsic to the charged offense. View "United States v. Fogg" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order reducing defendant's term of imprisonment in light of Amendment 782 of the Sentencing Guidelines. The court held that the district court impermissibly reduced defendant's sentence below his amended guideline range. The court held that any reduction below 110 months was inconsistent with the policy statement in USSG 1B1.10(b)(2)(A) and thus unauthorized by 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2). In this case, it was not irrational for the Commission to avoid undue complexity and litigation by adopting a uniform limitation on reductions tied to the amended guidelines range. Accordingly, the court remanded for a resentencing consistent with the limitation that the sentence must not be less than the 110-month minimum of the amended guideline range. View "United States v. Heaton" on Justia Law

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After defendant appealed his conviction and sentences for several offenses, the Eighth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence in the first appeal. On remand, the district court sentenced defendant to 380 months in prison. The court affirmed, holding that the district court's statements and colloquy with defendant adequately explained the basis for his sentence where the district court considered the relevant statutory factors, discussed some factors in detail, and responded to defendant's objections with further explanation. Therefore, defendant's sentence was procedurally reasonable. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in choosing the term of imprisonment and defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Morris" on Justia Law

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After defendant pleaded guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, the district court sentenced him under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), based on defendant's prior Arkansas conviction for kidnapping and two prior convictions for serious drug offenses. The court reversed and remanded, holding that Arkansas Code 5-11-102, the statute that criminalizes kidnapping, did not qualify as a violent felony, because it was overbroad and indivisible. In this case, the nefarious purposes listed in subsections (a)(1) through (a)(7) were means, not elements. Therefore, defendant did not have the three predicate offenses to be sentenced under the ACCA. View "United States v. Coleman" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that defendant's three prior felony convictions under Arkansas Code 5-64-401 qualified as serious drug offenses under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). Although the government conceded that the version of the Arkansas statute in effect at the time of defendant's convictions was overbroad, the statute was divisible where defendant was convicted under subsection (a), which criminalizes manufacturing, delivering, or possessing with intent to deliver controlled substances. Therefore, the district court did not commit error, plain or otherwise, in sentencing defendant under the ACCA. View "United States v. Meux" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws, in violation of 26 U.S.C. 72121(a). After defendant's trial, the Supreme Court decided Marinello v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1101 (2018), which held that, for a section 7212(a) offense, the government must show that there is a nexus between the defendant's conduct and a particular administrative proceeding. The government conceded that, post Marinello, the jury instruction in defendant's trial was erroneous. Nonetheless, the court held that the error was harmless because the evidence supporting the jury's verdict was so overwhelming that no rational jury could find otherwise. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting expert testimony; the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained during a civil audit; and the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion for mistrial. View "United States v. Beckham" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The court held that defendant's prior Illinois conviction for aggravated battery on a public way was a crime of violence. The court applied the categorical approach and held that the Illinois conviction involved causing bodily injury, which has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force. Accordingly, the district court correctly calculated defendant's offense level and defendant was a career offender under USSG 4B1.1. View "United States v. Roman" on Justia Law

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The Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act is not unconstitutionally vague where the statute's "knowingly or intentionally" scienter requirement alleviates vagueness concerns by narrowing the scope of its prohibition, and limiting prosecutorial discretion. The Eighth Circuit affirmed Defendant Palmer and Leinicke's convictions for several conspiracy crimes related to their participation in a conspiracy to distribute synthetic narcotics. The court declined to apply the categorical approach and held that defendants failed to show that the Act was unconstitutionally vague as applied to them. Finally, the court held that the indictment alleged sufficient facts to show Palmer's knowledge that his conduct violated the Act. View "United States v. Palmer" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for transferring obscene materials to a minor, receipt of child pornography, and sexual exploitation of a minor. The court held that the district court did not violate defendant's Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights by excluding the evidence of the victim's sexual communications with other men; any error in excluding "fantasy source material" was harmless because the exhibit was cumulative; the district court did not abuse its discretion by limiting defendant's cross-examination of the victim to 90 minutes; the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to instruct the jury that knowledge of the victim's age was an element of the offense under 18 U.S.C. 2251(a); the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions; and the court rejected defendant's claim that his 264 month sentence was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. View "United States v. Walker" on Justia Law