Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
by
Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to narcotics and ammunition charges after the trail court denied his motion to suppress GPS locational data and subsequent post0-Miranda statements made to detectivews. Law enforcement, working with a confidential informant (CI), installed a GPS tracker on the CI's vehicle. Subsequently, Defendant borrowed CI's vehicle, which led to his arrest.The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his location and movements in a borrowed vehicle. View "United States v. Joshua Dewilfond" on Justia Law

by
Defendant served a 48-month sentence for use of interstate facilities to promote prostitution and began a three-year term of supervised release in October 2020. The district court first revoked supervised release on August 31, 2021, when Defendant admitted drug use and failure to participate in required drug counseling; Defendant began a 24-month term of supervised release that day.   His probation officer petitioned the court to issue a warrant, alleging numerous violations of supervised release. At the conclusion of a revocation hearing, the court found that Defendant committed the violations, revoked supervised release, and sentenced Defendant to 10 months’ imprisonment followed by 24 months of supervised release. Defendant appealed the revocation sentence, arguing the court violated his due process right to confront witnesses at the revocation hearing and imposed additional special conditions of supervised release that are substantively unreasonable.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the facts recited in the warrant petition with the author present to testify, and Defendant’s testimony corroborating some of the alleged Grade C violations, including admissions he had not complied with sex offender registration requirements and had tested positive for cocaine use, were ample evidence supporting the district court’s decision to revoke supervised release. Further, the court found that the district court did not abuse its substantial discretion when it imposed additional conditions addressing what the court described as Defendant’s “high-risk behavior” and “continued disregard for the conditions imposed.” View "United States v. La'Ron Clower" on Justia Law

by
Defendant walked away from the Fort Des Moines Residential Reentry Center (RRC), where he had been placed during the supervised release portion of his sentence for a firearms violation. He was later arrested and charged with escape. At his revocation sentencing hearing, the district court sentenced him to 12 months and 1 day for the escape, to be served consecutively with his existing sentence. He appealed both the length of the sentence and its consecutive imposition.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that here, the district court correctly calculated Defendant’s Guidelines range for his offense and criminal history as 8 to 14 months. It also considered the Section 3553(a) factors and stated, “I recognize the defendant’s—those same factors here, relative youth and lack of youthful guidance and childhood trauma, are present in the defendant's history as well, and the Court considers that in determining the appropriate sentence to impose.” Further, Section 3553(a) factors were adequately considered, and the district court provided a reasonable explanation for imposing the sentence consecutively. The district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a consecutive sentence. View "United States v. Hakeem Boyum" on Justia Law

by
Defendant received a 120-month prison sentence after he threatened to “kill some” government employees and assaulted two guards. Although he requested a downward departure based on his mental-health problems, the district court instead varied upward. On appeal Defendant argues that, neither enhancement applies.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it makes no difference that money may have played a role. The court wrote that Defendant’s theory is that he would have lashed out against anyone who treated him that way, government official or not. But just because he may have taken similar actions against someone else does not mean that their status played no role. To the contrary, his victims were government employees, Defendant wanted them to take certain actions on his behalf, and their status influenced the choices he made. As long as official status was one motivation for the crime, the enhancement applies. View "United States v. Travis Feeback" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was convicted of four counts related to the distribution of controlled substances. On appeal, Defendant challenges three evidentiary rulings made by the district court during his trial. He argued that the district court erred in admitting (1) the driver’s license record with his name, address, and photograph; (2) the video and audio recordings from the controlled buys, including the phone calls arranging those buys; and (3) the text messages Special Agent (SA) and Defendant exchanged during the undercover investigation   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that this is not a case where the “extra helping of evidence” from the challenged record is “so prejudicial as to warrant a new trial.” The information on the improperly admitted driver’s license record was cumulative of other evidence, and any error from admitting the record is not reversible. Next, the court held that SA’s testimony satisfies the second McMillan factor that he was competent to operate the recording equipment. The court has also held that a recording’s existence itself can establish that the person operating the device was competent to operate the equipment. Further, the court concluded that the government adequately established that the recordings in Government Exhibit 5 were “authentic and correct.”  Moreover, the court rejected Defendant’s argument that the government did not sufficiently identify the speakers in the recordings. Finally, the court held that the government laid an adequate foundation to authenticate the text messages. View "United States v. Bryan Kimble" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was arrested in connection to a narcoticcs trafficking operation after police pulled over the vehicle he was riding in as a passenger. The driver consented to a search, during which offers found heroin. Officers seized Defendant's phone and obtained a warrant on the basis that Defendant was a drug dealer.The district court denied Defendant's motion to suppress the contents of his phone under the Wiretap Act, as well as his statements to police. The court later denied his motions for a directed verdict and new trial. Defendant appealed the denial of his motions as well as his sentence.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Regarding the motion to suppress, officers had probable cause to approach the car based on the evidence in the officers' possession. The Eighth Circuit also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion for a directed verdict and motion for a new trial.Finally, the Eighth Circuit found that the district court reviewed all the evidence that Defendant presented to the court and did not err in weighing the evidence differently than Defendant would have preferred. View "United States v. Eric Griggs" on Justia Law

by
Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm, preserving his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. The Eighth Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction, finding that the traffic stop that led to the discovery of the challenged evidence was supported by reasonable suspicion. The police officer's decision to pull Defendant over after learning that he was driving a vehicle that had been reported stolen was sufficient to at least give rise to reasonable suspicion. View "United States v. Patrick James" on Justia Law

by
Defendant worked as a salesman at a retail flooring store. The company gave Defendant a cell phone, which he was allowed to take home and use as a personal phone. After a co-worker alleged in 2020 that Defendant had used the phone to record her, the company’s co-owner asked Defendant for the phone and its passcode. After Defendant unlocked the phone and provided the passcode, the co-owner discovered images that he believed were child pornography. He thereafter gave the phone and passcode to law enforcement officers,   Defendant moved to suppress the evidence of child pornography that the officers had discovered on the phone. Following the district court’s denial of the motion, Defendant pleaded guilty to receipt of child pornography and was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court held that because it found that the co-owner had apparent authority to consent to the search, the court need not reach Defendant’s argument that the warrantless search constituted an unlawful trespass. The co-owners apparent authority also defeats Defendant’s argument that the later search of his residence should be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree. View "United States v. Matthew Langenberg" on Justia Law

by
Defendant repeatedly assaulted his victim, beating her with a pistol, restraining her in a car, and threatening to kill her. This was not his first such offense. He pled guilty to possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. The district court sentenced him to 120 months in prison. Defendant appeals, claiming that the district court erroneously calculated his advisory guideline range because it applied the kidnapping cross-reference under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court reasoned that Defendant’s conduct constituted kidnapping under Iowa law. Wielding a gun, he refused to let his victim exit the vehicle by physically grabbing her and threatening to kill her. Forcing his victim to stay in the car for hours—longer than the duration of a typical assault—substantially increased the risk of harm by providing Defendant easy opportunity to assault her again and again. Thus, the district court properly calculated the Guidelines range. View "United States v. Damarcus Perkins" on Justia Law

by
A jury found Defendant guilty of sex trafficking of a minor. Defendant raised several issues on appeal. First, he argues that the district court violated his Sixth Amendment right to self-representation by denying his requests to proceed pro se. Second, he contends that the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain his conviction. Third, he argues that the district court admitted unfairly prejudicial evidence. Finally, he submits that two of the special conditions of supervised release imposed by the district court are impermissibly vague and overbroad.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed but remand for clarification of the two special conditions. In regards to the special conditions the court explained that although a sentencing judge has “broad discretion” when imposing terms of supervised release, we have said that a special condition of supervised release is unconstitutionally vague when it “fails to convey sufficiently definite warning as to the proscribed conduct . . . when measured by common understanding and practices.” The court held that Defendant is correct that the two special conditions are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, respectively. The court remanded for the narrow purpose of amending the written judgment as it relates to Special Conditions 2 and 3. View "United States v. Anthony Atkins" on Justia Law