Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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The Eleventh Circuit dismissed petitioner's appeal of the district court's denial of his motions for leave to file an amended motion for appointment of independent counsel and for appointment of independent supplemental or substitute counsel. The court held that the motions were not appealable under 28 U.S.C. 1291 because petitioner's proceedings under 28 U.S.C. 2254 were still pending. View "Crain v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's 300 month sentence imposed after he was convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The court held that defendant's prior Florida state conviction for battery of a jail detainee qualified as a crime of violence under the Sentencing Guidelines, because defendant's conviction for battery necessarily was for intentionally causing bodily harm. View "United States v. Gandy" on Justia Law

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Defendant purported to bring a direct criminal appeal, alleging that the government breached the terms of their plea agreement. After sentencing, defendant filed an untitled document in the district court stating her intent to file a collateral attack. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal based on lack of jurisdiction. The court held that defendant's filing reflected her understanding of her waiver of a direct appeal under the plea agreement, and the filing did not comply with the jurisdictional requirements for a notice of appeal under Rule 3 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. View "United States v. Padgett" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence of a firearm recovered from his person by police. Defendant had conditionally pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that defendant's encounter with the detectives was part of a lawful traffic stop where the detectives had probable cause to believe that the driver of the vehicle was committing a traffic violation. Moreover, the detectives were justified in briefly detaining defendant while conducting the traffic stop and citing the driver. The court also held that the seizure of the firearm from defendant's pocket only seconds after detectives came onto the scene was likewise lawful. View "United States v. Gibbs" on Justia Law

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Amodeo pleaded guilty to involvement in a criminal scheme to divert his clients’ payroll taxes. He agreed to forfeit many assets, including the ownership of two shell corporations. The district court entered a preliminary forfeiture order that divested Amodeo of those assets. After no third parties asserted an interest in the corporations, the court entered a final forfeiture order that transferred ownership of them to the government. Years later, the corporations were named as defendants in a lawsuit brought by victims of Amodeo’s scheme. The government then successfully moved to vacate the final forfeiture order as to the corporations. Amodeo appealed the partial vacatur on the ground that the district court lacked the authority to enter it. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed his appeal. The partial vacatur caused him no injury, so Amodeo lacks standing to complain about it regardless of whether or not the district court possessed authority. View "United States v. Amodeo" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court granting Defendant relief on a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate his sentence, holding that changes to the law since the government’s appeal warranted a remand to the district court where Defendant will have the opportunity to make his case for relief under the new standard. In its original ruling, the district court concluded that, following changes in constitutional law regarding the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), Defendant no longer qualified as an armed career criminal and was not eligible for an enhanced sentence. After the government appealed, the Eleventh Circuit decided Beeman v. United States, 871 F.3d 1215 (11th Cir. 2017), holding that section 2255 movants were required to meet a higher burden that the one the district court applied in Defendant’s case. Applying Beeman to Defendant’s case, the Eleventh Circuit ruled that Defendant did not meet the new standard. The Eleventh Circuit held that because Defendant did not and could not know that he would be required to meet the heightened Beeman standard on appeal, a remand was appropriate. View "United States v. Pickett" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction of extortion in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a),(b)(2), holding that sufficient evidence supported Defendant’s conviction and that the district court did not violate Defendant’s right to present a complete defense when it limited his closing argument. Defendant was convicted of extortion by two alternative means - by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear; and under color of official right. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the government presented sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s conviction for extortion; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it prevented Defendant from arguing in closing that the government should have charged him with theft instead of extortion. View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for three federal child sex offenses. The court held that defendant's text messages asking a person he thought was a minor to send him sexually explicit pictures of herself can support a conviction for making a "notice" to receive child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2251(d)(1)(A). The court also held that the evidence was sufficient for a jury to find that defendant believed one of the victims was thirteen years old, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting a detective's challenged testimony. View "United States v. Caniff" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendants Vazquez, Valencia, and Portocarrero's convictions and sentences for trafficking cocaine in international waters, in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. The court held that defendants' challenges to the district court's exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction under the Act was foreclosed by binding precedent. Therefore, the district court properly exercised jurisdiction in this case. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Valencia's motion for mistrial; neither Portocarrero nor Vazquez have demonstrated that there was an actual conflict of interest under these circumstances; because Valencia and Portocarrero were not eligible for safety-valve relief in the first place, the court need not consider whether these defendants otherwise met the substantive requirements of safety-valve relief or defendants' constitutional claim based on the Fifth Amendment; the district court did not clearly err in denying Vazquez a minor role reduction under USSG 3B1.2(b); and any error in the guidelines calculation was harmless as both Valencia and Portocarrero received the statutory mandatory minimum sentence and the district court could not have sentenced them to less. View "United States v. Vazquez Valois" on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed a civil rights complaint and emergency motion for stay of execution, claiming that excluding his Imam from the execution chamber at the time of his execution in favor of a Christian chaplain violated his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA); requiring the presence of a Christian chaplain in the execution chamber at the time of his execution also violated his rights under RLUIPA; Alabama's practice of requiring a Christian chaplain in the execution chamber, while forbidding clerics of other faiths, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment; and refusing to honor his late election for nitrogen hypoxia as the method of his execution, where his lateness resulted from his religious beliefs, also violated RLUIPA. The Eleventh Circuit held that Alabama's prison officials favored one religious denomination to the detriment of all others; they have made only general claims about their compelling interest; and they have offered nothing remotely establishing that their policy was narrowly tailored to further that interest. The court held that petitioner was substantially likely to succeed on the merits of his Establishment Clause claim given the little evidence in the record to support the government's interest and the fit between those interests and the state's policy. In this case, given the paucity of evidence, the court concluded that it was not altogether surprising that the state has not clearly argued that petitioner knew or should have known sooner that his religious beliefs would not be accommodated. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for an emergency stay of execution. View "Ray v. Commissioner" on Justia Law