Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The court held that the district court did not commit a plain or obvious error in assigning a criminal history point to defendant's prior sentence for carrying a concealed weapon. Because defendant failed to show that his substantial rights were affected, the court did not consider whether the district court plainly erred in assigning a criminal history point to the 1999 simple battery offense. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that, because 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) does not overcome the presumption against retroactivity, applying it to petitioner was impermissibly retroactive. The court granted the petition for review of the BIA's order finding petitioner inadmissible based on his conviction for possessing AB-CHMINACA in violation of Louisiana Revised Statutes 40.966(C). After petitioner's arrest, but before his conviction, AB-CHMINACA was added to the federal schedules of controlled substances. The court reasoned that, for purposes of retroactivity analysis, it is the timing of the defendant's conduct, not of his conviction, that controls. In this case, when petitioner possessed AB-CHMINACA, he had no notice that such a crime carried the consequence of inadmissibility. View "Lopez Ventura v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to securities fraud crimes. The court held that the district court did not plainly err by concluding that FINRA's order was a prior administrative order for purposes of USSG 2B1.1(b)(9)(C), nor did the district court plainly err by applying the two-level sentencing enhancement to defendant because he was engaged in securities activity that violated FINRA's order. View "United States v. Blount" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed Defendant Charles Bolton and Linda Bolton's convictions and sentences for various counts of attempted tax evasion and filing false tax returns. The court held that Charles failed to show plain error with respect to the sufficiency of the indictments for tax evasion and filing false tax returns; the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's verdicts of guilt against both defendants; claims of Brady violations were rejected; the district court's admission of hearsay statements was invited error by both sets of defense counsel, but the error did not rise to the level of manifest injustice and defendants have waived their Confrontation Clause rights under United States v. Ceballos, 789 F.3d 607, 616 (5th Cir. 2015); claims of prosecutorial misconduct rejected; there was no plain error in the jury instructions; the district court properly calculated the loss amount; and defendants' sentences were substantively reasonable and not otherwise defective. The court modified the district court's judgment to show that the restitution owed by the Boltons does not become due until they begin their terms of supervised release. View "United States v. Bolton" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after she pleaded guilty without a plea agreement to bank fraud. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by applying a two-level enhancement under USSG 3B1.3 for abusing a position of trust where she was the accounts payable clerk for her company and used her position to significantly commission and conceal her fraudulent scheme. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err by applying a two-level enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(10)(C) for using sophisticated means where defendant employed multiple methods that made it more difficult to detect her bank fraud. View "United States v. Miller" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was exonerated for a crime that he served seventeen years in prison for, he filed suit against various government and law enforcement personnel over his wrongful conviction and imprisonment. The Fifth Circuit held that false imprisonment was a "continuing tort" in Texas and defendant's claim was timely filed; defendant's due process claim against the county defendants was properly dismissed as time-barred; but absolute immunity barred defendant's due process claim against the prosecutor. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Moon v. City of El Paso" on Justia Law

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When a defendant had no opportunity to object to special conditions (because they were unmentioned at sentencing), the Fifth Circuit reviews for abuse of discretion, and any "unpronounced" special conditions must, upon remand, be stricken from the written judgment. In this case, defendant pleaded guilty to various felony charges stemming from his meth business. The court vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for the district court to amend its written judgment by removing three unpronounced special conditions. The court held that the written judgment against defendant broadened the oral pronouncement. Because the two conflict, the oral pronouncement controlled. View "United States v. Rivas-Estrada" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's five year sentence, imposed after the revocation of defendant's supervised release. The court held that it was not plain that under existing law the statutory maximum revocation sentence was substantively unreasonable. The court rejected defendant's request for the court to read United States v. Willis, 563 F.3d 168, 169–70 (5th Cir. 2009), to have established a broad proposition that any sentence that was lengthened by an apparent constitutional defect in prior proceedings was substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Fuentes" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of habeas corpus ordering petitioner to be retried for killing the victim in a bar fight. The court held that the federal court failed to defer to the state court's reasonable application of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and therefore erred in granting petitioner habeas corpus relief. The court held that, given counsel's all-or-nothing strategy, he reasonably declined a "double-edged" manslaughter instruction that could have lowered petitioner's chances of an acquittal; even assuming counsel should have sought a sudden passion instruction, it was unlikely that the instruction would have changed petitioner's sentence; and neither conclusion would have been an objectively unreasonable application of Strickland by the state habeas court. View "Mejia v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress after he pleaded guilty to two counts of receipt of child pornography. The court held that the information at issue fell under the scope of the third-party doctrine. The court also held that the good faith exception applied where there was probable cause to search a residence based on just one or two uploads of child pornography, the information in the affidavit was not stale, and there was probable cause to search for and seize computers or other objects. View "United States v. Contreras" on Justia Law