Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court sentencing Defendant enhancing Defendant’s offense level by four levels, resulting in a guideline sentencing range of seventy to eighty-seven months in connection with its finding that Defendant had been an organizer or leader of a conspiracy of five or more persons to procure and distribute cocaine and heroin. On appeal, Defendant argued that the evidence supported only a three-level enhancement for being a “manager or supervisor,” rather than an organizer or leader. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the uncontested factual record supported the court’s conclusion that Defendant was the leader of the criminal activity at issue. View "United States v. Payne" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court sentencing Defendant to a 120-month term of imprisonment in connection with Defendant’s plea of guilty to possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and importation of five kilograms or more of cocaine into the United States. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in denying a mitigating role adjustment under United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.) section 3B1.2 and that his sentence was substantively unreasonable. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) the district court did not clearly err in denying Defendant a minor role adjustment; and (2) Defendant’s sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. De-La-Cruz-Gutierrez" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denials of Defendant’s motions for suppression and severance and declined to vacate Defendant’s sentence. Defendant pled guilty to crimes related to the distribution of drugs. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence seized as a result of a stop and search of a taxi and also filed a motion to sever his trial from that of his codefendants and for relief from prejudicial joinder. The district court denied both motions after hearings. The sentencing judge sentenced Defendant to a term of imprisonment of thirty-six months, followed by thirty-six months of supervised release. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress and did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion to sever; and (2) Defendant’s sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Azor" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction for being a felon in possession of ammunition but vacated his sentence. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless search of the vehicle he was driving and that the district court erred in finding that he qualified for a mandatory minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The First Circuit held (1) under the circumstances of this case, the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement applied, and the search of the vehicle Defendant was driving was reasonable; and (2) Defendant was improperly sentenced as an armed career criminal. The court remanded the case for resentencing with the ACCA enhancement. View "United States v. Kennedy" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions for conspiring to defraud the United States and four counts of wire fraud and the sentence imposed by the district court, thus rejecting Defendant’s arguments on appeal. Defendant was convicted of knowingly procuring government contracts for his construction company. The district court sentenced Defendant to thirty months’ imprisonment and entered an order of forfeiture, in the form of a money judgment, in an amount totaling more than $6.7 million, which the court determined was the amount of the proceeds of Defendant’s crimes. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; (2) even assuming the prosecutor’s statements made during closing arguments were improper and deliberate, the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that its instruction likely cured any prejudice and that any surviving prejudice did not affect the jury’s verdict; and (3) there was no error in the district court’s forfeiture order and money judgment. View "United States v. Gorski" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of district court sentencing Defendant to a prison term of sixty-three months - the high end of the resulting guidelines sentencing range - after Defendant pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine base and heroin. The government appealed, arguing that the district court erred in concluding that Defendant did not qualify as a “career offender” under the sentencing guidelines and thus was not subject to the sentencing enhancement that would otherwise apply. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the government failed to identify a sufficient basis for vacating Defendant’s sentence. View "United States v. Steed" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the trial judge’s dismissal of counts in an indictment that charged Defendants with dispensing misbranded drugs in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Defendants, Massachusetts-licensed pharmacists, were charged with multiple crimes, including the allegation that Defendants dispensed drugs in violation of the FFDCA. The trial judge granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss the FFDCA charges, ruling that the indictment did not provide fair notice. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the indictment passed muster because it gave Defendants enough information to prepare a defense and to invoke double-jeopardy protections to forestall a later trial on the same charges. View "United States v. Stepanets" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court's denial of Appellant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging his convictions for armed assault with intent to murder and other offenses, holding that trial counsel’s failure to move to suppress Appellant’s statements to a police officer while in custody constituted ineffective assistance of counsel under clearly established law. In his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, Appellant argued, inter alia, that he was deprived of effective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to move to suppress his statements to the police officer. The district court denied the writ. The First Circuit reversed, holding that trial counsel’s deficient performance was sufficiently prejudicial to constitute a violation of Appellant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel. View "Rivera v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to suppress drug evidence found on his person during a traffic stop. A law enforcement officer stopped a vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger for a traffic violation. On appeal from the denial of his motion to suppress, Defendant argued that the officer violated Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights by unreasonably extending the duration of the traffic stop and that the district court erred in ruling that the inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule applied to the drug evidence found during the resulting patdown search, which the government conceded was unlawful. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the officer did not unlawfully prolong the traffic stop; and (2) the proper scope of a patdown search was exceeded in this case, but the district court properly applied the inevitable discovery rule. View "United States v. Clark" on Justia Law

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Police officers were searching a mall for a motorcyclist who had violated traffic laws when they were spotted by Rivera-Cruz, who ran, yelling "police!" into a walkie-talkie. The officers recovered a loaded revolver with an obliterated serial number from a fanny pack that Rivera-Cruz had tossed onto the ground during his flight. On the eve of trial, Rivera-Cruz pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The Sentencing Guidelines calculations in his plea agreement included a three-level reduction in offense level for acceptance of responsibility. The plea agreement permitted Rivera-Cruz to argue for a sentence of 96 months, and the government to argue for a statutory-maximum sentence of 120 months. The Guidelines calculations in the presentence investigation report also contained a three-level reduction for acceptance for responsibility. Unlike the plea agreement, the PSR contained a four-level enhancement because the gun had an obliterated serial number. The resulting Guidelines sentencing range in the PSR was 110-137 months. The district court adopted the PSR's calculations, and sentenced Rivera-Cruz to 120 months in prison. The First Circuit affirmed, rejecting Rivera-Cruz’s argument that the plea agreement was invalid because it lacked consideration. As such, he argues that he should be entitled to withdraw his plea. View "United States v. Rivera-Cruz" on Justia Law