Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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Appellant challenged the district court's denial of his motions to unseal the probable cause affidavits supporting three pre-indictment search warrants. The court vacated the district court's judgment, holding that the district court failed to specify its factual findings with requisite detail in the context of the required balancing test. Without more detailed findings from the district court regarding the reasons for keeping the warrant materials sealed, the court could not properly assess those materials and the impact of unsealing them. Accordingly, the court remanded for a case-by-case analysis and a sufficiently detailed factual assessment. View "United States v. Sealed Search Warrant" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for five counts relating to a scheme under which he certified individuals for home health care in exchange for $400 a month. The court held that there was no Ex Post Facto violation where defendant's conduct was illegal regardless of whether he was required to have a face-to-face meeting prior to certification; the district court did not reversibly err in permitting testimony from the government's expert; the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of each count; and the jury instructions provided by the district court fairly and adequately covered the issues presented by the case. View "United States v. Dailey" on Justia Law

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Defendants in these consolidated appeals present essentially the same question of law: whether each defendant was entitled to a two-level reduction under Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which permits such a reduction for sentences based on the drug quantity under USSG 2D1.1, when the original sentence in each case was calculated starting from the higher guideline range for career offenders under USSG 4B1.1. The Fifth Circuit held that the sentences in these appeals were not "based on" section 2D1.1's drug quantity range but rather on section 4B1.1's higher career offender guideline range. Therefore, the district court was without authority as a matter of law to modify the sentences and the court reversed the judgments of the district court. View "United States v. Quintanilla" on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged the dismissal of his habeas petition based on failure to exhaust available state remedies. The Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that petitioner satisfied 28 U.S.C. 2241's exhaustion requirement because he asserted his Double Jeopardy claim before every available state judicial forum, short of undergoing a second trial. The court explained that requiring petitioner to endure a second prosecution before being able to assert his claim in federal court placed him in precisely the same impermissible position as the petitioner in Fain v. Duff, 488 F.2d 218 (5th Cir. 1973): forced to forfeit the protections of his federal right before being permitted to seek its vindication in federal court. Because the district court did not address petitioner's Double Jeopardy claim and because the record was not sufficiently developed to enable the court to do so in the first instance, the court did not address it. Therefore, the court remanded for adjudication of the Double Jeopardy claim. View "Montano v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2241. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the ineffective assistance of counsel and violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies; affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's parole revocation claim; affirmed the denial of credit towards his sentence for the time he spent in prison in the United Kingdom; affirmed the dismissal of petitioner's claims for ineffective assistance of counsel and unlawful seizure of his property in his original criminal case and the denial of his motion for compensation; and declined to consider defendant's claim that the district court should have resolved his actions filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as ancillary matters to his section 2241 petition. View "Fillingham v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed Defendants Atul and Jiten "Jay" Nandas' convictions for various charges stemming from a conspiracy to fraudulently procure H-1B visas. The court held that the district court did not err by admitting into evidence a letter that Jay wrote, because the letter did not directly allude to Atul; even if it was error to admit the letter, such error was harmless; there was no plain error in the wire fraud charges; the district court did not plainly err by not giving the jury a unanimity instruction; even granting arguendo that it was error to admit evidence of additional visa petitions and medical insurance, such error did not affect defendants' substantial rights; there was no error in applying a two point sentencing enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(10)(B) and (C) for committing a substantial portion of the alleged scheme from outside the United States and for committing an offense involving sophisticated means of concealment; any possible error in the loss calculation was harmless; and defendants' claim that the district court did not consider sentencing disparity bordered on the frivolous. View "United States v. Nanda" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a sentence reduction after defendant was convicted of conspiring to import more than 500 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. In this case, defendant was responsible for more than 500 kilograms of cocaine; after Amendment 505 of the Sentencing Guidelines, his base-offense level was 38; and Amendment 782 left his base offense at 38. Therefore, Amendment 782 did not have the effect of lowering his applicable guideline range. View "United States v. Morgan" on Justia Law

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An image portrays sadistic conduct where it depicts conduct that an objective observer would perceive as causing the victim in the image physical or emotional pain contemporaneously with the image's creation. In this case, defendant pleaded guilty to the sexual exploitation of a minor and was sentenced to 360 months in prison. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's application of the sadism enhancement under USSG 2G2.1(b)(4), because the victim in this case was asleep when the image was taken and thus no objective observer would conclude that the image portrayed sadistic conduct. The court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Nesmith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this case for further consideration in light of Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions, 137 S. Ct. 1562 (2017). On remand, the parties agreed that the predicate offense of which defendant was convicted, Tennessee statutory rape, was broader than the generic crime of statutory rape because the age of consent in Tennessee is 18. Therefore, defendant's statutory rape conviction did not qualify either as an aggravated felony for purposes of 8 U.S.C. 1326(b)(2) or as a crime of violence for purposes of USSG. 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii). The Fifth Circuit remanded to the district court for the limited purpose of correcting the judgment to reflect the correct offense of conviction as under section 1326(b)(1). The court dismissed the appeal of defendant's sentence. View "United States v. Ovalle-Garcia" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for two counts related to his participation in a drug trafficking conspiracy. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b). Furthermore, the district court did not err by instructing the jury on deliberate ignorance. However, the district court misapplied the body-armor provision of the sentencing guidelines and the error was not harmless. Accordingly, the court vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Juarez" on Justia Law